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B2B Marketing Through Storytelling: Does My Brand Need It?

B2B Marketing Through Storytelling: Does My Brand Need It?

A typewriter underscores the importance of B2B marketing through storytelling.

Does my brand need B2B marketing through storytelling? People ask me this question a lot. Is it on your mind, too? Are you wondering what it means? You may think it’s just another marketing fad. Or you could see it as industry jargon that marketers use to look important.

Well, let me ask you this:

Do you have to convince people to buy your company’s products and services?

If you answered no, B2B marketing through storytelling isn’t for you.

For the rest of us, business is all about relationships. We all buy from other people. More often than not, we buy from those whom we connect with emotionally and professionally. That’s why storytelling is so important. It helps to show that your brand is trustworthy, competent and likable. Seasoned B2B marketers recognize that they need to form emotional connections to grow their companies’ revenue.

What’s B2B storytelling?

The B2B world is ravaged by an onslaught of direct selling. Buyers are shunning these old-school approaches. They want to connect on a human level with the brands they work with. They want to understand a company’s point of view and brand voice. As a result, they tune out when a brand’s content is only features- and benefits-driven.

Is one of your marketing goals to build trust in your brand and win customers? If you answered yes, your marketing strategy must include B2B marketing through storytelling. That means:

  • Sharing your clients’ stories
  • Making your clients the heroes
  • Showcasing your employees and your brand’s culture
  • Telling stories that are genuine and relatable to your audience in an honest and transparent way
  • Publishing stories that build bonds with your customers and connect with them on an emotional level

“People don’t want to buy from you, they want to buy into you; they want to know what your company stands for, why it exists and what kind of people are behind it. They want to see its human face – in other words, it's brand.”

This type of storytelling builds trust and credibility with your audience. When your audience can see that you’re being honest and transparent, they’re more likely to believe what you’re saying. They’ll feel a connection with your brand and, in turn, be more comfortable doing business with you.

B2B marketing through storytelling: What’s changed?

We’ve been in the business of telling B2B stories since our founding in 1981. This was way before I joined the company. It would be many years before the internet, technology, big data, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) took hold. While the fundamentals of storytelling are the same, much has changed for B2B marketers. Read on for the key changes.

Authenticity is front and center in a synthetic world

With the rise of AI, the need to remain authentic and thoughtful is at an all-time high. Brands that share genuine stories and live up to the values they’re proud of will win. Focusing on what sets your brand apart and building a narrative around it can showcase your brand’s authenticity.

Social media is key to engagement

Social media has made it easier than ever for businesses to connect with their customers on a personal level. This has created an opportunity for businesses to tell more authentic stories about themselves, and their products and services.

Expanding channel options provide more opportunities than ever before

So many marketing channels are available today, including podcasts, search engine optimization, content marketing and videos. No matter which channels are in your marketing mix, all will benefit from storytelling.

Transparency is in demand

Customers are more demanding about transparency than they were in the past. They want to know where and how their products are made and who’s making them. Companies that tell authentic stories win customers’ trust.

Emotional connections outweigh promotions

Customers don’t want to be sold to. Instead, they want to be engaged and inspired. Businesses that tell stories that connect with their customers on an emotional level are more likely to build lasting relationships.

B2B storytelling: What’s stayed the same?

With the rise of AI, the need to remain authentic and thoughtful is at an all-time high. Brands that share genuine stories and live up to the values they’re proud of will win. Focusing on what sets your brand apart and building a narrative around it can showcase your brand’s authenticity.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of connection. We’ve connected with stories since language was developed, according to National Geographic.

"Some of the earliest evidence of stories comes from the cave drawings in Lascaux and Chavaux, France. The drawings, which date as far back as 30,000 years ago, depict animals, humans and other objects. Some of them appear to represent visual stories."

Stories are how we pass on wisdom. They’re how we bond with one another, and, yes, even form kinship with brands. The core set of fundamentals to crafting authentic stories – B2B and otherwise – hasn’t changed. Let’s explore the ways to do it.

Start with an interactive narrative

Authentic B2B storytelling should stimulate your audience’s imagination. B2B marketers can accomplish this by having strong narratives that humanize their brands as well as their products and services. This allows your audience to see your brand as more than a cold corporate entity. Instead, you’ll be seen as a collection of real people who solve problems.

A great example of B2B marketing that must rely on an interactive narrative is customer success stories. These stories demonstrate how your people, products and services solve your customers’ problems. They’re powerful because their narratives help prospects imagine what it would be like to work with you.

Establish and stick to your brand voice

The way you communicate your brand’s beliefs and values should be consistent and distinct. Every story you share must speak your brand’s truth or your words will fall flat. Make buyers feel like they’re part of the conversation. In turn, they’ll feel more connected to your brand.

Pro tips:

  • Nailing down your brand voice can be tricky. Don’t expect your voice to emerge overnight.
  • Your brand voice should convey that you understand your current and prospective customers’ pain points.

Aim for an emotional response

A good story will evoke an emotional response. The same holds true for B2B marketing through storytelling. As you craft your stories, pinpoint where and how you want to generate reactions. What emotions do you want people to feel? At what points should this happen? Think about how you want those emotions to motivate your audience to feel and act. As you become used to seeking an emotional response from your stories, you’ll get better at hitting these emotional “targets.”

Pro tips:

  • Focus on real people, their experiences and specific examples to evoke an emotional response with buyers.
  • Don’t hide anything from your audience. Be open about how you can help solve specific problems. This will make them feel good about your company and working with you.
  • Be honest in all your stories and communications. This will help to build the feeling of trust with your audience.
  • Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Your stories should attract your target audience and deter buyers that aren’t a good fit.

What types of B2B stories can I share?

By sticking to the core guiding principles of storytelling, you can create authentic B2B stories in a variety of formats. You can incorporate your brand’s story in all of your marketing – from your ads and social content to your blogs, articles, videos and webinars. Here are a few examples of how you can use storytelling in your B2B content marketing:

  • A success story about a client who overcame a challenge to achieve success with your company’s help.
  • A video about the people who work at your company and why they’re passionate about their work.
  • A giving-back story that ties back to your company’s mission and values.

These are just a few examples of many ways to tell authentic B2B stories. The most important thing is to be genuine and transparent, and to connect with your audience on an emotional level.