The science of storytelling: why and how to use it in B2B tech marketing
Every marketing campaign aims to convince potential customers about the benefits of a product or service. Facts and statistics can’t do it alone. B2B tech marketers need something more to breach the intellectual defenses of their audience.
That’s where storytelling comes in. Stories help you share your experiences with others and make them feel like they’ve been there. Your audience can relive someone else’s life and experience the transformation beyond the immediate consumption of a technical product or service.
Why does the brain love good storytelling?
Stories of struggle and triumph cause the release of oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is a neurochemical that enhances our ability to experience others’ emotions. That’s why stories help us connect with strangers.
When we hear a person’s story, they become more than just another face in the crowd. We care about their history and expect that there could be some common values between us because of how similar our backgrounds may have been at one point.
“Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone”
In 2009, Rob Walker wanted to find out the true power of storytelling. He went on his computer and bought 200 objects from eBay. The average price of each object was about one dollar.
Rob called 200 authors to draft a story about all these objects. The idea was to use creative stories to attach sentimental value to otherwise regular items. For instance, this beautiful horse bust was bought for 99¢ and was sold when the story was added for $62.95. That’s a staggering 6258.58% increase.
All 200 items brought in nearly $8,000 combined, showcasing the incredible power of storytelling.
The importance of storytelling in B2B tech marketing
According to Google, B2B prospects are 50% more likely to buy if they relate to your brand and see the personal value. Stories help you do just that by generating positive emotions and bypassing the logical parts of the brain. Here are two more reasons storytelling is a great opportunity for B2B tech marketers:
A compelling way to connect with prospects
Technical products and services are often difficult to explain. Storytelling helps you get away from the unnecessary product detail and showcase the technology behind the product or service and what makes you different in the marketplace. You can explain hard-to-grasp concepts more engagingly, rather than sharing boring business frameworks and processes.
Storytelling helps convince the buyer of the need for change
IBM was one of the first companies to try their hand at storytelling. “Hackers” was a successful 30-sec marketing video to raise awareness about people hacking into their company’s intranet.
You can use a similar story to overcome obstacles and develop your connection to bridge gaps or tell an underdog story showcasing the triumph of willpower over adversity. Stories can also inform an impending danger or caution against making an unwise decision.
Clearly, you can use storytelling in several ways to gain power over someone’s judgment and opinion. Here are three techniques to get you started.
1 - Character, conflict, resolution
A character allows people to see themselves in the story. Without a relatable character, there’ll be a complete disconnect between you telling the story and the person consuming on the other end.
Your character goes through a period when the challenges are tough, and s/he cannot decide. Without the conflict, your audience would not stay invested in what happens next.
Once you have a conflict, you need the resolution to go with it. Also, allow your audience to understand the positive outcomes of the resolution.
Zuora’s overarching story of the switch to the subscription economy is a fitting example. The company coined the term “subscription economy” to describe this new way of life where buyers increasingly choose recurring service payments over outright purchases.
The marketing team at Zuora focused all their messaging around the significant market shift toward subscription businesses, with most of their content talking about this undeniable change.
For instance, subscribed.com is an educational website targeted towards an audience that isn’t in the market for Zuora’s products but can still learn from their narrative. It hosts powerful thought leadership content with subscription economy as the central theme. The website has tons of customer success stories.
Here’s a terrific story about how restaurants use a subscription-based business model to make profits.
Character: Restaurant owners struggled during the pandemic.
Conflict: The restaurant industry is a risky business. Will the subscription model be successful?
Resolution: Subscription models work great by offering consistent revenue.
2 - Humanizing by addressing challenges
You can describe an intricate offering by telling real-life narratives without technical jargon. The more you can relate your product or service to people’s everyday struggles, the better. It shows that you care about what goes on in their life and understand their frame of mind.
Cisco is a multinational tech corporation that has used storytelling to humanize its solutions for decades. Consider this video highlighting the struggles of managing a farm and how Cisco offers a solution.
The idea of a “connected farm” has been presented with great caution. The narrative holds up as an example of powerful storytelling that humanizes the technology for a non-technical prospect - a farmer.
3 - The hero’s journey
The Hero’s Journey is a well-known story structure that has been used in countless movies to make them more interesting. The main character faces challenges in their journey, which s/he overcomes with help from other people or objects along the way - eventually leading up towards some special reward at the end. A case study format best represents a hero’s journey in action.
Here are five core steps of the hero journey that can be applied to any case study.
Hero experiences a serious problem
Hero attempts to resolve, but fails
Hero finds a fresh approach
Hero overcomes odds to get to the solution
Hero returns triumphant and saves the day
HubSpot weaved in most of the above components in a case study. The narrative showcases the problem and explains why other solutions could not help.
In the end, HubSpot’s integrated tools enabled Lucid Meetings to manage the sales process. The case study ends with highlights of results achieved. It’s a fantastic way to use storytelling to present a solid case.
Not everything needs storytelling techniques
You don’t have to add a story to your marketing collateral when it appears to be an unnecessary detour. For instance, sometimes, you are best served with an “inverted pyramid approach” with the most valuable information up at the top and lesser important information as you go down. This is an effective format that works well for announcements or short-form content.
Storytelling techniques are suitable for any type of animation, video, or other content that seeks to explain a solution. Stories are also beneficial doing case studies where customers often take on the hero role and share their experience with the audience.
All technical products and services operate in the realm of “what is” vs. “what can be.” Stories help you highlight this powerful contrast by painting a picture of a new world for your audience and showing them the possibilities. Let them know how their lives will change—perhaps even transform—for the better.
The only natural way to get good at storytelling is to start using it. If you’re looking for fresh ideas, don’t hesitate to contact us.