Content marketing and social storytelling are the new pink.
If you can’t tell, you can’t sell.
Global businesses like Coke, Amazon, Hyatt, Red Bull, Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s have successful used content marketing and social storytelling to captivate audiences, grow communities and deepen brand affiliations.
Through customer-focused content and stories delivered online and offline, these brands have strengthened their global mindshare, heartshare and share-of-pocket.
What if you are running a Business to Business (B2B) outfit in accounting, precision engineering, or pre-fabricated building blocks?
Can you attract anybody to read about the different grades of plastic or how the latest accounting standards will affect the world of business?
The answer is YES! B2B businesses likes yours can certainly weave social storytelling and content marketing into your game.
Broaden Your Appeal to the Masses
When you create a piece of content, consider the broader context of how it matters to your client’s customers.
How would your cutting edge technology or high production standards improve your community?
If you are a supplier of tractors and other heavy plants, you weave a story of how your machines help to improve the safety of construction workers by reducing their exposure to site risks.
If you manage or run an accounting firm, you could relate the importance of keeping one’s accounting books clean by citing how big public-listed companies got into serious trouble when they misreported their earnings. By doing so, you gain greater trust and credibility for your business.
A great example of storytelling to appeal to the masses is seen in NPR Planet Money’s story of the T-shirt. I loved how the producers made the story of a simple T-shirt so mesmerising and unforgettable.
Embark on Client and Public Education
As suppliers of products and services to consumer businesses, B2B companies like yours have deep product and service knowledge.
In highly specialised and professional industries like healthcare and financial services, vendors and service providers like you must abide by high performance standards. This places you in a unique position to not only educate your clients but the general public at large.
Teaching can come in many ways. You can put together a “How To” guide, organise a business or trade forum, workshop or seminar, or introduce an online “troubleshooting” service.
Your goal is to share valuable content and tips that helps not just your client but his or her customers to do better.
Showcase Thought Leadership and Innovation
B2B businesses like yours often work continually to improve your product or service through research and development (R&D) or business innovations.
This could be anything from the latest formulations to strengthen industrial cement, a superior way to deliver widgets, to a new algorithm devised to detect online fraud.
Barring trade secrets, package what you are doing on the R&D front into content and stories that you can share. Let people know what inspired this product feature or why this process is superior to what’s been traditionally done.
If resources permit, conduct your own studies or surveys. Publish those results online.
Management consultancies have successfully done this for years, establishing themselves as thought leaders in the industry through publishing white papers, research studies and other reports.
Chronicle Your Founder’s Journey
A compelling founder backstory works equally well for B2B companies as they do for B2C ones.
To storify your founder’s unique personal journey, consider developing the following points:
- What made his or her story unique, attractive and unforgettable?
- How have their experiences in life drove the birth of the company?
- What was the Eureka Moment – that spark which made all the difference?
- Were there any challenges and barriers which they overcame and surmounted?
Incorporate the right elements of storytelling – a dramatic plot, conflict and struggle, identifiable characters, and triumph or success.
Position your founder as an entrepreneur who defied the odds to deliver great value to customers.
Use this opportunity to share what your organisation’s mission, vision and values are – the very ethos which drives your company.
Leverage on Your Heritage
In a similar vein, narrate the historical journey of your company, and how its products and services were continually refined.
What inspired the design and development of your range of products?
How were the early versions of the products – with all their charming quirks and peculiarities – like?
Everybody loves nostalgia. Combine this with the power of multimedia content and social storytelling. Make it heartfelt and emotional.
If resources and space permit, consider curating your own virtual (or physical) museum, and walk your clients through it when they visit your premises.
Gamify Your Product or Service Content
In this day and age, nobody is interested to plough through your 100 page manual written in dry and technical prose.
We’d much rather prefer to “plug-and-play” and try things out for ourselves while learning along the way.
Thus, it pays for you to gamify your content. Introduce various game mechanics in your business. Make it fun for your staff, partners and clients to learn about your products and services.
If budget permits, create a virtual simulation website that allows them to “test drive” your product before signing on the dotted line.
Incentivise them with various credits, badges and levels, as they progress through various steps in your process.
Most importantly, make it fun!
Break It Into Bite-sized Pieces
With the fragmentation of attention in the age of digital distraction, you need to find ways to simplify your B2B product or service content. This can include the following strategies:
- Adopt the “Dummy’s Guide” way of presenting and publishing information.
- Use checklists, handy tips and bullet points. Transform boring and snooze inducing paragraphs into vivid and succinct pointers. This is especially pertinent if you choose to use online methods of presenting content.
- Do a step by step journey through each process, and simplify while your edify.
Use Infographics and Videos
To heighten fascination and improve access to your B2B content, consider producing multi-media content which leverages on the power of social and digital media:
- Create infographics which convey interesting information nuggets peculiar to your trade.
- Produce a regular series of “How To” videos addressing the most commonly asked questions and issues in your trade.
- Do a flow chart of the various processes used in your industry.
- Enliven your content with lively cartoons or graphical icons that catch the eye.
Equip Your Sales and Biz Dev Folks
Unlike consumer businesses, your B2B firm needs to reach your client primarily through your sales or business development team.
Thus, it is important for your face-to-face “brand advocates” to be good content marketers and brand storytellers.
To do so, ensure that you equip your team with the following storytelling “ammo”:
- Inhouse briefings and trainings, complete with FAQs and suggested scripts.
- Presentation slides, videos and other “props” to assist them in face-to-face storytelling. Make sure these are written in a human and conversational manner.
- Content-rich premiums and gifts for clients that are useful and educational. This could be a physical book, an eBook or tools and templates which they can use to improve their productivity using your products and services.
Are there other ways for B2B businesses to incorporate content marketing and social storytelling into their business? I’d love to hear your ideas and comments!
Planet Money’s story of T-shirt factories in Bangladesh is an example of great storytelling (courtesy of NPR Planet Money)