B2B Content Marketing as Storytelling: Is It Really That Simple?
I recently returned to work after essentially living on another planet for three months (i.e., I had a baby). It took a couple of weeks to get settled back in—there was one day I came to the office wearing two different shoes and yet another where I stood in front of the Keurig bouncing a baby who was at home with her nanny—but I eventually rediscovered my workplace rhythm.
My first week back, I was eager to see what I’d missed in the world of B2B content marketing during my time away. What were the latest content trends being discussed in blogs and on social media? What types of resources were B2B marketers using to find (and discuss) the latest in content marketing?
Despite a number of recent developments, I discovered that one thing has remained constant: At its core, B2B content marketing involves basic storytelling. As someone who spent all of her college years writing and reading short stories, I must admit this was music to my ears!
So what should B2B content marketers consider when crafting a marketing story that people will want to embrace and share? Take a look at the following:
Know Your Audience
The best way to tell an effective content marketing story is to know who you’re writing it for. After all, how can you truly target your audience if you don’t know their likes, interests, pain points, etc.?
One way to better understand your readership is to develop buyer personas. At KoMarketing Associates, we use a detailed client discovery questionnaire to get a sense of the target buyer of our clients’ solution offerings as well as some of the key issues/concerns our clients hear from prospects during the sales process. Soliciting this type of information allows us to craft the right kind of content needed for personalized SEO and social media marketing programs.
What’s at Stake?
Once you’ve identified your target audience, you need to get thinking about what’s at stake for the reader. This is a topic that’s discussed at length in creative writing classes. In other words, what truly matters to your reader? What does he/she value above all else and, in turn, what does he/she risk losing (i.e., sales, a relationship with a valued customer, etc.)?
To use a silly example, let’s take a look at Cinderella. Even the tiniest of kids know that she has a lot on the line—the happily-ever-after ending with her handsome prince—and a very narrow window of time (until the clock strikes midnight) before she loses it all.
B2B content marketers can (and should) take a page out of Cinderella’s book; if you want to keep your readers’ attention, focus on what’s important to them so they’ll continue reading. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking your customers what they want from you so you don’t have to guess. Ways to do this include conducting customer surveys, using live chat for customer service, or mining Q&A sites like Quora or Yahoo! Answers.
What Have You Learned?
Another way to think about this is to ask yourself what sorts of obstacles you’ve overcome when working with a client or a prospective client. This is a classic storytelling element: In order for a story to progress, the main character must have had to undergo some kind of change so that he/she has ended the story in a different place than where he/she began.
When crafting B2B marketing content, try positioning your client successes (and failures) as “key takeaways” for your audience. By doing so, you’ll 1) demonstrate the humanity of your business and 2) help your clients feel more connected to you on a personal level.
“A slow year may have forced your company to invent a new product or service,” says Content Marketing Institute. “The times where everything seemed status quo or even boring may have been when your next big idea was actually brewing underneath the surface.” Whatever the case, make sure you’re thinking about why your reader would actually care about the lessons you’ve learned (by knowing, upfront, what’s important to them). That way, you’ll ensure your successes/failures strike a chord with your audience.
One Note on Storytelling Originality
When it comes to telling your B2B content marketing story, keep in mind that most “original” stories are found, not born. In other words, no matter how hard you try to wow your readers with something they haven’t seen before, chances are your story, in some form, has already been told.
But don’t let this stop your creative juices from flowing! In fact, if you think too hard about breaking out of the mold, you might actually be doing yourself a disservice. Great stories involve the same basic pattern (conflict that eventually results in some kind of resolution) and that level of familiarity makes them accessible to the audience.
As a B2B content marketer looking to tell an original story, make sure to do your research. By taking the time to see what’s already out there, you can help fuel your own creative content in the process. According to Austin Kleon, “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”
I find myself reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to my daughter these days. While I may get caught up in some of the tongue twisters (to the point where I’m sometimes like “What am I even reading?”), I have noticed a number of pervasive themes in the stories—patience and acceptance, to name a few.
As you craft your B2B content marketing collateral, keep in mind that you’re ultimately telling a story that your audience will want to read (and hopefully share with others). While the future of content marketing may be headed in the direction of visual media, mobile, and emerging social networks, good storytelling is still required to get the job done right.