Stories are the Key to Buyer Engagement


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One of the biggest challenges for B2B companies is what they do to keep prospects interested and engaged across a long-term, complex buying process. And, with buyers pushing sales conversations to the later stages, the bigger question becomes how to keep them moving to help them get there faster.

I submit to you that storytelling is the answer. Stories are an expression of movement. Stories, by their very nature, progress from beginning to middle to end.

Things happen in stories. The main character has a goal, overcomes conflict and gets to the happily ever after. In business terms, the client has a problem to overcome so they can achieve a strategic objective. Not so different.

Build Your Marketing Story:


Stories link ideas – This is a key factor for your content strategy. The norm in the past has been one-off, one-way messaging that gets generated when an idea strikes or a particular event is happening within your company. Companies spend a lot of time “telling” prospective buyers what they should be thinking.

The difference with stories is that they position your communications to evolve. They build from one idea or premise to another. They pull buyers forward in the process by giving them contextual reference points and discussing one topic at a time to transition them through the pipeline without anxiety or information overload. Another benefit to stories is that they establish your company’s credibility, showcase impact and allow buyers to envision their future, once the pain has been eliminated.

To create a story strategy for momentum, map the complete knowledge transfer requirement and tackle a piece of it. Then give buyers a prod, or preview, into the next piece they can either request, or that you’ll be sending as a follow-up. Learning is a process. You can’t just dump all the information on them at once and expect them to say – Yes! This is exactly what I need. Where do I sign?

Especially not for a B2B complex sale.

Remember the ebb and flow of decision making. Buyers may move two steps forward and one step back, then forward again, as questions and obstacles occur. Look for places where they can get off track and plan ahead to address them before they happen.

Here’s an example of how a “story” might exist for a buyer

An IT systems manager needs to roll out patches and updates across his network more quickly but doesn’t have the technology and visibility to know which computing device needs what without a manual check.

He learns a variety of software tools are available to solve that problem. He also learns that these tools can update his inventory catalog. He’s found your company via a search that returned a blog post at the top of the results page. Upon further investigation, your products look viable for his situation and he found a customer story that directly relates to his situation. Suddenly he’s heading toward happily ever after.

Then, the step back – Your prospect slams the brakes on as he starts to question how easy this change is really going to be and whether your repoorting tools are really as customizable as you say. What if his expectations aren’t met?

This doesn’t have to be a set back because you prepared for this and are ready with a paper[ a story] that discusses all the steps of the implementation and the division of responsibility. You share testimonial proof[a story] that the solution can be implemented in less than three weeks. The buyer sees he can well manage his side of the requirements and gains confirmation that the reporting will do what he needs.

All the “I’s” are dotted and “T’s” are crossed. He’s back to visualizing happy days and how he’ll shine when the project comes off without a hitch.

Wait. The CIO is concerned that the new tool will won’t adapt to their corporate compliance policies and that the total cost of ownership is too high.

Not to worry, you assure your buyer, and whisk him a link to an article or video[a story] that highlights the time savings achieved with your software and the customization capability that will map to their compliance policies. And the buyer becomes a customer.

You may not be selling IT software, but it’s likely that this ebb and flow—from positive to hesitant—exists within your buyers’ process. Salespeople and customers can help you narrow down the critical points where these step backs are likely to happen. By mapping the buying journey and preparing stories to handle each step, you’re not only prepared, but elevating trust with each relevant, timely response to your buyers’ needs.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.


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