As long as humans have been on the planet they have told stories.
We all know the power of a good narrative: whether it’s the children’s book that has stayed with you well into your adult years, the urban legends that surround a certain area, or the political speech that inspired a nation.
So, ask yourself, are stories just as important when it comes to B2B content marketing?
Every day each one of us tells stories, don't we? They help us to interact and communicate with the people around us.
And is the same thing true for businesses?
Of course, this isn’t about "once upon a time" and "happily ever after". But consider how you can tell stories to your target audience about how to solve a particular problem.
The idea is to make the reader of your content the hero and guide them from pain to relief.
What is The Hero's Journey?
You may have heard of this common story structure – also known as a monomyth – that was devised by mythologist Joseph Campbell.
The Hero's Journey essentially involves a protagonist (the hero) setting off on an adventure, overcoming obstacles, and returning transformed with new knowledge or power.
The concept could be compared to the buyer’s journey: a prospect starts out with a problem, consumes content about their difficulty and decides on a solution.
“In fact, it’s the exact way that people view themselves moving down the proverbial sales funnel, and it’s your content’s job to facilitate the journey.”
We can make the reader the hero by guiding them logically from the top to the bottom of the funnel with content that makes them feel like the protagonist of a narrative that addresses their problems and fears.
Writing on Forbes Susan Gunelius says: “In the beginning, you need to open strong and establish your story setting and the characters. The middle should set up your main character’s problem and present conflicts that get in his or her (or its) way before he or she (or it) can find resolution in the end.
“This is your character’s story arc, and you need to take your reader along for the ride.”
From blog posts to eBooks to product demonstrations, the reader will recognise themselves as the hero of the story if it feels like it is about them.
Moving beyond "the end" of the journey
So The Hero’s Journey can provide a useful structure for our content marketing.
But it’s not complete in itself. Think about the companies you buy products from: in many cases you probably make repeat purchases.
The Hero's Journey is a linear model that takes the protagonist from beginning to end. However, a customer doesn't necessarily disappear once they've chosen your product or solution - and if the story isn't over, they're still the hero.
As Clark says in the podcast referenced above: " ...the journey continues." He goes on to suggest a model that can help us to use the idea of The Hero's Journey in a more meaningful way: The 7 Circles of Belief.
This model consists of seven concentric circles that move closer to a centre point: your business. The outermost circle represents people who follow your company on social media; the innermost circle represents your repeat customers and clients. The latter are the ones at the very heart of things - the biggest believers in your business - so they still want and deserve to be the hero.
Once you've provided someone with a solution to their problem, keep on soothing their pain. After all, isn't it worth investing in the customers you already have?
Why the truth matters
We’re creating stories – but not fiction.
Global SVP marketing at Unilever, Marc Mathieu, says: “Marketing used to be about creating a myth and selling; now it’s about finding a truth and sharing it.”
Sometimes the reader might think they’re the hero of your story but they’re not.
Be honest about your product or service and the solutions your business can provide; don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
And it’s also important to remember that being a hero isn't supposed to be easy. Your target audience knows that they may encounter obstacles while seeking a solution to their problem - but they want to be fully informed so that they can find the best way to change their situation for the better.
So, it's important to make the reader the hero and this involves creating content that reflects their experiences and forms a narrative that guides them from pain to relief.
Just remember not to forget them once they've decided on your solution. Your repeat customers are your biggest heroes, so keep telling them stories!