It could be argued that marketing is all about telling a good story. And certainly, content marketing has storytelling at its heart.
Being able to engage the audience, bring them on board, educate them and end with a rousing call to action is effective content marketing in action.
We even live in an age where stories often seem to be more important than facts.
Given that stories are powerful tools for marketing, we should be using them in our content, but where do they come from? How can you find stories for your B2B content?
Your products or services
If you are involved in modern product or service marketing, you will know that the way to sell your offering is not by listing features or technical specifications, but by talking about the benefits that the product or service will bring to the buyer.
Or, perhaps more comprehensively, it’s about the solutions you sell.
It’s here that you can find perhaps the most obvious set of stories to tell. You can tell a story of the solution that your product or service offers. Outline a typical problem and the issues it’s causing – the peril that the customer might face if this is left unsolved. Then show how your product and service will address the issues and lay out the positive consequences to the customer if they buy your solution. To finish, add in a promotion or special offer (if that fits your strategy) and a strong, effective call to action.
Each product or service may be applicable to a range of issues, giving you a number of possible stories to tell.
Another potential source of stories are the future plans for your products or service lines, or what developments are in the pipeline.
Another obvious area to look for stories is your business itself. Is there something that makes it unique? Does it have an interesting history, or has there been a major change in the company? Is its setup or structure unusual for the industry? What are its successes? (And if you are brave, what are its failures? But make sure you put a positive spin on that, how you have learnt lessons and grown because of them.)
You may want to highlight the company’s culture, approach, philosophy or purpose. All these subjects can be turned into stories for your blog, website, email marketing or other content.
Be aware though, that this category of stories – about your business – is probably the least exciting for the customer. They had better be engaging stories and have a clearly demonstrated benefit to the customer. For example, “as a company, we struggled with this, but then we solved it, and now we can offer you a much better product/service.”
Stories about your marketplace, where it’s been and where it is going, are useful to establish authority. They show you know, and more importantly, have thought about, the development of the industry and can usefully predict what will happen next.
If changes are happening in your industry, you can write stories about what might happen – how they might affect your customers and prospects.
These thought pieces are highly influential when it comes to buyers choosing between vendors. Never underestimate the importance of establishing authority and becoming a trusted source of information.
A great place to look for stories is right under your nose – your employees. Interviewing and talking to them should unearth a wealth of product and service stories – tales of great customer support, problems they have overcome, what customers are looking for and what issues customers have faced.
Employees themselves can be great subjects for stories, you can look at their daily lives, profile them, ask for their top tips, get them to talk about their work.
And get them to talk about their passion – their passion for work and their personal passions for hobbies, sport or family. There’s a good chance that your prospects and customers will identify with these.
Because people – even B2B buyers – respond more powerfully to stories about other people, these can be remarkably effective in creating an emotional bond between your prospects and your business.
If prospects, buyers and customers can look at your people and think, “I’d like to work with those guys” then that’s an impressive achievement for your content.
I’ve saved the best and most powerful stories till last. Talking to your clients, even your prospects, and finding out their stories is the best way to surface the most persuasive of content.
From your prospects you can find out what their issues are, you can learn what requirements they have and how they will go about addressing them. You can learn what sort of people they are and what interests them and gets them excited. This can all feed into stories from the other categories I’ve written about above: writing about how your product or service will solve these issues, or about how the industry is changing, or about how your staff share their interests and passions.
From your customers, you can create case studies – the ultimate content weapon! Ideally, you want to write these from the customer point of view – maybe interview them and let them tell the story in their own words; because whilst you can write endless pages of marketing material about how your product or service will solve their problems, it is so much more convincing coming from an actual customer who has lived it and who is seen as an independent voice.
Which of these categories you choose as a source for your stories will depend to some extent on what strategy you are following. If you are trying to establish authority, then writing about industry issues will be a priority. If you are looking at making a connection with clients, then employee’s stories will be helpful. For brand awareness, stories about the business may prove beneficial. If you have new products or services, or major developments in existing solutions, then write about those.
In any event, good case studies are always influential, compelling and engaging – customers can put themselves in the shoes of one of their peers and imagine what it would be like to buy from you and have their problems solved.
Stories can be found almost anywhere, and you will find that once you start looking for them and writing about them, they will become easier to find.