Last week, Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners pointed folks to an interesting experiment – a company enhanced the perceived value of objects on eBay by accompanying them with a story. The key takeaway? People are irresistibly drawn to stories, and will literally pay more for something that comes with a good story. One would think more B2B marketers would tap into this to set themselves apart. After all, if your product or service seems quite similar to a competitor's, stories might help yours rise above.
Here are a few ways that B2B companies can use stories to draw people in and influence their decision to purchase, participate, or partner.
Customer stories – Of course, there's the tried-and-true case study/success story. We all know it's more powerful to let someone else explain the value of our product or service. If you're producing a written story, make sure it includes all the elements that contribute to a compelling story. As part of that, be sure to sprinkle customer quotes throughout to move the story along – again, you want to tap into the power of your customer's words. If your customer is an engaging speaker, produce a video or podcast, or ask him or her to speak at an event to share their experience.
Community stories – Online communities can tremendously improve someone's experience of a company. But getting people to participate is the key. Doing so requires that you convince potential members – whether customers, partners, employees, or others – of the benefits of participating. Rather than simply list out these benefits in an email or on a web page, publish a story that illustrates the value that existing participants have realized. Check out the videos and PDFs that SAP has put out in this vein.
Partner stories – Similarly, companies that rely on third parties to sell or manage their products and services must persuade potential partners to join their ecosystem. Just as the success of existing customers is the best advertisement for your offering, the success of existing partners is the best way to reel in new partners. Again, SAP does a good job of illustrating how its partners close more deals due to their relationship with SAP.
Company stories – How many in the tech industry don't know the famous story of HP's beginnings in a garage? (In fact, HP dedicates an entire page to this story, with links to videos, PDFs, and online articles.) Or that Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his college dorm room? Sure, these stories are well known because the companies hit it big. Even so, the stories are a lot more engaging then reading a bulleted list of where a company is headquartered, the year it was founded, its annual revenues, etc. While your company story might not directly elevate the value of your offering, it helps show the personal side of your company. And remember, people buy from people.
Know of great stories being told by B2B companies? Please share them!
- Use Story Elements in B2B Marketing Content - by Ardath Albee
- Storytelling in Marketing - by April Dunford
- Brand Communications & Storytelling - Interview with Janet Jordan
About the author: Stephanie Tilton is a content-marketing consultant who helps B2B companies craft content that nurtures leads and advances the buying cycle. You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.
*Image credit: Mike Grenville on flickr