Updated April 2022
Storytelling is an art form. Harkening back to the “Mad Men” era of advertising, an engaging story has long been used to connect with audiences and encourage them to purchase a product.
As a B2B marketer, you might think the storytelling techniques used by today’s B2C companies don’t really translate to your post about SaaS solutions.
In fact, there are several narrative techniques you can use in your B2B content marketing that will engage your audience and leave a lasting impression.
In this post, we’ll explore three classic storytelling strategies and explain how to adjust them to fit a B2B marketing plan.
1. Powerful Storytelling Uses “Show, Don’t Tell”
Creative writers and novelists are all too familiar with this technique. Instead of saying, “It’s sunny,” show don’t tell means painting a vivid picture for the reader – say, the protagonist tilting their head up to the sky, soaking in the warmth of a summer afternoon.
While you might not talk about the warmth of the late summer sun in B2B content marketing, there are ways to apply this same technique. Use show, don’t tell to bring products to life with specific examples, case studies, and client stories. Here’s one easy switch that tells a more compelling brand story:
- SHOW: Our solution will help your business.
- TELL: After implementing our solution, one client’s year-over-year incremental revenue contribution grew to $56M. They also recouped their investment in less than one year.
The second version tells the reader what to expect rather than using bland promises. It also includes social proof, which is incredibly effective.
Providing tangible concepts, like revenue numbers, really shows how your product can make a difference. In the same vein, specific statistics and data points set the stage and why you’re writing about a topic—and why the reader should care.
This best practice also applies to concept ideation. Leads deeper in the funnel might benefit from in-depth, product-centric content like a whitepaper, but most of your audience probably isn’t ready for that yet. So use examples, narratives, and stats to help them understand the benefits you offer.
You can infuse the same “show don’t tell” concept into brand positioning and top-of-the-funnel blog content. Address industry changes, pain points, or common questions and illustrate how your product or offering can alleviate or solve them.
2. B2B Storytelling Doesn’t Have to Be Long: Get To The Point
No matter what the goal of your content is, “Less is more” should be your mantra. B2B marketers need to focus on quality content over quantity, and they also need to stay laser-focused on the role content plays in the big picture.
A product page can be short and sweet, so long as there are brochures and product collateral to provide more detailed information. A blog post only needs to be as long as the topic demands; there’s no reason to spend hours on a topic that can be easily explored in a few paragraphs. Even though white papers are typically longer, that doesn’t mean you need to wax poetic for 25 pages.
Instead, keep your content concise and well-structured. The reason for this is simple—shorter content is more engaging. Only 50% of the U.S. population reads at an 8th-grade level, so simplifying your content will prevent people from being overwhelmed.
So, what does “less is more” mean in practice?
- Use clear and concise language.
- Avoid unnecessary jargon and details. (Say no to filler words like basically, just, and very!)
- Keep your sentences around 15-20 words in length.
For blog content or other long-form content, use a clear introduction to make sure readers know what topics you’ll cover. For longer content, consider a TL;DR section or even a “Time to Read” so there aren’t any surprises.
3. Use Storytelling And Other Strategies to Keep Users Engaged
We’ve all heard about the 8-second attention span. Whether that stat is still accurate or not, there’s no denying people are busier than ever. There is also more content than ever before.
So, what can B2B marketers do to make sure their audience sticks around to read a few more blog posts, or maybe even schedule a free demo? Use these storytelling strategies to keep readers engaged.
- Add Visuals: Relevant imagery makes your content more interesting and can make more complex topics easier to understand. If you’re referencing a study, grab a chart (or make one yourself). If you’re talking about a product, use a screenshot of the interface.
- Use Short Paragraphs: Ditch the old 5-sentence rule and focus on what makes the most sense for the information you’re presenting. For product pages, that might mean using bullet points and breaking up content with bold subheadings and brochure downloads. For blog posts, keep paragraphs short to keep readers flowing through the content.
- Use the Active Voice: The active voice makes your writing stronger, more direct, and easier to read. If you can add “by zombies” after the verb and it still makes sense, that’s passive voice. (Or, just use this tool.)
- Use Strong Language: Good writing uses well-chosen nouns and verbs, instead of adjectives and adverbs. Choose strong verbs like amplify, discover, and transform to keep your readers engaged. Check out a list of ~250 power verbs here to bring your content to the next level.
Though it’s great to keep these engagement strategies in mind when you’re creating new B2B content, some of these will slip through the cracks until the editing process.
Take the time to edit and re-evaluate your content with fresh eyes. Step into your audience’s shoes and look for ways to keep them on the page longer.
Conclusion: Storytelling Strategies that Drive B2B Results
According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 research, B2B marketers focus on creating content that creates brand awareness, builds trust, and educates their audience. However, the most successful organizations focus on growing lasting relationships and delivering bottom-line results like sales and revenue.
Building content that tells a compelling story is one way to keep your audience engaged and encourage them to learn more about your product.
Are there other storytelling techniques you’ve integrated into your writing process? We’d love to hear how those tactics drove content marketing performance. Reach out on Twitter and share your results!