It’s important to know how b2b marketers can use stories to make their companies, products and services stand out from the competition. Stories not only help you connect with the reader, but they also make you memorable. Stories make you stand out and demonstrate some personality that might not otherwise come through.
In today’s marketing environment, you’ve got to do whatever you can to stand out. With the gluttony of information at every turn on every device, you need more. Studies show that customers no longer trust advertising and really don’t want to hear companies talk about how great they are.
Even decision makers at B2B companies need to connect on a deeper level. After all, people buy from people, even those at B2B companies. And that’s how they are drawn to a company–through the stories it tells.
There are plenty of stories there to tell. It’s simply a matter of expending some effort to get there and knowing where the best stories come from.
1. Your Clients
The most memorable stories really come from your clients. Get them to discuss how your products and services are helping them achieve their goals. Have them talk about the results and outcomes they’re experiencing as a result of working with your company.
These stories often come from those who have direct line access to the end-users, so you may need to reach out to your engineers, account managers, and customer service teams. Those folks are on the front lines and know how your company is helping your customers. Get them to encourage customers to share their success stories. These stories can be turned into case studies, blog posts, video interviews, and even testimonial quotes.
It’s important to also reach out to those customers that are not happy and find out why. Encourage your sales team to bring that information back inside so that the issues can be addressed in some of the content you produce.
We also need to hear from those clients who aren’t hitting their success goals. This may highlight some opportunities for improvement and future development.
2. Your Team Members
We always focus on representing the brand and this is an opportunity to really let your employees help the brand to stand out by interacting and sharing real company stories and experiences. This not only gives customers and prospects something more than a logo to interact with, it also makes your company more relatable.
Encourage employees to share their stories at every opportunity. Think about how the following can make your company stand out from the crowd:
- Support and encourage employees to speak at conferences and participate in industry panels and webinars to allow them to share more experiences and humanize the organization.
- Encourage employees to write for the company blog or to share stories for the blog with the marketing team.
- Promote the stories that employees tell about why they work at the company and what drew them in.
3. Brand Supporters
These are the people who are heavy users and are happy to praise you and your products and services to others. Reach out to these power users and learn more about why they chose you over the competition. Work at developing these relationships and work to share their stories.
Hearing the stories from your brand supporters helps to create a sense of urgency and some passion around the situation and helps to make your company more memorable.
4. Your Value
These stories should really be about the problems you solve for your customers because that is what delivers real value. The more you focus on your customers and how you help them improve their lives, the more they become a solid part of your brand.
Ignore the tendency to talk about speeds and feeds and use stories to make your products and services relevant and relatable and stand out from other providers.
How To Tell a Good Story
Now that you know what makes for a great story and where to look for those story ideas, it’s important that you know how to tell that story. Great storytelling is all about evoking emotion and action. To be effective, Ann Handley, chief content officer at Marketing Profs and author of the book Everybody Writes, the key is telling a true story well. The stories need to encourage the reader to elicit some kind of response or take some action.
Some are naturals at this, but for those of use that are not, here are some storytelling essentials from Carl Hartman, Senior Partner at Brand.gineering. I pulled out the 3 steps that I think are most important.
Without some element of conflict, you have no story. Figure out what kind of drama or problem exists so you have a real story to tell. Then show how your products or services touch people’s lives or why people should care about them.
2. Story Structure
Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning gives you the circumstances and provides some context. The middle part of the story provides details on the issue at hand which is the main conflict. Act 3 is the conclusion, which details the resolution or outcome.
Again, regardless of the format of your story, it needs to follow this structure. Weave your message in, but be sure to tell the story in the context of your customer’s life. The details around the customer and their problem will create a memorable character. Include the complications and twists and turns that the customer experiences. That detail is what keeps your readers attention and draws them in.
However you present your narrative–in writing, video, audio, Slideshare, etc., it has to give the audience the ability to evoke its own visual account of what took place. If the audience can visualize the story, that’s important because images provoke emotion and emotion is the key to making you or your company memorable. It’s important to discover how you can use images to deliver a desired result.
Emotion is the key to cementing an idea or message.
A true story has a plot and structure that includes a visual and emotional conflict between characters–even if those characters are products or services. Remember that to make a stronger impact with your stories.
You can use stories to tell the audience why your company or product exists. You can use stories to tell how your company solves a problem or how it can make a difference. You can use those same stories to tell whom it has already helped and when someone could expect those same results. This is what customers are really looking for. Give them everything they need in a well-told story. That will make you far more memorable.