Commentary

Outlining The Art Of B2B Storytelling

Did you know a B2B marketer can be a great storyteller?

When most people think of B2B marketing, they tend to think of product marketing and positioning.  I would argue B2B is one of the most important places to practice the art of storytelling and when you do it well, you are more effective than all the competition.

To tell a great story, you start with the world and a character.  In the case of a B2B marketer, that world is a category and the character is your brand.  The world has to be well-defined, if not finite.  You can have a broad category to work with, but the trick is, your audience needs to be able to see themselves in that world.  They need to recognize the challenges they face and the situations they commonly experience.  They need to realize others have the same set of experiences.  

When your targets can see themselves squarely in your world, they then have context with which to evaluate your brand.   Your brand has to represent itself as a trustworthy, credible and practical inhabitant of that world.  

Then you need to map out the arc.  The arc begins with the statement of wants and needs for your targets, followed by the obstacles that lay before them and how your product can help them overcome these obstacles and meet their wants and needs.

This is the art of positioning, but through a different lens: storytelling, rather than simple product marketing.  Product marketing is typically “features” and specs that amount to a position, whereas this model is more about the targets as the central focus of the story and your product aligning with them.  It’s a shift of perspective that ensures your story is going to resonate with the target audience.

Once you’ve crafted these elements of the story, you move on to the story structure, or what some people call the customer journey.  This is a series of activities where you will find and engage with your target.  The story will be told over time, through frequency of exposure and either a successive story or repetition.  

This becomes a media-oriented conversation, because you either guide targets down a path, or repeat the message, looking for it to break through the clutter. 

The last piece of the story is what most people refer to as the creative, but in this context is the visual language and grammar of your brand.  You have to know how to say what you want said and how to show what you want shown.  This is something that evolves over time because you start with a hypothesis, then move to execution and testing.  You test different visual styles and copy writing to determine what resonates the best.  This can be done quickly or over time.   

Too often, B2B marketers lack creativity in their creative, meaning they focus on stats and product marketing messaging.  It's more about the benefit and a new way of delivering that message.

That leads me to the last element of a great story: feedback.  The best stories are reworked, rewritten and reshot over time.  Each time the story is told, the storyteller refines it a bit more, building on what worked the previous time, until it's a story that will resonate for years to come.

This last piece is why data is imperative to a great story.  Good data provides real-time feedback on a story, which can be improved to be great.

Are you practicing the art of storytelling in your efforts?  Are you practicing a craft, or simply rereading the same old book?

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