Writer Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Storytelling is the language of emotion. When you tell a story, you invite audiences to be in touch with their feelings, to get personally invested and to be swept along in the narrative.
Great brands, like great stories, explore what makes us human.
In 2009, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn thought to investigate that very idea. They bought 100 cheap trinkets from thrift stores and asked professional writers to invent a story about each object. For example, a heart-shaped paperweight was accompanied by a tale about an office manager who used it to weigh down the lid of her jar of M&Ms. Walker and Glenn then listed the items on eBay along with their stories to see whether the value of the objects would increase.
The results were staggering. From an original outlay of $129, their sales totaled nearly $3,600— a profit of over 2,700%.
That experiment, dubbed the "significant objects project," demonstrates the power of stories and the emotional value they add—to the extent that they can transform the seemingly mundane into something significant and treasured. People who bought the items were willing to pay more simply because there was a story attached to the objects.
You can set yourself apart from your competitors and create a foundation for your brand's vision through storytelling.
In all mature, competitive markets, the only element that separates one company from another is brand—and storytelling is a crucial part of brand.
B2B decision-makers yearn for companies to talk to them in a more straightforward manner. They don't want to be blindsided with facts and figures, jargon, and tech-speak. No one wants to think they're the target of a sales pitch, but people always enjoy a good story that they can feel a part of.
As in the significant objects project, stories enhance a product, giving it context and meaning. Customers don't want to be told how good your product or brand is; they want a story, an experience.
The standard way to increase prices and profitability in B2B marketing is to add new features and charge more. Sometimes those features are marketable and even exciting, but they're often not what the customers want or need.
Using stories as a central focus attracts the right customers and creates customer loyalty. If you sell a software subscription service for £17.99 a month, having a credible and compelling story to go with it could transform its worth to £25. Your offering becomes more worthwhile to them, but you're also more noticeable. That is the economic advantage that storytelling enables.
Here are four more reasons to employ storytelling in your B2B marketing.
1. Stories make facts and figures more easily digestible
Numbers and facts wake up our inner critic, whereas stories make us receptive to new ideas.
Think of the story as an indispensable ingredient in a recipe. Baking a cake without the right ingredients produces something flat, uninteresting, or even unpalatable. Storytelling is the sugar in the cake; it makes brands satisfying and memorable.
2. Stories awaken feel-good responses in the brain
A story isn't just something that increases the worth of a product; it influences our thoughts and emotions. When we're exposed to different elements of a story, our brain releases chemicals that give rise to feelings:
- Plot devices containing suspense stimulate the release of dopamine, the "reward hormone," which improves our focus, motivation, and memory.
- Stories that encourage us to empathize with the main character cause the hormone oxytocin to flow through our bodies; that increases the trust we feel toward both the storyteller and the story.
- And when a narrative is even a little funny and touching, we produce endorphins, which make us feel both focused and relaxed, much like after you've been for a run or had a fun night out with friends.
3. Stories make customers care more about your brand
Customers aren't content with brands that seem robotic, corporate, or out of touch. They're searching for the human element. They want to hear from the people behind the product and hear testimonials about the product and company from real people.
Stories have always been powerful instruments for creating bonds within groups, providing a sense of community and harmony. We all want to belong to something, to feel part of a tribe.
In the same way, we want to support brands that make us feel good and impart a sense of purpose in our lives. We want the human truth. That's why humanizing your brand and marketing strategy through storytelling is so essential.
4. Stories amplify your brand
Storytelling isn't just another fad or lever in your marketing machine. Incorporating it into every aspect of your brand elevates your brand's experience, creating a sense of motivation, trust, and inspiration among your customers.
What makes your brand remarkable isn't how cutting edge it is or how many features or shiny new gadgets your team of engineers is continually developing. Sure, technological innovation can be a part of the appeal, but that's not why customers stay with any brand or product. They want to be related to and treated as humans, and stories do that.
* * *
Stories are inseparable from what makes us human and, therefore, unique. All brands have stories to tell—what's yours?
More Resources on Storytelling in B2B
Storytelling in B2B: Bobby Lehew on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
How to Make Your Brand's Storytelling More Compelling
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