Use Stories to Reel in B2B Customers, Partners, and Employees

Use Stories to Reel in B2B Customers, Partners, and Employees
Stephanie Tilton - Mon Jun 07, 2010 @ 07:28AM
Comments: 12

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 storytelling heremore 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!

Related posts:

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

Comments: 12

Comments

1. Jon Buscall  |  my website   |   Tue Jun 08, 2010 @ 01:10AM

I'm a firm believe in the power of storytelling. In Sweden a number of major companies use TV ads to tell stories. In a way they're mini-soap operas working with BTW advertising.

Very cool.

Not seen so many B2Bs using storytelling for branding purposes. It's more about getting teams focused to present a unique front to customers.

2. Anol  |  my website   |   Tue Jun 08, 2010 @ 04:00AM

Great post Stephanie! To add, another almost untapped area of B2B marketing is "product stories". Here goes one example -

HP ProCurve Networking holds a significant position in the enterprise networking segment. Yet, one of its strongest selling points – the lifetime warranty – remained obscure and a challenge to communicate effectively. We were approached to help create marketing content that told why ProCurve’s products were the best fit for an enterprise’s networking needs. We filmed the manufacturing and testing processes ProCurve equipment underwent to tell a story of the journey ProCurve equipment typically underwent at the factory and testing facilities, mixed with interviews from senior management, motion graphics, and visual cues. The video was made available on different formats for multiple platforms to aid maximal reach.

I just wrote a post on the same topic at B2Bento.com blog last week : "The art of story-telling in B2B marketing" ( http://bit.ly/bq2U1i ) - check out if possible and let us know what you think.

3. Stephanie Tilton  |  my website   |   Tue Jun 08, 2010 @ 09:33AM

@Jon - I often find TV ads from countries outside of the US to be more interesting/creative in general. Can you point to some of the ads for B2B companies?

@Anol - You suggest a great example for the list! The video really gives someone a true sense of the comprehensiveness of the tests. Certainly more effective than simply reading about the testing process. Thanks for stopping by!

4. Casey Hibbard  |  my website   |   Thu Jun 10, 2010 @ 02:30PM

Hi Stephanie,

Great post about the various ways to use storytelling. So many companies forget that they have other audiences to sell to beyond prospects - such as partners (as you point out) and even their own employees.

Keep up the great posts!

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