B2C storytelling has a long and stable history. Think Don Draper from Mad Men, whose whole thing was basically telling good stories (and acting less intoxicated than he should have been). But B2B? It’s harder to come up with good examples of businesses successfully marketing to other businesses with compelling brand stories.
And while they could've gotten away with that previously, the B2B landscape is changing thanks in part to the rise of millennials in influential B2B positions.
Storytelling ain’t just for B2C, though, despite the fact that many B2Bs make the mistake of thinking it is. Truthfully, other companies are just as susceptible to your moving tales as consumers are, especially since it is after all still facing a or a group of decision-makers. And with so many B2B newcomers rising with an edge in branding, brand storytelling has become one of the most crucial marketing assets of both behemoth B2B players and the neophytes.
Need a little help? No problem. Here are five brands that totally killed it with their storytelling this year. If you want to amp up your marketing efforts and bring in clients and customers like never before, take a page out of their books.
Kickstarter is a god when it comes to inbound marketing. Why? Because their entire effort is based on the idea that their users tell stories, which move consumers, which then donate to the campaign to see it realized. Stories underlie everything Kickstarter does, and even their own story – We help people tell their stories – is pretty compelling. This is a classic example of a site that uses connection to speak straight to the core of both businesses and consumers. The result? An insane number of successful campaigns and ever-growing value.
You don’t think of LinkedIn as a B2B marketing engine, but oh, it is. That’s not the same as the site aiding other B2B marketers (which it does, and handily). No, LinkedIn is a business that services business par excellence. It helps companies build brand, connect to others, market effectively and get great leads. And it does it all by telling a very simple, yet very compelling story: We connect people better than anyone else. Lesson: Find your bailiwick, and refuse to shut up about it.
Salesforce is B2B through and through, serving other businesses with tools that help them sell, market and analyze. On top of boasting excellent services, they tell a story that’s hard to ignore.
Well, actually, they don’t tell it. They let their clients do so. Although this isn’t a new trick – it’s the basis of most testimonial marketing out there – they have truly mastered this technique and turned it into an art form with their Success Stories. In addition to a full write-up about each customer’s experience (no mere quote here!), they also showcase a several-minute video.
In an effort to up its marketing efforts, Zendesk launched a campaign that was totally new to the marketing world, and simultaneously tried-and-true: a fake story. Of course, marketers create fake stories all the time. The ad world is rife with false testimonials to entire narratives, but Zendesk took a different approach.
They made up a band called Zendesk Alternative, complete with semi-grungy musicians and a dedicated website. Predicated on the idea that the only group good enough to be labeled an alternative to Zendesk is a fading rock band called, curiously enough, Zendesk Alternative, the site brought tons of traffic to the real company. Talk about rocking.
CISCO Systems, a hugely influential technology company headquartered in California, uses story excellently to highlight their brand, their expertise and their ongoing efforts to stay at the cutting edge of digital and tech. But perhaps one of the best things they do is tell a joke. Consider this ad, or the words of Tim Washer, Sr. Marketing Manager of Social Media: “When I can’t find a compelling statistic to support my argument, I invent one: 73 percent of people who read B2B blogs are people.” Be funny, honey. It works.
Now that you’ve got some tricks up your sleeve, it’s time to turn your attention to your own content marketing efforts. Tell good tales, and you’ll quickly find your audience comes to you rather than you needing to chase them. Be funny, share your exploits and do-gooderies, and always remember to keep the client or customer in your tale.
Because at the end of the day, your story shouldn’t be about you at all. It should be about them. Realize that profound truth, and you’ll never have trouble building business again.