Does b2b business suffer a lack of storytelling - if so why?
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Great content marketing has the power to change the way businesses attract and engage buyers, turning customers into advocates. Although every business can create a content marketing plan, not every strategy will bring to life the values and ambitions behind the brand. Why?
There’s a fundamental lack of storytelling, especially in B2B.
Since ancient times, stories have been used as a means of passing down milestones and traditions, connecting previous generations with future ones. They were also used to spread knowledge to neighbouring communities and bring people together.
Even in the modern world, storytelling remains universal and plays a significant role in our lives, from bedtime tales to watching movies that reach millions of people worldwide.
Storytelling brings brands to life
Telling and listening to stories is, in short, deeply human. This is why a good story has the power to tap into our emotions, awaken our interest, and push us to take action.
In terms of business marketing, it has also the potential to revolutionise the public perception of B2B corporations – from dry, impersonal entities providing complex products and services, to real people working for a worthwhile cause.
In particular, good storytelling can make a brand way more relatable to its consumers and stakeholders, helping to humanise corporate entities.
For example, many large organisations have implemented truly valuable initiatives to cut their environmental footprint and reduce waste – from Patagonia’s famous ‘anti-growth’ approach to IKEA’s commitment to implementing sustainable practices across its whole supply chain.
Yet, the sheer size of corporations may sometimes cause them to be perceived as faceless and out of touch with public concerns. This can be more so in B2B, which has traditionally focused on products and services rather than experiences or emotions.
So, how can businesses leverage the power of this old-as-time method to communicate with their audience?
A pathway to clearer communication
Stories can be humorous, uplifting or wistful. Moreover, stories have been proven to help deliver science concepts to non-specialists, because they are easier to remember than a list of facts and figures.
Researchers also found that stories can induce emotional responses that influence people’s perception of environmental hazards: the more people are involved, the riskier climate hazards become.
This demonstrates that the correct and ethical use of storytelling can help climate experts get people on board with climate mitigation efforts. Stories with an explicit persuasive appeal have been found to be less persuasive than the story alone, so it’s important to avoid “preaching”.
If your sector often leaves others feeling bewildered or perplexed – we’re looking at you FinTech or STEM – try reimagining your service or product as part of an engaging narrative. This can help the public understand technical concepts without being put off by jargon and a complex sentence structure, helping educate and persuade a variety of audiences.
A starting point for B2B storytelling
Christopher Booker, author of The Seven Basic Plots, developed an interesting theory arguing that all stories follow just seven archetypes:
Overcoming the monster
Rags to riches
Voyage and return
Booker’s theory has been criticised for being too limiting, and although this may be true, the seven basic plots can offer a great starting point for B2B marketers eager to explore the world of storytelling. In particular, some of them are suitable for innovative, technology-oriented B2B brands.
For example, ‘overcoming the monster’ refers to a story archetype where the hero fights and eventually defeats an evil character or entity – think Dracula, King Kong, or the more contemporary Stranger Things.
This provides a great story structure for innovative brands fighting environmental threats, using their technology and sustainability know-how as their weapons.
‘The quest’, on the other hand, refers to a protagonist’s challenging journey to find a solution to a problem – a classic example being Lord of the Rings. This archetype can provide a helpful framework to describe how you developed your flagship product or solution.
You will certainly have encountered some obstacles along the way, but your determination and commitment to your goals allowed you to overcome them – possibly with the help of an ally, such as your incredible R&D team.
The human element of B2B storytelling
There is one crucial thing all these story plots have in common: characters.
At The Marketing Pod, we are great believers in the value of showing the people behind a brand. This is how you can showcase the expertise of your team, but also their personality and unique traits – in other words, you give prospective customers a glimpse of what it will be like to be working with your company.
The rags-to-riches story archetype can form the basis of a fantastic profile piece, describing the booming but unexpected success of a business. Maybe there were financial challenges at the beginning, or not enough stakeholders believed in your project – but you persevered and worked hard, eventually turning your idea into a success.
This particular archetype doesn’t just apply to founders or CEOs: by widening your content strategy to include all departments, from HR to operations, you can build a wealth of content to humanise your brand.
Storytelling is commonplace within the B2C market, but utilising this technique doesn’t mean B2B businesses have to completely rebrand. Don’t worry, you don’t even have to post witty comments or join TikTok!
Storytelling is simply speaking with your customers in a language they understand. This is a powerful way to showcase the people behind your brand, build trust, and ultimately influence decision-making.