Guest post by Tim Keelan of StoryQuest
Several years ago, a client said to me, “I want you to develop stories so compelling that everyone of our sales people and customers will want to consume them.”
I enthusiastically said, with total confidence, “We can do that!” but it turned out to be much harder than I thought. Despite producing stories that were well received, I learned that no single story – or any piece of content marketing – works across the board, even for a select group of 400 sales people – let alone a market segment of 10,000 potential customers.
In business writing and literature, no one crafts stories that connect with everyone. Not me, you, Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, or even JK Rowling. And that’s okay!
Stories are universal. No story is universal.
Even in a seemingly homogenous group, situations are different. Timing and circumstances may make one client receptive to a story and another client just tune out. In business, getting people to “love” your story or content is comparatively easy. Love comes after consumption. Getting them to consume is the hard part.
For example, while I am always interested in finding better ways to do thing, no story about efficiencies in concrete manufacturing will ever be relevant to me. Never. Ever. I’m not interested. Even if I watch a fun TV show about how they make concrete (Dirty Jobs) I won’t transform into a bulk purchaser of concrete. But if I’m a construction purchasing agent looking for new ideas or partners, well then – suddenly such a story reads like The Hunger Games.
Right Story, Right Person, Right Time
B2B readers are a special breed. More focused, more skeptical, less tolerant. Efficiency matters. Think about how you seek and review marketing content. A document, a link, or working from a search:
- Scan for headlines, data, links.
- Constantly ask, “is this story useful to me?”
- Last chance – skim forward or decide to cancel.
- Train wrecks and other bad news actually make for good case stories.
Whether your audience is internal sales people, or prospective customers, there are things you can do to make your B2B marketing stories more compelling.
Focus. Ideas for “everyone” work for no one, so write for your target audience. Anyone else who is moved to action is just a bonus.
Drama. Even if you’ve focused, a lot of business writing is just dull. Develop the drama. In case study and customer reference marketing, the #1 bit of drama is what people didn’t or don’t like about you.
Consider these quotes and headlines like “we thought they were too small”, or “I knew it would be way overpriced.” or one of my personal favorites from an SAP story, “To be fair, the Cognos tool looked far better…” If you have the courage, this is the best way to start a B2B story. Reader and listeners have to scratch their heads, wonder where things going, and hang on for the story. And it always turns out, but the whole point of dram is to not give the ending away too fast.
Variety. No one story will resonate with every decision maker, so hedge your bets with a variety of B2B marketing stories. A diversity of business stories in your repertoire increases the chances that you’ll have the right one at the right time for the right decision maker. A mix of business situations, buyer types and story formats (video, print, audio, long-form, short form, etc.) increases your chances of resonating.
So don’t worry about appealing to everyone. Develop B2B marketing content that someone important to you can understand. Then move on to the next “someone” and the next story and do it again.
How do you ensure that your customer reference marketing resonates more effectively?
Tim Keelan is the founder of StoryQuest, a B2B agency that enables company and customer stories for demand generation, customer references, and thought leadership. You can find Tim on Twitter and LinkedIn. Train photo courtesy of email@example.com