Are you trying to generate more interest in your business? Why not tell a story? Since the beginning of time, storytelling has been used by leaders and organizations to transmit information, values and ideas from generation to generation.
Storytelling is an effective way to communicate your brand values to your customers in a vivid, emotionally rich and memorable manner. Studies have shown that effective storytelling can change behaviors, trigger actions and sustain professional relationships.
As entrepreneurs, we can use powerful narratives to cut through the content clutter of the digital and social age.
Storytelling challenges of B2B businesses
But what happens if you are in a “boring” Business to Business (B2B) trade like accounting, precision engineering or machine tool manufacturing? Can storytelling still work for you?
After all, unlike a trendy fashion brand or a chic restaurant, you can scarcely find an influencer keen to snap a selfie with your 20-ton truck, or promote that state-of-the-art software powering your intelligent building systems.
Beyond that, small B2B businesses may also find it a challenge to raise brand awareness, generate marketing and sales leads, or retain customers over the long-term.
Fortunately, not all is lost. You can turn your B2B business from dull to dazzling using the power of storytelling.
Related: The Art of Personalizing Your Brand
1. Consider your broader social impact
The first thing you need to do is to zoom out of your product category and consider the broader context of your client’s business.
For instance, if you are a supplier of tractors and other heavy machinery, you could narrate how your machines come with special safety features that reduce the exposure of construction workers to site risks.
If you run an accounting firm, you could share the value of keeping clean accounts by citing how big public-listed companies got into serious trouble when they misreported their earnings.
By doing so, you gain greater trust and credibility for your business.
2. Trace the journey of your product or service
I loved how NPR’s Planet Money narrated the story of the T-shirt.
In a series of enchanting episodes on Planet Money’s podcast, listeners are regaled with how the humble T-shirt began in the cotton fields of Colombia, was woven into threads and sewn in garment factories in Bangladesh, and shipped all the way to America via the Port of Miami.
Likewise, consider how you could tell the story of your product or service by tracing its journey. For example, a corporate lawyer could narrate how contracts safeguard business transactions along the entire value chain – from producer to manufacturer to distributor to retailer.
3. Educate your clients and their customers
As suppliers of products and services, B2B firms usually possess deep technical knowhow.
This means that you are better placed to help your clients and their customers to perform better at their jobs.
In highly specialized professional industries like healthcare and financial services, vendors and service providers must abide by high performance and regulatory standards. This puts you in a unique position to not only educate your clients but also the general public at large.
To do so, you can put together a “how to” guide, organize a business or trade forum, or share success stories that help your customers do better. You could also create a series of blog posts or episodes on your podcast addressing common myths in your business.
4. Demonstrate thought leadership
B2B businesses are often at the cutting edge of research and development (R&D) or business innovations.
This could be anything from the latest formulations to strengthen industrial cement, to a superior way to manufacture widgets, to a new algorithm devised to detect online fraud.
Barring trade secrets, package what you are doing on the R&D front into stories that inspire, that impact real lives and that are shareable. Inspire your readers and gain their trust and respect by showcasing your knowledge.
A good example here is Intel. While not a small business, just look at the company’s Facebook page to see how they share their highly technical products through the power of stories.
5. Tell your founder’s story
A compelling founder backstory works equally well for B2B companies as they do for B2C ones.
To share your founder’s unique personal journey, consider developing the following story points:
- What makes his or her story unique, attractive and unforgettable?
- Were there any pivotal moments in his or her life or work that spurred the birth of the company?
- What was the“eureka moment,” aka the spark that made all the difference?
- How did he or she overcome any personal or professional challenges?
Incorporate the right elements of brand storytelling, including a dramatic plot, conflict and struggle, identifiable characters and how triumph was achieved.
6. Use the power of gamification
Rather than force your prospects to read a massive white paper or technical manual, why not gamify your storytelling efforts?
Introduce a challenge with different milestones, credits, levels and rewards for your community to discover what your product or service does. This can be achieved through quizzes, puzzles and other game formats.
If budget permits, you may even wish to simulate how your product or service could work using a flight simulator-like app.
7. Invest in visual storytelling
Last, but certainly not least, consider tapping into the power of visual content.
For B2B businesses, these could come in the form of infographics, videos, slideshares, image-led tips and cartoons.
Here are some immediate ways to use visual storytelling in your business:
- Create infographics with new or unusual facts and figures about your trade
- Produce quirky (but useful) “how to” videos addressing your customers’ greatest pain points
- Map out your process using lively and fun cartoons
8. Show your humanity
Oh yes, there is one more thing.
Wherever possible, inject human emotions into your brand stories and shine the spotlight on people, rather than processes, patents or parts. Show how fun and warm your corporate culture is. Demonstrate how you care for your customers and community.
Like any successful organization, your B2B operation is run by charming, quirky, idiosyncratic and unique individuals. Let your humanity shine through their stories!