Storytelling is an important part of the human race. We learn, remember and even teach through stories. The human brain specifically System 2 (a term coined by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking fast and slow) is wired to connect to the emotional aspect of every conversation and make decisions through it.
As marketers, we are in the business of grabbing people’s attention, telling them stories makes our job much easier. Storytelling is not new in marketing, we have often seen brand storytelling in ads and tv commercials. These are generally short movies usually created by media agencies aligned to the brand’s values and principles. The purpose of these commercials is to create a perception for buyers of what the brand stands for in general.
It’s rarely seen this storytelling acumen penetrate the lower levels of the customer’s journey. B2B marketing teams particularly need to focus on this skill across the organization and every customer touchpoint to be more relatable to the masses. The biggest challenge that B2B companies have, is to humanize their products or services and develop a stickiness towards their brand. Storytelling can be a strong solution to this problem.
3 broad categories of Storytelling
Marketers need to engage and adopt the story-telling framework across the entire funnel, starting from awareness to consideration to purchase and post-purchase decision stages. The illustration below shows 3 types of storytelling for marketers to leverage across the entire funnel.
- Brand Storytelling: The top of the funnel focuses on telling stories about your brand and what they stand for. It’s about connecting emotionally with your target audience on a large scale and targeting them to be your fans.
- Audience Centered Storytelling: Adopt this strategy middle of the funnel, essentially targetting your narratives aligned to your buyer’s pain points. Narrow down the narrative for the target roles that directly or indirectly influences buying decisions
- Individual Storytelling: This kind of storytelling is focused more towards the bottom of the funnel where your company is interacting with only one individual, to either propose, enabling them on an already purchased solution or resolving customer complaints. In all these interactions, your brand is memorable if you can personalize the story for that individual
Advantages of Storytelling for B2B Marketers
Stories being crafted at every stage of the funnel needs to be engaging, Be emotional, and authentic. A well-crafted story has intrinsic as well as extrinsic benefits.
- Be Unforgettable: People retain 70% of information through stories, but only 10% from data and statistics, and it’s mainly because we learn the language first. When everybody is talking about the same things over the same channels, telling stories makes an unforgettable brand. In a pool where advertisers are investing billions of dollars to capture the attention of the target audience, a simple effective story can create magic. A story that transports people, makes them emotional and gives them a sense of purpose is worth remembering. Soon people forgot the product or solution you sold but they remember the feeling when they interacted with your brand.
- Build Tribe: Consistent effective storytelling and delightful experiences can build a fan following. These fans then are interested in your product, buy your product and even promote it. They stop questioning their purchase decision as the rational part of the brain(System 1) is overshadowed by the emotional part of the brain(System 2) that promotes loyalty and builds trust. These fans connect and engage with each other with the brand being the only common thread resulting in a tribe that continuously grows. Apple and Tesla are very common examples that have built large tribes. Tribes from both companies have had customer experiences that made them stick and become loyal advocates
- Be Human: B2B brands have consistently been criticized for not being able to connect with the audience. This was initially done by design. They are supporting other businesses who in turn support customers. So it did not matter what these brands are portraying to the end customers. But with the internet making the world more transparent every day, it became essential for these brands to have a face, a voice, and a mind. When these brands tell stories the potential buyer experiences the brand that has a personality. This is not only a good place for a brand to be in, but also builds trust across businesses. The feeling of going into business with your friend is much better than doing business with a stranger.
- Be profitable: Delightful experiences, access to a large fan base, and building a network of trust are great for a business to thrive and be profitable every day. All company stakeholders are encouraged to invest more, are excited to see the growth, and feel proud to associate themselves with the organization.
B2B Storytelling framework
Storytelling is a 5 step process.
- You identify your hero
- You define your hero’s current situation
- Reach the climax of the story by highlighting the hero’s pain point
- Solve the pain with your unique idea
- And finally, you need to package this into an appropriate delivery medium and identify a channel for promotion
For B2B branding and storytelling, identifying your medium and channel is as important as the story. You need to publish your story where your target audience is present and is looking for a solution. Transmedia marketing, a fairly new concept that highlights the importance of understanding and segmenting your target audience to ensure brands leverage the right channel or medium to narrate the right story.
I came across this storytelling framework by IDEO which gives this easy 3-step toolkit to create your story. The IDEO framework is as follows:
- Know your audience: Understanding the target audience in terms of who they are, what are their pain points, how your idea can solve those pain areas.
- The Big Idea: The big idea is all about the main idea and the story you want to tell. Ensure that it’s relevant to your target audience, it’s concise enough and above all it’s compelling for them to continue seeing, listening, or reading.
- Reflect on Medium: Think about how you would like to tell the story, how will it be most consumable. Should it be a video, blog, infographic, etc? What would be the best channel to communicate this story? Most popular are social media platforms. Videos are popular on channels like YouTube, Vimeo, etc. It could even be your website or maybe delivered through email.
To create the B2B storytelling framework, I merged the IDEO toolkit and mapped that over the B2B marketing funnel. The framework shown below highlights the different stages of the buyer journey, the popular elements like target audience group, messaging/storytelling topics, and the different channels and formats of communication. The B2B framework narrows down the broad concept of storytelling into specific focus areas to concentrate and evolve your narrative.
Using this framework has helped me with my storytelling. Hope it’s equally useful for all B2B marketers telling human stories every single day. Would love your feedback and do you see yourself using it? Do share your feedback.