Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

Think like a human : How B2B brands can become better storytellers

Simon Cliffe, Founder and Director Branch Road writes …. Stories have been used for as long as we can remember.

They’ve framed our cultures, shaped our societies and influenced our behaviour. However, despite storytelling being such an innate human ability, some B2B brands are still getting it wrong.

From lack of authenticity and emotion to too much focus on product features and benefits, many brands still churn out stories that create minimal traction with their audience.

And with increased noise and competition online, good storytelling has now become more critical than ever to create an emotional connection with an audience across a range of channels.

Engaging with B2B audiences

Creative storytelling is often associated with consumer, rather than B2B brands, as it’s harder to engage audiences on an emotional level when you’re talking about complex products and solutions. But businesses shouldn’t forget that their buyers are still human. In-fact 50% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase from a brand if they can connect emotionally with them.

The human touch: How to create an authentic story

Thinking like a human is probably the most important part of the storytelling process. It will enable you to understand your audience and create a truly authentic story.

To achieve this, you need to consider: What stories will make them care about you? What are their emotional triggers? And what are the facts and stats that back your story up and prove its true?

Coming from a broadcast journalism background, we used two tests in the newsroom to check the authenticity of our stories:

The ‘So What Test’: Will your audience care about your story? Will they connect with it on an emotional level?

The ‘Proof Test’: Is this authentic and credible? Are there enough facts and stats to support your story, and are you confident that it is factually correct?

In my experience, it is all too easy for B2B stories to fail the ‘So What Test.’

Some are just too focused on technical specifications and are missing the human touch. Stories need to be relevant and have a purpose in order to connect emotionally with an audience, as well as passing both tests. Otherwise, you should either rethink your story or abandon it altogether and start again.

Another step I recommend adding into your storytelling strategy, is allowing time for reflection. Once you’ve created your story, give yourself enough time to go away and think about your approach.

Will your story resonate with your audience? Is it a true reflection of your brand? Because remember, once a story has been seen, it can never be unseen. Your message is out there, and your audience have already made up their mind about you.

Importance of Visual Storytelling

For B2B brands, visual storytelling is a far more impactful way to humanise your story and communicate the benefits of your solutions.

While photos are a great way to visualise a story, video is one medium that really helps you achieve this. It can create a strong emotional connection with an audience in a much quicker way than text-focused content could ever do.

For example, video case studies are a great way of illustrating a B2B story. By using a customer voice, you can bring out the authentic human emotion and create compelling content for your brand.

Likewise, event videos, which sometimes end up being mundane event recaps, can often be quite creative mediums for storytelling and lead generation, particularly for B2B brands. You could interview key people at the event and create some engaging content about important challenges and innovations facing your industry.

Examples of B2B storytelling

There are some impressive B2B storytelling examples out there that bring a dry story to life and successfully humanise a brand. Two of my favourite are from Cisco and FLIR.

As Cisco provides networking and telecoms equipment, its offering is technically quite difficult to understand. But by adopting a more human centric approach to storytelling, the company successfully created exciting content for audiences.

For example, Sea Change, is a story about how a racing yacht gains competitor advantage by using Cisco powered technology. Network sensors use real-time data gathered by the Internet of Everything to help the crew make decisions quickly. This is a great way for Cisco to showcase its offering in a compelling and visual way.

To raise awareness of the environmental capabilities of its thermal imaging cameras, FLIR created a video story focused on visualising air pollution in the UK.

By relating it to a human critical issue, jumping on the back of the news agenda of Sadiq Khan announcing plans to reduce London’s air pollution and demonstrating how the transportation sector is the number one pollutant, the story successfully highlighted the severity of the issue and the importance of FLIR’s technology in tracking pollution levels.

Making B2B audiences care about your brand

Adopting a human centric storytelling strategy is powerful both in terms of connecting with your audience on an emotional level as well as enhancing your brand reputation by building trust and credibility.

Do it well, and you’ll give people a reason to care about who you are and what you do.