Storytelling is now the top priority focusing minds in B2B marketing departments for the next 12 months.
This is according to the latest Incite Group State of Marketing 2019-2020 report*.
The top 5 priorities, according to the B2B share of more than 950 people working predominantly in strategic, brand and product marketing roles, are:
- Building brand awareness and storytelling (69.8%)
- Growing organic reach (65.3%)
- Understanding customer data and journey mapping (63.1%)
- Sales lead generation (54.5%)
- Exploring new channels and embracing new forms of content (47.8%)
What’s striking from this “to-do list”, is that three out of five are much less about closing a deal and more about creating an impression in a natural, engaging and authentic way; building visibility, credibility and trust that will pave the way to a commercial relationship.
A tendency to move away from the hard sell to creating a reason to look, listen and take notice is also suggested by the relative importance B2B marketers are placing on paid advertising – 25.2% in the survey.
Content for creating genuine interest
The report highlights the leading formats for B2B marketers as content marketing (78.3% versus 66.2% for B2C), website content and blogs (74.2% versus 63.9% for B2C), organic social media activity (61.3% versus 59.9% B2B) and SEO (58% versus 61.8% for B2C).
As the report editor at Incite, Alex Hadwick, says: “B2B brands are more invested in longer-form content to try and drive sales leads that show genuine interest and can then be converted” and that this is about “diversify[ing] their inbound marketing capabilities with a more organic mix and move away from list-buying and email marketing bombardment.”
So, if – as a B2B organisation – you want to make the most of the online content opportunity, what should you do?
Storytelling is as old as time and should be as natural to us as breathing – but how do you translate it to serve the needs of marketing and business without creating a “horror story”?
Talking about your product or service as an opener is not storytelling. Have you ever noticed how quickly – whether it’s speaking to someone at a networking event or making a cold call – your listener switches off if you bombard them with your product? Try it – it’s a quick way to clear a room.
But in the context of what your company does, a good story usually starts with a problem or a challenge that somebody, somewhere was facing; sometimes this reflects an endemic or emerging problem in an industry or it might be simply the experience of one of your clients.
Storytelling is emotional as well as rational
So-called stories can exist at all levels in your business and it’s worth digging below the surface of what you might consider (or have fashioned) as your “corporate story”.
And the narrative you can create – that takes the reader/listener from problem to solution – is not unlike your favourite novel or film in which the hero eventually triumphs over adversity. Against that backdrop, your product or service becomes a character that your potential customer can relate to and even care about. In other words, it carries an emotional impact as well as a logical effect.
If it’s changed the life and fortunes of another person or company, then it has gained more meaning than just a list of features and benefits.
Storytelling with new forms of content
If you have a story to tell, there’s probably more than one way of telling it:
- Blog content: provides an in-depth reading experience that allows you room to explain in some detail, link to other relevant material that supports your argument, is highly shareable via social media channels and performs well in organic search. Having a blog also provides space to you to feature relevant, other voices on your site that add to the variety and interest for the reader.
- Industry reports: if you have independent data – or a very robust set of in-house data – that can paint a clear picture of the current state of play in an industry (much the way Incite’s report has done for this blog post), you can begin to establish a level of trusted insight and credibility.
- Advisory guides: Capturing valuable knowledge and capability in a downloadable guide is both helping to educate your potential customer and demonstrating how you can help them too.
- Case studies: The ultimate testimonial – and even better, because it’s not just a few words of praise, but a problem solving narrative journey from pain points to pleasure (or something like that).
- Video: when done well, a great way to cram a lot of information into a short timeframe and to engage the heart as well as the head. Talking heads on film put a human face to your organisation while animated content is highly effective for instructional videos or making vital facts and stats memorable.
- Media content: delivering content to the independent media (i.e. working with journalists in media relevant to and read by your customers) remains a powerful tool to reach a large audience and secure the implicit value of putting your views through media scrutiny.
And this is not about creating content for the sake of it. As Incite’s State of Marketing report says about the needs of potential customers: “They increasingly want brands to say something genuine that chimes with their values and marketers are responding accordingly, looking to give them content through blogs, imagery, videos and articles that will give social and search visibility, as well as credibility.”
If storytelling and content creation is something you want to do, but could use some help, then get in touch and we can discuss further.
*Access the Incite State of Marketing report here.