Once upon a time, a magical sleepwear company completely understood all my wants and needs. The company initially targeted me on Instagram, luring me in with animated ads of women wearing the sleepwear while a gentle breeze lifted up and rippled the fabric showing how lightweight and soft it is. After a few days of scrolling past these ads, I couldn’t help but click through to the site to learn more. The site’s messaging marked the sleepwear as a necessary “self-care” purchase by indicating it was “luxurious” and “functional” at the same time, making the steep price tag seem like a non-issue. The next day, a coupon appeared in my email inbox and before I knew it, I was clicking the “buy now” button. How did this happen? The company told me a story, and I bought into it.

Humans are natural storytellers and our entire world is based on storytelling, so it makes sense that we respond to storytelling in marketing. When B2B marketers tap into this traditionally B2C tactic to boost sales, it works.

Here are four steps to incorporate storytelling into B2B marketing:

1. Know your audience.

Before you even begin crafting your story, consider who you’re going to tell it to. Understanding your audience will help you craft your message in a way that will be more meaningful to whomever you’re targeting.

There are a couple different ways to tackle this step:

  • Talk to sales. Your sales people are the people who know the customers best, and they will have the most insight into what works and what doesn’t.
  • Conduct a survey. If your sales team is tapped right now, you can find out what your customers want to hear by asking them directly. If you’ve never completed a project like this before, you can reach out to a B2B marketing agency to walk you through the process.

Web analytics, keyword research and social listening will help validate what you’ve heard, but don’t rely solely on those measures. It’s always best to get information right from the source.

Once you’ve gotten to know your customers, consider how customized you want your message to be. There is a lot of buzz around “personalized marketing”, or using data and automation to deliver highly individualized messages to current and prospective customers. However, not every business will have that type of data, especially not to the level of detail required to go this route, or the budget and timeline to accommodate such an approach.

Once you have decided on your target, segment as much as possible to break down your audience into smaller groups — the smaller, the better.

90% of top-performing B2B content marketers put the audience’s informational needs first.

2019 B2B Content Marketing Research: It Pays to Put Audience First. October 10, 2018.

2. Start with your “why”.

Now that you’ve decided who you’re talking to, it’s time to get to the core of your business. Why do you do what you do? Use that as the starting point for crafting your story. If you’re not sure what the answer to the question is, then look back at your company’s mission, values and value proposition.

Typically, companies structure their marketing messages around the “what” and the “how” of what they offer — the products and services. See Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle to understand how to flip this model on its head. Start with “why”, or what you believe in, and the “what” and “how” will follow naturally.

When you follow this model, the messaging will automatically come from a place that speaks to the customer’s needs first.

From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands. October, 2013.

This is important, because this is where most content marketers stumble — they don’t consider the audience-centric story. Marketers typically only talk about their products or services and not the needs and desires of their audience. At Elevation Marketing, we have worked with dozens of companies on hundreds of content plans, and this is the most common mistake we see.

B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.

From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands. October, 2013.

3. Engage a conflict and show resolution.

The most important part of storytelling in B2B marketing is giving the audience something to emotionally connect with. Some experts call this empathetic marketing, or marketing to the customer from the perspective of the customer. This is where the conflict and resolution come in.

Start with a problem or challenge. In other words: address your audience’s pain points. What makes their jobs difficult? What challenges do they face on a day-to-day basis? Bring the answers to these questions to the surface, and play up the conflict. Addressing the conflict shows readers that you understand and empathize with their unique situations. This is a great way to inject your brand’s personality, show some humanity and humility, and be real and authentic.

Make the resolution about the audience, too. In what ways does the solution help solve these challenges? What benefit does your solution provide that other solutions don’t?

Connect with your audience by being passionate about your ability to help them. This is your business, and you’ve helped so many people with these same problems. Show examples of the benefits other customers have gained, and offer to do the same for them. Don’t lose sight of the big picture — you can help businesses save time, money, resources, and that can not only make someone’s day, but also help their company thrive.

4. Drive to an action.

Consider what part of the buyer’s journey this particular piece of content is addressing, and create an appropriate next step. Your audience should be ready to take some kind of action – assuming you have something the reader is looking for.

Remember that people do business with other people, so ensure an appropriate sales team member follows up. Great content can only take people so far. But, if you are creating unique and helpful content that speaks directly to the customer, then you will instill trust and that will ultimately lead to more sales.

96% of the most successful B2B content marketers say audiences view their company as a trusted resource.1

2019 B2B Content Marketing Research: It Pays to Put Audience First. October 10, 2018.

Each content piece you create is an opportunity to tell a story, and all of those content pieces need to work together to create a complete narrative that aligns to the buyer’s journey. Consistency is key here — make sure you’re all telling the same story, make sure that story is accurate and make sure it’s the one you want to be telling. See how this all comes together by taking a look at our sample content plan.

When was the last time you worked with a company that truly got this right? Please leave a comment below, and let me know. I would love to hear your stories!

Related Articles:

Examples of B2B Companies Who Used Storytelling to Boost Their Brand

6 Unique Ways to Infuse Personality into Your Content

Simple Ways to Tell Your Brand’s Story Through Interactive Content


About the Author

Rae Palmer – Content Editor

As a content editor at Elevation Marketing, Rae proofreads all content before it gets handed off to the client, helps create content plans and strategies, and manage processes and workloads for our team of writers.