Storytelling
Marketing
Oct
13

Effective Storytelling in B2B Marketing: What to Do and What to Avoid

Jaycen Thorgeirson
Founder & Chief Storyteller
Photo by:

The terror of the blank page… It’s not for the faint of heart.

If you’re writing stories and messaging for your B2B brand, your head might be swimming with questions. What to focus on? How to appeal best to your target audience? Should I be broad or specific? 

Fortunately, you’re not the first person to encounter this problem, and even more fortunate for you, there’s a path to fill the void. I’d love to share some tips we’ve uncovered that can help. 

Effective Storytelling in B2B Marketing

Last week, we talked about strategic storytelling and how it can benefit your brand. If you’re setting out on your storytelling journey with your B2B marketing, we want to make sure you have everything you need to succeed.

So this week I’m sharing our top tips for effective storytelling in B2B marketing. They’re categorized as three things to avoid, and three things to definitely do. 

If you follow these tips, you’ll be quicker to implement storytelling and reap the benefits quicker over attending the school of hard knocks. 

The Don'ts

Let’s begin with what not to do list since often these are the biggest pitfalls to remove from our marketing efforts before being truly effective.

Of course, the nice part of every one of these “do not’s” is that they have an accompanying “do,” and if you want to learn more about any of those principles, I’ve shared an article that will show you how to put it into practice. 

Don’t… focus on yourself

Most people are self-serving. By extension, most companies are the same way. As a marketer, this can come across in the way you build messaging and story. Yet, at our core, we gain greater joy in altruistic pursuits and putting others ahead of ourselves.  

Another magical thing happens when we do this. People reciprocate. Instead of focusing on self, our amazing company, product, service or solution, put your audience at the center of your focus. 

What matters most to them personally and professionally? How about their company goals and mission? How are you aligned to that vision? 

By making it all about them, you increase the resonance and relevance of the story being told. You make them the hero of the story and its bound to have them on the edge of their seat. 

Learn why you need to put the power of the personal in B2B marketing.

Don’t… lean on data without a story

I’ve mentioned before in our articles the value of a story-based approach, because it’s hugely important and often glossed over: people make decisions based on emotion first and then justify the purchase based on logic (Psychology Today).

Data is great but at the end of the day, if we were solely data driven I don’t think we’d justify our monthly Starbucks expense. 

Second, unless you can explain it in a way that appeals to your target accounts situation and contextualizes it, it may as well be mumble jumble.  

By combining numbers with a great story driven approach in B2B marketing, you’ll make the numbers stick. In fact, research demonstrates that “facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story”.  Give them a great story, and then provide data to back up their choice when they think about it later.

Want to go deeper? Learn more about backing up your data with emotion.

Don’t… try to talk to everyone

Specificity is key. If you try to talk to everyone, you’ll connect with no one. This is why we have “genre” in film and literature. 

Imagine going to see an action-romcom-thriller-kid’s movie: by trying to appeal to every demographic, it would appeal to no one.

Many professional writers have made this point too. When choosing to write, pick the person you’re writing to and write for them. Ann Handley, with MarketingProfs, is a pro in this area. The biggest takeaway learning I found is that she puts in the work to practice it daily by writing to herself! 

So go ahead, and start practicing on yourself. Then take it to your perfect audience of one. This is what true ABM is really about anyways, isn’t it. Not just being account-specific but focussed on the people within the accounts. 

Here’s some additional reading about getting specific in B2B storytelling.

The Do’s

Now for the golden rules. If you implement these principles in your storytelling, you’ll find that not only is your marketing more effective, but you’re on-route to deeper relationships with your target audience.

B2B is so impersonal. It’s not really B2B. It's really P2P (person to person) and at the end of the day relationships matter most.  Do you like the person? Do you want to work with the person? Do you trust the person? Insert anything here…the person?  

Photo by Pablo Zuchero

Do… stick to one message

Life is often over complicated.

One of the most magical things about stories is how they cut through the chaos and get right to the heart. Boy meets girl, dragon kidnaps girl...ooh no, boy slays dragon, girl admires the boy's courage, they get married and live happily ever after. 

It’s nice. It’s heartwarming. In this case, it's totally fictional, but who cares. We get lost in these stories and use it as a lens to the emotions that run through each and everyone of us. 

When telling your brand’s story, keep to one message. This does not mean what your call to action is. It’s not even about your offering. It should be more about, what feeling do you want your audience to be left with? 

Once you get this, go tell their story centralized around this one message through the channels your audience is an active participant with. Rinse and repeat. 

Learn more about sticking to one core message.

Do… be relevant

You, like me, get it. We only have so much time and energy to spend. This is even truer for C-level B2B decision makers. These are some of the most busy executives, if not people, on the planet. 

If you’re not coming in a timely and relevant way, good luck! You’re likely to be swiped left like an email from a Nigerian Prince. 

Not only that, but your relevance needs to stand out. It can’t be buried underneath six paragraphs of long intro that has nothing to do with the reason people click on the article (I’m looking at you, recipe blogs). Think about ways to put this front and center in an attention grabbing way. 

This calls for doing some digging. Do the research. Go beyond personas and after the person. Make it a story of one. Take the time, make the investment, do it right and stop adding to the plethora of mediocre. 

It’s just a waste of time, resources and others interest. 

Get more insights around being relevant with your storytelling.

Do… be trustworthy

We love a great story, but we hate liars. If we find someone is fabricating a story that doesn’t live up to the truth, we become incensed.

That’s because stories hit us emotionally. A good story builds up rapport and empathy between the speaker and the listener, and if that bond is violated, it will backfire on the storyteller a hundred-fold.

So the number one most important rule for effective storytelling in B2B marketing is… Tell the truth. Always. Even if it's self-incriminating. 

In fact, putting your flaws out there, only builds more trust. Because let’s face it, we’re all HUMAN. 

Read more about building trust using stories in B2B marketing.

Learn to tell better stories for your brand

If you want to know more about telling better stories, read these next:

Now that you have these tips, I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to engage with me. 

Telling remarkable stories that activate hard-to-reach decision-makers is kind of our thing... and we’d love to share our latest learnings.