Storytelling Is All The Rage, But What Does It Mean For B2B Marketers?
Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, the individual became empowered to create and share authentic content for the world to consume. And the world loved it. That’s when companies began to realize that their traditional sloganeering tactics of the past century were losing effect. And marketers from every corner of the land rose to the occasion, urging brands to humanize and tell stories.
Soon, the term “storyteller” graced many a résumé and job description.
Companies set to work, re-crafting their communication plans into stories, most commonly telling tales of customer success or proudly professing their purpose. Many videos were generated, liked, shared and cried over, and everyone felt good about themselves.
But then, among all the storyteller fervor, a question arose from the depths of business-to-business (B2B) industries -- a world where mathematical equations, technical specifications and a sharp sense of deductive reasoning ruled the day and the decision making.
How was a marketer, a salesperson or a CEO of a highly complex technology company supposed to apply storytelling to communicate with their technical customers? Was a salesperson supposed to walk into their customer’s lab and tell an epic “Once upon a time” chronicle? And about what, exactly?
Was this question coming from the misfits? The naysayers and the laggards? The ones who just didn’t get it?
MORE FROM FORBES
The brave souls of the B2B industries believed in the power of stories to connect with their audiences at a deeper, more human level. And even more importantly, they understood that stories invite audiences to picture themselves in the protagonist’s shoes and vicariously experience the feeling of success or the joy of discovery. But they also wanted to know how to use stories effectively -- not to tell stories for their own sake, but instead, to drive results.
While the power of stories was accepted and universally applicable to virtually any form of communication, a few curious ones deep within technical industries realized that the goal of strategic communications and high-stakes conversations was to inspire audiences to act.
Stories come in many forms. And while they have the power to entertain, evoke emotions, educate or make a universal issue into a personal one, not all of them actually have the power to motivate people into action.
As it turns out, there is a learnable pattern in these stories that creates just the right conditions to move audiences to action. The curious ones tested and validated the steps of the magical pattern, and they inscribed it on a scroll.
Using Storytelling To Inspire Action
Whether you’re a marketer, a salesperson or in any other customer-facing role in the technical B2B industry, you can implement these steps to craft your own stories and leverage them for results.
Connection: Every good story starts with creating a connection. This can be achieved by finding a common goal between the storyteller (i.e., the salesperson) and the audience (i.e., the prospect).
Provocation: Once trust is established, the storyteller masterfully ushers their audience into a special world, disrupting the audience’s reality. This could be achieved by delivering a provocative idea or another vantage point about the audience’s work. At this moment, the audience members sit at the edges of their seats, engulfing themselves in the story. For those familiar with insight-based selling, this is the moment when an amazing insight is delivered.
Re-Education: Now, the storyteller has to deliver enough evidence to encourage his or her audience to re-educate themselves and see a new idea for how they can make a change to better reach their goal. A master storyteller knows how to best deliver the evidence and guide the audience to find their own idea, rather than giving them the answer.
Persuasion: Finally, the storyteller will empower the audience to take specific action. The most experienced storyteller connects the action to the audience’s goal, which is the basis of the connection he or she made at the beginning of the story. The audience is motivated to act because they’re actually acting for themselves.
Even in the most technical industries, decisions are made by humans. And storytelling is an ancient “technology” that has been perfected through the years to resonate with the human nervous system and brain chemistry.
But corporations and brands must examine the purpose of their storytelling and deploy this powerful technology to ensure it meets their purpose. Managers can follow the above framework to construct stories that are potent and inspire action.
May your stories and your careers be filled with “happily ever after.”