Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Storytelling can help B2B brands move past the outdated practice of pushing product features and data points in their marketing communications, and start engaging customers on a deeper, more emotional level.
The Benefits of B2B Storytelling
What makes storytelling so compelling and necessary for building your B2B brand?
Stories engage on a basic human level
Stories motivate and inspire action
Stories resonate emotionally
Stories create memorable experiences
According to research by Google in partnership with Motista and CEB, 50% of B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with your brand.
In short, stories make your B2B brand ‘real’ for customers, build trust, bridge the gap between your business and your customer, and influence decision making.
How To Tell Powerful B2B Stories
While you know you should be using storytelling in your marketing communications, the best way to create powerful stories about your B2B brand may be less clear.
How can you be sure your B2B stories will connect with your customer and open new markets for your brand?
Luckily, there’s one powerful storytelling construct that has universal understanding and appeal – it's known as 'the hero’s journey.' Documented and deconstructed by comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell in his 1949 groundbreaking book, “Hero with a Thousand Faces,” the hero’s journey is a proven storytelling construct that exists across all cultures.
The Hero's Journey
The hero’s journey takes the reader through a series of events that moves the protagonist (your customer) from status-quo, to engaged in a conflict, to being guided by mentors, through a transformation, and then back to status-quo (but profoundly changed). It follows a consistent blueprint that looks like this:
Using The Hero's Journey In Your B2B Storytelling
If you’re nervous that every story you tell about your B2B brand has to include these 12 steps, rest easy. B2B brands can follow the spirit of the hero’s journey by employing these proven strategies to create powerful B2B brand stories.
1. Start with your customer
First, you must shift your mindset away from your B2B brand as ‘the hero’ of the story. Your customer is the hero of the story. They are the one engaged in a conflict or presented with a challenge that presents serious consequences if not resolved.
To do this, you must put yourself in your customer’s place. If you don’t already have customer personas, survey your customers, or speak to your sales teams and ask them:
What customer challenges do they hear consistently?
What do customers fear if the challenge isn’t resolved?
What’s at stake for their company, or them personally, if they can’t find a solution?
What do they need to know to overcome the challenge?
Making your customer the hero allows you to set up your B2B story with empathy and understanding of your customer’s needs and desires.
2. Present your B2B brand as the guide or the mentor
Now it’s time to present your B2B brand as the trusted guide or the mentor who will help your customer overcome the conflict or the challenge they are facing.
This isn’t an open invitation to revert back to pushing product features and data points! Rather, it’s an opportunity to weave your B2B brand into their journey – to connect with them on a profound and emotional level.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate how your B2B brand provides the creativity, the innovative thinking, and the human ingenuity to resolve their conflict.
3. Communicate the transformation
It’s important to be clear about the transformation your B2B brand can bring about. Remember your hero may be conflicted, anxious, overwhelmed, or fearful and you have the power to paint a future-state vision where they are master-of-their-universe, calm, in-control, and the hero of their organization.
The key is to communicate the transformational change that’s most important to your customer – not for your B2B brand. Ask yourself, ‘as the guide or mentor, what outcome do I want my hero to experience?’ Paint that picture for them through success stories or innovations that made a difference.
Communicate the unique value your B2B brand brings to their journey that no other brand could provide.
4. Reinforce your commitment to future transformations
Your hero customer may have overcome one business challenge, but you can sure there will be others in their future. As their guide or mentor, you can reassure them that your B2B brand is committed to anticipating – and solving for – challenges by staying one step ahead of the competition.
Bringing the B2B Hero's Journey to Life
One of my favorite examples of a B2B brand employing the hero’s journey construct in their storytelling is Cisco’s Bridge to Possible campaign. Created by WPP's Ogilvy, this is B2B storytelling at its finest. This campaign beautifully captures the struggles of Cisco’s hero customers, and adeptly paints the transformations made possible by Cisco. It leaves no doubt that only Cisco as the guide or mentor could deliver on the transformation and commits to being there for their hero customers in the future.
Watch it here:
Put B2B Storytelling To Work for Your Brand
It's time to put storytelling to work for your B2B brand. The hero’s journey construct guarantees your B2B brand story will have universal appeal, engage your customers more deeply, build trust, and encourage advocacy.