Note: This post was updated on November 3rd, 2020.
Storytelling is an art form, and one that good marketers have been taking advantage of for decades. Harkening back to the “Man Men” era of advertising, an engaging story was used to draw audiences in and encourage them to purchase a product.
As a B2B marketer, you may think that the storytelling techniques used by today’s consumer companies don’t exactly translate to your post about SaaS solutions. The reality is, there are several techniques you can apply to create content that engages your audience and leaves a lasting impression of your brand.
In this post, we’ll dive into three classic storytelling tips to integrate into your messaging, from blog posts to product collateral:
1. Show, Don’t Tell
Creative writers and novelists are all too familiar with this technique. Instead of plainly stating, “it’s sunny”, they’ll paint a more vivid picture for the reader – say, the protagonist tilting their head up to the sky, soaking in the warmth of a mid-summer sun. B2B marketers can apply this same technique and bring products to life with specific applications, examples, 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.
Support your product with a more tangible concept, like revenue numbers, to really illustrate how your product can make a difference. In the same vein, specific statistics and data points set the stage and illustrate why you’re writing about this topic and/or why they should care.
This best practice also applies when we take a step back and talk about concept ideation. Though potential customers deeper in the sales funnel can benefit from in-depth, product-centric content like a whitepaper, most of your audience probably isn’t ready for that. 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. Get to the Point
“Less is more” is the mantra marketers need to keep in mind when they’re creating content, no matter what the goal is. B2B marketers need to focus on quality over quantity, and they also need to stay laser-focused on the role that piece of content plays in the big picture.
A product page can be short and sweet so long as there are brochures and product collateral available where users can find more information. A blog post only needs to be as long as the topic demands; there is no use spending hours on a topic that can be easily explored in only a few paragraphs. And, even though they’re typically a longer format doesn’t mean you need to muddy a whitepaper’s key points with filler words.
Keeping your content concise and well-structured also means it’s easier for your audience to digest and understand: Only 50% of the U.S. population can read at an 8th-grade level so simplifying your content will make sure they aren’t 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!), and keep your sentences around 15-20 words in length. For blog content or other long-form content, make it clear in the introduction what the post is about. For super long pieces, consider a TL;DR section or even a “Time to Read” so there aren’t any surprises.
3. Keep Them Engaged
We’ve all heard about the 8-second attention span. Whether or not it’s still accurate, there’s no denying your audience is busy and there’s a lot of content out there. 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?
- Visuals: Relevant imagery will add interest to your content, and, as the saying goes “a picture says a thousand words”. If you’re referencing a study, grab a chart and add that in. If you’re talking about a product, use a screenshot of the interface.
- 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 more bullets and breaking up the content with bold subheadings and brochure downloads. For blog posts, keep paragraphs short to keep readers flowing through the content.
- Active Voice: Practice makes perfect, but the results speak for themselves: 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).
- Action Words: Good writing focuses on 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 whole 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. Use that time to re-evaluate and reflect on your content with fresh eyes. Step into your audiences’ shoes and figure out if there are ways to keep them on the page longer.
According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2020 research, most B2B marketers are developing content that creates brand awareness, educates audiences, and builds credibility and trust. However, the most successful organizations focused more heavily 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.
So B2B marketers, are there other storytelling techniques you’ve integrated into your writing process? We’d love to hear how those tactics drove content marketing performance – connect with us on Twitter!