You hear the term "storytelling" bandied about quite a bit in the marketing space, but many B2B companies still haven't successfully integrated story into their content. And yet, B2B companies have so many opportunities to tap into the power of story throughout their long sales cycles.
B2B marketers willing to examine their customer journey and reimagine their content to include stories will find their new content much more effective than the traditional features-and-benefits language.
I invited storytelling expert and commonsku Chief Content Officer Bobby Lehew to record this special episode of Marketing Smarts live in our MarketingProfs PRO Facebook group two weeks ago. (If you're a PRO member, come join us there for sneak peeks, livestreams with marketing industry stars like Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, and Ann Handley, and other exclusive content!)
In this episode, Bobby and I talk about using storytelling to power your B2B marketing content.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation.
If you're "e-booked out," replenish your creativity by reading poetry (03:22) "We love poetry as storytellers and content people because it allows you to fall in love with language again. When you're processing so much information, poetry has this ability to truncate everything down into smaller, bite-sized pieces that are richer. It really helps you with storytelling because it makes you fall in love with language."
People see themselves in stories, which is what makes stories so powerful (06:00) "When you're looking out a window, you'll often see in the reflection yourself, in a very dim way...a sort of shadow version of yourself looking out at the story. With storytelling, as the story unfolds, as you're reading a novel, or a poem, you're reading the story, you're following the narrative. But...you're processing it as far as what you identify with. With poetry and story...you experience a journey, you experience the world, you develop a strong sense of empathy with a character, but you do that because of what's going on inside you."
You know more about storytelling than you think (08:00) "Sometimes we go to our businesses and our work and we leave all that we know that has entertained us and moved us at the door. Then we go and do our work. And then we sit down to write a story and we're like, 'I don't know how to tell a story.' You actually have the fundamental basics because your entire life has been composed of enjoying narrative or being taught through narrative.
Storytelling isn't just for "sexy" B2C companies, it works for B2B, too (08:52) "You'll notice with nonprofits and the B2C market that they get emotion really well. Their commercials, the stories they write, the case studies—everything is built around an emotional experience. when you think of nonprofits, a lot of them are in the business of raising money. But they don't talk about raising money. They talk about how the money impacts its final destination.
A lot of our job in B2B is to welcome emotion into the boardroom and to talk about that. Because we're so features and benefits oriented, we're so pros and cons and logic. What's fascinating as the world begins to unfold from what's happening recently is that, I think when folks return to purchasing, say in B2B for example. Empathetic narrative is going to be more important than ever.
"Like in the Great Recession, people returned from that with a greater emphasis on [return on investment] and a greater emphasis on meaning. You're going to see things like sustainability and purchases and the life we live is going to need to be fueled by an emotional experience and an emotional reason."
"If I was talking to the C-suite or to accountants that are very pro/con black and white, I like to ask them if their last big purchase was emotional or rational. Usually it's a car or a house. And often it was an emotional purchase...but they justify it rationally. As consumers, we buy emotionally and justify rationally. So in the B2B world, we've had it backwards. We think we should approach the world rationally, when in fact we should unpack and spend a lot more time around emotion.
"I can't tell you how many people have told me, 'Bobby, I sell a very boring product.' But when you begin to unpack what your product ends up doing for someone, you'll find out that if you trace the emotional journey, you'll find your story has far more meaning."
To learn more, come to the MarketingProfs online storytelling workshop that Bobby is teaching in June. And be sure to follow Bobby on Twitter at @BobbyLehew.
Bobby and I talked about much more, so be sure and listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
This episode brought to you by the MarketingProfs ONLINE Storytelling Workshop: Using Story to Drive Action.
Join us for a one-day storytelling workshop (choose June 3 or June 24) and forever banish features/benefits selling in favor of spellbinding, audience-centric B2B storytelling. Register today and use the code STORYSMARTS to save $50 on your ticket!
"Marketing Smarts" theme music composed by Juanito Pascual of Signature Tones.