4 essential tips for telling a good story in B2B

Are you sitting comfortably? alan. Head of Business Development Alex Segger explains why storytelling is an essential tool for B2B marketers and to use it.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…..

Everyone loves a good story, whether it involves Jedi and TIE Fighters or princes and princesses. We’re brought up on stories as children and their ability to connect with us continues into adulthood. It’s that connection that B2C marketers have used effectively for a while now. It’s just a shame you can’t use storytelling in B2B, right? 

Wrong. 

When it comes to using storytelling to engage your audience, the B2B world is no exception. Storytelling taps into an age-old tradition that we grew up with as children, love as adults, and buy in to as customers. It’s universal - and universally effective.

What is storytelling anyway?

Before we start using it, we need to think about what storytelling actually is and means. The best place to start is right back with the ‘hero’s journey’. Rewind a few millennia to mythology and you’ll find the ‘template’ that all the best stories follow, from fairytales to Oscar-winning movies. 

Take one hero, see them embark on an adventure, battle an enemy or crisis and come home victorious and often changed (for the better, of course!). From Hercules to Shrek, we love stories, and that love of stories is what gets us involved and engaged.

Is storytelling important in the B2B world?

In a nutshell, yes. Ask any expert and they’ll tell you that storytelling is relevant in B2B as much as anywhere else. It’s about building a narrative that engages with your audience on a personal level. That might not mean making them cry or laugh out loud, but it will give them the confidence to deal with you. Take Sage’s ‘Boss It’ campaign on TikTok, which engaged with SMEs in language they would understand, using stories they would understand, on a platform that’s ripe for storytelling on all levels.

Successful storytelling is also about purpose. Your purpose as a company, brand and the people behind that. That purpose connects you to your audience, whether they’re an SME or a major brand. It’s something B2C has used for some time. Patagonia may sell clothing, but their story revolves around how they want to save the world. The same with Tesla, who may want to sell cars but focus their story on their efforts to help the world shift to sustainable energy.

Outlining your purpose through storytelling doesn’t just humanise your brand. It encourages your audience to take action. In the B2B world, your story is what makes you stand out from your competitors and defines your USP. For tech brands in particular, it’s not just about highlighting the features and benefits of your products and services, but showing your customers how they will help them.

If telling a story and telling it well is key, how do you actually do that? Pixar has six great rules when it comes to storytelling. They include keeping them simple, remember that all stories are universal, and making sure you remember the purpose behind your story. B2B may not have Moana to hand, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a story. 

#1 Know your audience

People buy people, as the old cliche goes, but you have to know your audience first before you can tap into what - and who - they’ll buy. That means understanding who they are, what they want and what they will buy.

Your audience also expects to be addressed in their own language. You need to talk to them in a way they not only understand, but will engage with. 

#2 Know where your customers are in their journey 

Knowing your audience means knowing where they are in their journey. The storytelling you use may well change depending on where your customer is on their buying cycle. That cycle may also change depending on your brand or product.

Compare an individual buying a car to a company undertaking a huge decision that affects the whole business. Different sales funnel. Different buying cycles. Different storytelling. 

#3 Be authentic

Authenticity is more important than ever. An authentic story is a convincing one. We don’t buy into the pie-in-the-sky tales as much as the ones we can relate to and connect with. Being authentic is what achieves that emotional connection with your audience which, after all, is the whole point of this storytelling game in the first place.

#4 Get your customers involved in telling their own story

If being authentic is important, what’s more authentic than your customers telling their own story?

Look at Sage’s campaign - the beauty was in the fact their customers were doing the storytelling for them. Tesla is the same, dedicating an entire section of its website to customer stories, while Patagonia uses brand ambassadors who tell their own stories while wearing the brand’s clothing. Using your customers to tell their own stories is always going to be more powerful, more effective and more authentic.

When it comes to communicating, and communicating well, there’s no better way than a decent story. We’ve been telling stories for centuries and that’s unlikely to change. B2B marketing is no exception. It’s through stories that you’ll engage your audience, stand out from the crowd, and maybe even get them to help tell your story by telling their own. What is there to lose? 

To find out more about the importance of storytelling in B2B, watch our recent webinar The power of storytelling in tech.

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