In our last blog “Content Marketing: Always Quality Before Quantity” we spoke about the importance of creating the best possible content for your target audiences. There is a pressure to always be producing and publishing content and this can lead businesses to lean towards volume of content rather than quality. But you have to always think about what your audience is looking for. What are their problems and how you help them with a solution. And from there to create compelling actionable content.
Storytelling is the conveying and sharing of events for entertainment and/or education. Brand storytelling is delivered through marketing.
The digital revolution and the associated content revolution has put storytelling into sharp focus. There has been a long held view that brand based storytelling is the preserve of consumer based marketing. This infers that only consumer buyers are interested in being emotionally engaged. Business audiences it argues are more interested in the functional benefits that they can derived from any product/service purchase. Hence, there is no value to be had from looking to ‘love bomb’ a business buyer with emotional content.
Seth Godin remarked that as buyers:
“we all believe what we want to believe and once we believe, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth”
Connecting with people at an emotional level taps this belief system and by extension develops true beliefs. A recent study by Headstrom examined the following core questions:
The results found that:
79% of businesses want to hear stories about the brands and businesses they are reviewing
This is a clear endorsement that businesses need to create a compelling narrative around their offerings. Businesses realise that if they want to engage their audiences, they have to do more than just talk about how great their product is. They need to energise and humanise their content narrative.
“55% of business people felt they were triggered to purchase following a great story”
Take the much used case study as an example. The narrative should shift away from all the great things your product did into a full customer perspective. Make sure all of the take away details are going to be attractive to the customer. Many of the case studies we read or hear about, tend to have an element of the customer but are not dominated by them. Develop your story around the customer. Highlight:
The CMI recently surveyed in-house and agency content producers about what their top content goals were for 2017. They found:
The challenge of creating great content and developing stories is being recognised across the business spectrum. Great storytelling makes your content, your brand and your business:
Stories help to glue your past and your future in a way that allows people connect with both. That is a powerful thing to try and achieve for any business trying to sell or connect.
From a brand perspective we often ask our clients:
“what you want to be famous for”
Delivering this means that you build a story about your offering. One that you hope your target audience will believe and embrace. One that captures not just the function/feature benefits – but the emotional benefits also.
People want to buy into something more than just product or service, they want to buy into an idea, a way of thinking or doing things that will help them be better. This is what the most successful business and brands do.
Brands often talk about having to deliver both the functional and emotional benefits to their target audiences. But communicating the emotional benefits is not an easy thing to do. It requires subtlety. It's a little like the comedian telling his audience he is funny. The proof is in the experience. Hence what you want to say to the comedian is “don’t tell me your funny make me laugh” Good storytelling can deliver on this emotional aspect.
We love the Volvo Human Made stories 'The Defiant Pioneers' - short films about different people and the pioneering work they are doing to help change peoples lives. These inspiring movies [beautifully shot and produced] look to tap into a better, brighter envisioned future for the subjects. The connection to their cars is very subtle throughout. There is no spoken reference about Volvo product - only visual references – we observe the subjects driving and using Volvo cars as they carry out their inspirational actions. Volvo has chosen not to insert their brand crudely into the story, but rather to be part of the background fabric of the story being told. The story leads. But for Volvo, the association with these real people and their lives is powerful. Volvo has been developing stories around the people and their connection to their products for many years now. As brand storytelling, it is an excellent class leading example of how to use storytelling to bring brand strategy to life.
But you might argue that this is business-to-consumer (B2C) and not business-to-business (B2B). In truth, we have never really bought into the notion that the principles involved in consumer and business marketing are that different. Even in business-to-business marketing, you are still communicating and trying to engage a real person. Hence the emotional connection that you want to make with them still exists – you just need to trigger it differently.
Cisco have used storytelling as a core part of their marketing very successfully. They have created a news website “The Network” featuring news stories about trends in technology etc written by real reporters. Hence the quality of the content is excellent and this is very important when you are trying to stand out from the crowd and be different. In 2012 they produced a feature documentary “The Network Effect” about the history and contribution of technology to our world. They run a series of case studies called “Never Better” telling stories about inspirational businesses using Cisco technology. Each episode begins with “There’s never been a better time to...save the rhino” for example and then examines how peoples efforts to carry out their business is helped by Cisco technology etc.
Boeing use a similar approach to the envisioned future “Vacations to planet earth” looking at how they see aviation advancing in the next 100 years.
There are many other examples of great B2B story based narratives. As businesses continue to look for better ways of engaging their audiences, content will play a critical role. We live in a very complex technological world and making things simple for audiences will be valuable. By using storytelling to bring your business to life, you enhance the opportunity of connecting emotionally with your audience. Emotion will always dominate function in our brains (whether we are a consumer or business buyer) – think about fear as a prompter to action – our brains are hard wired to respond to our emotions.
As humans we have a great ability to store and recall stories. If you want people to remember your business, you have to do something that will be memorable. Think about creating content that will deliver some of the following characteristics:
Remember your story has to be true. Be visual use images, graphics and video wherever possible. Make sure you identify with their problems and that the solution offered in the story aligns with the issue they are facing. And make sure it's really well written!