What B2B Storytellers Can Learn From B2C Storytelling

Dana  Larson

December 09, 2015

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Why You Should Become a Storyteller

When did we all get so enamored with storytelling? Everywhere you turn, there’s a blog post about storytelling. Wait a minute…

Let Me Entertain You

All joking aside, storytelling is a technique we hear a lot about these days because it works. And if you’re not using storytelling in your content strategy, you should start now. Consider every big Apple announcement. They’re very similar to a new movie release, with industry experts busy predicting what the “story” will be about before announcement day, and racing to post reviews of the “performance” as early as the opening line of the keynote address. It’s proof that Apple has perfected the art of telling the story around their products, not just announcing the speeds and feeds. After all, people don’t get excited about the 64-bit architecture of their new iPhone 6s. They like the convenience of being able to peek at a webpage from an email before actually navigating to it.

Apple extends this storytelling to their campaigns. They don’t barrage us with a list of new features on the latest igadget. They show people interacting with their products. For instance, the 20-something who uses the GarageBand app to transcend time and bring her closer to her grandmother—creating a song that features both of their musical talents.

From Shoes to Cars to Soap, B2C Storytelling Works

But it’s not just Apple who is seeing success with this approach. Dodge has grown a following with stories including how the Dodge brothers broke away from Henry Ford to build cars of a higher standard.

As a way to introduce new items, Everlane spins beautiful stories depicting interesting individuals styling and using Everlane products in their everyday lives. They’re also completely transparent about how and where their products are made and what the total manufacturing cost is.

B2C Storytelling: Dove Real Beauty Example 

And who could forget Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, which shared how real women viewed themselves so differently than the way others saw them? Each of these storytelling campaigns is more resonant and memorable than any of the more traditional ads from the same time frame.

The Science of Storytelling

But why is storytelling so much more compelling? Research outlined in Psychology Today helps explain the science of storytelling:

  • fMRI neuro-imagery shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).
  • Advertising research reveals that emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on a consumer’s reported intent to buy a product than does the ad’s content—by a factor of 3-to-1 for television commercials and 2-to-1 for print ads.
  • Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that the emotion of “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales.
  • Studies show that positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments, which are based on a brand’s attributes.
By telling a story, we’re appealing to the emotions of our audience. If we tell it well, we can engage them, and possibly even influence them.

B2B Opportunities for Storytelling

You might be thinking, “Storytelling is much easier if you’re selling fast cars or beautiful clothes. But how do I use it to promote cloud security products or legal consulting services?” Great question. Behind every company and every product, there’s a story. You just have to dig. Here are some ideas:

  • Company history. How was your company started? Who founded it? What was the entrepreneurial idea behind starting the company? What were the struggles along the way? Just like the Dodge brothers, there’s usually a rich story to be told in the history of any company.
  • Product development. Is there something special or unusual about the way your product was or is developed or created? Was an industry pioneer involved? Was there a hurdle you had to overcome to bring your product to market? Do you own a patent(s)? Everyone loves a success story, especially if the road was rocky along the way. Don’t sugarcoat your story, but rather share the good, the bad and the ugly to make the triumph all the sweeter.
  • Customer testimonials/case studies. Share how your customers are using your products or services to make their businesses more successful. Don’t just follow the traditional challenge/solution model though. Be sure to actually tell a story using traditional storytelling techniques.
  • Community involvement. Does your company support a charity? Are you actively involved in the community? Do your employees volunteer their time at activities, events or charities? Do you underwrite any grants? Sharing stories of community involvement are a great way to show the company’s personality while painting your organization in a positive light.
  • Employee spotlight. Is there an employee that has made a special contribution to the company (e.g., an impressive length of service, someone who has risen through the ranks, etc.)? An athlete who has achieved remarkable feats? Someone who has overcome a life-threatening medical diagnosis? Stories of human triumph in the face of adversity can inspire others to be their best, to see the best in others (including your company).

Each of these can represent a starting point for your story, but the true magic is in the telling of the story. As the American Hopi Indian proverb says, “Those who tell the stories rule the world.”