Once Upon A Time


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“1960, playground fight, not involved, unjustly caned.”

Thats a one line story, I read on a site called Onlineflashfiction.com.

I was born almost 20 years after the referred incident took place, but the story still managed to send me down the memory lanes of my childhood and reminded me of another incident where I was unjustly caned . That’s what stories do, they help you connect with an emotion, a memory or a thought.

Stories unfold all around us, on billboards, on television sets, on youtube, in movie theaters, in books, during conversations, almost everywhere, everyday most of our waking hours and sometimes even when we are deep in sleep.

Everyone loves a good story, if that was not the case, film and publishing industries around the globe would have perished and our social conversations would have turned mundane.

A good story has the power to inspire, to motivate and to involve its reader. Stories also help a person to relate and retain the information shared. Unlike data, statistics and scientific equations which require time and effort to register, good stories are capable of traversing the depths of our mind and staying there for a long time.

This is why storytelling is a very popular concept in the B2C world. Advertisers and marketers have used storytelling effectively in their campaigns to build brand awareness and customer loyalty. In a B2C scenario it works because you have to relate to someone at an individual level, if your story appealed to this person, he will in all probability buy your product.

But can the same be replicated in a B2B scenario, where it is usually a group of individuals who decide on wether to buy that packaging machine or software subscription? Longer sales cycles also make story telling difficult, it is no mean task to grab someone’s interest and then keep entertaining them for months together.

So can this effective marketing technique be used within the B2B marketing limitations? Well the answer is yes, as long as you keep one thing in mind,

“If a story is not about the hearer he [or she] will not listen . . . . The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.”John Steinbeck (East of Eden)

Below are 5 steps to storytelling if you are a B2B company

Include all characteristics of a good story

  • A theme – So what is your story about, is it about a problem that plagues your industry and you are trying to solve or is it about how you built your product, your company? Decide on a theme, which you will develop further and support with more interesting information.
  • A plot – Define the plot, how will your story play out, what incidents/updates happen etc.
  • A Character – Characters give life to your story. Your characters can be someone inspired by real individuals like your prospects, or company founder, or an engineer in your organization, or even a TV star. Choose your characters wisely, they will help your listener feel the emotions and relate to your narration. Add details to their personality sketch that are similar to your inspiration, this will help your listener identify and relate. Flesh out the characters by putting down the kind of challenges they face, their life, work style etc.
  • Dramatic appeal – To make an impression a story has to have some dramatic appeal, ‘hold your breath’ & ‘it could be me’ moments, for eg: you can think of a worst case scenario or severe problem in your industry and showcase how your characters overcome it with the help of your solution.
  • Relevance to listeners – Every story should have a set-up, a build-up and then some pay off – some take away that is relevant to the listener, which he can register and retain and connect with on an emotional level.

Narrate part by part

Telling a story in one go works best if the product is for B2C audience, in B2B you should break you story into parts/chapters/acts and develop the plot and lead your prospects along, this will ensure they are hooked to your story. Also, when you spread it across a time frame, you can always add ongoing news elements and updates to your story to make it more seasonable. In B2B many companies run lead nurturing and drip marketing campaigns, you can weave a story around the content you plan to share and slowly build up the interest of your leads in your product.

Involve your listener

Involve them by building the story around them, talking of a situation they are most likely to be in. Depending on the medium, you can even get them to participate in the storytelling process. You can ask them questions and let their answers move the story forward, it will engage them and improve your level of interaction with them.

Use different marketing mediums

To make it really interesting for your listeners use different marketing mediums to tell the story, narrate some part of it as a videos, photographs, an online game, a podcast, a questionnaire or an email. Every time you send out a message to your prospects, use a different medium for storytelling, this breaks monotony and makes the communication more interesting. Ensure the story is fully available on all these formats, but when sending out to your prospects send out in bits and pieces, if your concept is interesting, you will have them hooked and they will wait for your next update.

Apply the storytelling technique to your current marketing collateral

Marketers can use the technique of storytelling while writing case studies and whitepapers as well. Talking of real life scenarios and how the events panned out can be interesting and inspirational reads. Also, when the narration is easy and free flowing it is easier to absorb and understand. I think TED videos are a great example to support this point, the way the TED speakers turn the most complex of scientific ideas into content consumable by masses by weaving a story around their technology is just amazing.

The biggest problem with B2B marketing is that we are too focussed on data, facts and figures and other heavy duty stuff. Our marketing collaterals also reflect our love for such technical details, but do we have any idea how much of this is really consumed by our target audience.

The C-level executives who take the final call are only interested in knowing how a solution will improve their business output, not in the technicalities. Most of your buyers hardly care about the minute details of your solution but are more concerned about how your solution will solve their company’s problem and does it really deliver what it promises?

In the words of Robert Mckee, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact”. If used appropriately by marketing teams, storytelling can help companies put across their messaging in an effective and innovative way, helping them in connecting with their prospects and making them believe in the capabilities of their company’s offerings.

Image courtesy – kstoolkit.org

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Merlin Francis
Merlin Francis is Director of Communications for LeadFormix. Merlin has over a decade of combined experience in the field of print and television Media, PR and Corporate communications. This includes her 3 year stint as an entrepreneur running a successful public relations and event management consultancy.


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