Many B2B marketers turn away from brand storytelling, thinking this makes more sense for consumer-facing companies and that B2B brands should stick to clean white papers, case studies, and thought leadership blogs. But whether you're selling to consumers or companies, at the end of the day, you're selling to people ..and people like stories.
In business, customers want to see data that shows why they should work with a company. They want to read white papers with useful information and blog posts with tips for improving their businesses. But in the end, good stories and clear messaging get their attention and make them want to learn more. So B2B marketers can and should use storytelling to relate to their customers, bring data to life, and showcase how their solutions and services are transforming other businesses. A case study with impressive data is powerful but not nearly as powerful as one where the data is wrapped in a compelling client story. A blog post full of practical takeaways is valuable, but it's far more engaging when it also tells a story to which readers can relate. It is about inviting your customers into your story and making them the hero.
Many B2B companies are already beginning to appreciate the value of storytelling, but so many are still struggling to make it an effective part of their strategy. So let's learn from these brands that are using storytelling to enhance blog posts, bring case studies to life, and create videos that make you want to be part of their story:
Cisco is a technology company that develops networking and telecommunications equipment. Though their services are very complex, Cisco uses storytelling to humanise the advanced technology they offer to businesses. Cisco created a content marketing campaign, Never Better, which uses interactive digital stories to illustrate how organisations across industries use Cisco technology to their advantage. This campaign focuses on real stories from customers and partners. These stories show how Cisco technology is transforming entire industries and countries – bringing water to those who don't have it, making jobs safer and cities smarter, and even saving the lives of people and animals. Every story begins, "There's never been a better time..." and presents written content, photos, and documentary-style videos on infographic-like web pages.
This campaign shows that what could have been presented as a two-page case study for customers to read can be transformed into a storytelling journey that makes possible leads engaging and keen to learn more. This shows how various forms of content can create a compelling story. It can be a landing page with various visual and infographic-like content supported by a blog post or a video.
Salesforce serves other businesses with tools that help them sell, market and analyse. On top of boasting excellent services, they tell a story that's hard to ignore. For that, they use the voice of their clients, and it is an excellent basis for testimonial marketing. They are using Success Stories as their tool where they make the customer the story's main character and put themselves in a position of a guide.
This is an excellent way of showing the transformation your company can bring to businesses. Expressing this through the words of an actual customer creates trust and touches the more personal side of the business. It is also a great section to add to your website instead of listing multiple projects you worked on.
BLP is a law firm that offers advice to help well-known financial institutions and other companies to navigate risk and make business transactions work. BLP needed to demonstrate that it knew how to help bankers get out of sticky financial issues. So the company's marketers decided to create a series of YouTube videos telling "cautionary tales" about what can happen if bankers fail to heed regulatory advice. BLP didn't rely just on videos themselves. They created accompanying quizzes, checklists, infographics and a bank-note-themed report, a various pieces of content were promoted. According to b2bmarketing.net, the approach generated 515% more leads than the campaign target and garnered international press attention showing that storytelling can get commercial results, not just 15 minutes of viral fame.
Storytelling is a great way to demonstrate the consequences if your customer doesn't act now. You can ask them, "Where would they be if they had chosen not to work with you?" "What impact and consequences could that have on their business?" and build your story around it.
4. Symmetric IT Group
Symmetric IT Group offers professional Managed IT services that identify technology gaps, business, and cybersecurity risks, then correct, protect, and proactively monitor systems. They changed their approach and website in line with the StoryBrand framework. The website is now headlined "Your Business Deserves Technology That Works". That is what the customer is looking for, a clear answer to their problem. In addition, they support that statement with 3 key qualities of their offering and give a brief description of what each means, providing trust and starting their story in which they invite their customer.
Storytelling doesn't have to be told through video or blogs even. The right oneliner can open a great story on your website. And building a website with a clear message invites your customer to a journey with you where you guide them to their success.
Asana is a cloud-based task management solution that allows businesses to manage, collaborate, communicate, and organise their tasks and projects. It is specialised for handling multiple projects at one time and is suitable for companies of any size. They developed an excellent storytelling website built on the reality that in the modern office, we spend a lot of our time with emails: sorting, filtering, replying, and forwarding. Much time is wasted, which doesn't improve the communication and discussion of ideas. Their website shows what problems they can solve for their customers, and they are very consistent.
Being consistent is very important in storytelling. When you go through your website, look and ask: Can my customer clearly understand what problem I can solve for them? Am I consistent with the messages on my website?
Norton provides a security technology powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. They monitor online threats across the globe to help protect online devices against viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware. To show how vital cybersecurity is and how many threats there are around, instead of writing another data sheet or case study, they chose to create a documentary, "Norton's The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet", featuring interviews with small-time scammers and notorious cybercriminals who've hacked the likes of Google, the US Army, and NASA. This film brings the importance of data security to light in a statistic-filled way that infographics and news stories never could.
It shows facts and data in a different way and documentary style, making it more natural and closer to us. This is a great way to address serious problems your clients might have, but it doesn't have to be a long professional video to do the same. Think of a podcast, a shot video or even an infographic. There are various ways to express your data to be compelling to your customer.
7. Bryan Sambat
Bryan Sambat's accounting practice supports small businesses by becoming their "back office" to balance their books. When you look at Bryan Sambat's site, you'd think his business is a woodworking business. And this is why this accounting website is so brilliant. The images on Bryan's site represent the people he wants to work with: Growing Small Businesses. And this is a great visual approach he decided to take. Creating the story on the website through your content and showing actual people who are the customers makes it more personal and relatable. Bryan finally shows his face at the bottom of his website and on his about page. He knows that his role in the story is second to his customers' role in the story.
So often, businesses go wrong by displaying images of themselves, their offices, their product, etc. None of these things is necessarily bad, but if you don't have actual customers in those photos, you drastically affect your audience's ability to connect with your business. Make them the centre point.
Formula 1 is the highest class of international racing for open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars. Formula 1 racing realised it wasn't enough to engage viewers beyond the event itself. It began bringing viewers behind the scenes with the racers, teams, and governing body in its Netflix docuseries Drive To Survive. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at the circuit that uses the world as its playground, highlighting the action and giving context to the storylines that emerge on and off course. Viewership has proven the truth of that assessment. ESPN tells Sports Illustrated that the average viewership for the 2021 season is 931,000 – 53% higher than the 2020 season average. This proves that having additional F1 content that reaches a broad and different audience helps create awareness and interest.
Taking viewers or, in this case, customers behind the scenes can be a great way to attract an audience and grow their interest in your brand. They start to feel that they have become part of your brand, building trust. It doesn't have to be an expensive docuseries to achieve that. For your small or midsize business, you could do a video about the internal problems you face, and how overcoming them helps you relate to clients' challenges, it can be in the form of an interview or a blog post or a podcast series.
Build storytelling into your campaigns
Consider your organisation's brand. When you're marketing a B2B brand, you're not just marketing to businesses: you're marketing to people. Decision-makers want to see brands taking the time to understand them as human beings, not work machines – we don't leave our personalities behind when we get to the office, so why should the way we reach out to customers be irrelevant and boring?
Storytelling is a compelling, effective way to engage a B2B audience, illustrate the benefits of your product or service and make your brand part of your customer's narrative.
At Demodia, we've always built storytelling into our campaigns – and it's taken our clients to become market leaders. If you want to learn how to grab your customers' attention, convert leads and help your business stand out? Download our BrandScript worksheet today and start creating your brand story. If you are still unsure where to start, contact us now for your free consultation, and we will help you tell the right story for your audience.