A role for storytelling in B2B marketing

Although the concept of storytelling is still relatively new in the B2B marketing field, it is becoming increasingly popular and has aroused more interest of late.

Traditionally, direct to consumer marketing is where most brands and agencies would seek to establish a narrative or emotional connection through their identity, positioning and campaign work, but many experts now believe that creating a strong personal link is even more important in B2B, where the stakes are so much higher and investment that much harder to come by. 

Storytelling can work at all levels of your marketing strategy if you credit your audience with some intelligence and don’t shy away from complexity. There will be times where it’s necessary to spell out your message loud and clear, and times when it’s more appropriate to take a step back, tell the story, and allow your audience to draw their own conclusions.

At what you might call the top level, the stories that you tell about yourself, your brand and your business should inspire your customers, rally your team and give your company a purpose. These are the stories that get told every day through brand campaigns and advertising as well as in pitches. They explain why you exist and what you’re out to achieve. They move people to see the world in the same way that you do, or convince them you see the world the same way they do.

The middle tier of storytelling is where thought leadership and experiential, product-driven content come to the fore. More about driving your sales process and reassuring existing customers that they are right to continue working with you, these are the stories you need to ensure customer retention and acquisition. It’s through these stories you demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about.

The third category, on the frontline, is more tactical and in the moment. This is where you can focus on taking your existing content and presenting it in a way that is more engaging and interactive. This could mean restructuring a slide presentation to be delivered at an event, preparing a product animation to show at a conference, or simply rethinking the way you set out a case study to dramatise the problem or highlight the creativity of your solution.

The stories you tell shouldn’t be contrived or exaggerated; nor should they be thinly veiled sales pitches. Find out what drives your customers emotionally as well as financially, and set out to draw a link between those drivers and the values of your brand. And finally, don’t be afraid to take predictable subject matter and flip it on its head to grab attention and engage potential leads.