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The Core Elements of Storytelling that B2B Can Learn from B2C



The Core Elements of Storytelling that B2B Can Learn from B2C

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Meet the One Rand Man, an average 30-something-year-old living in Cape Town, South Africa. As an architect, he’s living his best life, eating out at swanky restaurants, buying rounds of tequila shots for the whole table, and splurging on clothing of the highest quality. He rarely tracks his finances.

But one day, he wakes up and realizes the more he makes, the more he spends on his extravagant lifestyle. He gets curious, so he orders his entire monthly salary to be paid in one rand coins. Yes, you heard that right. The One Rand Man is now on a quest to understand just how much he’s spending in hopes that he’ll spend less by using coins to purchase everything.

Sanlam Life Insurance took on his social experiment as a marketing tactic to teach people how to better manage their money and make smarter financial decisions. And this story blew up — we’re talking thousands of hits on Youtube and plenty of positive publicity. This B2C business used the One Rand Man’s story to educate consumers on the power of making educated financial decisions. And where do you think those consumers turned to when they needed financial assistance? Of course, Sanlam.

What about B2B businesses, though? Does the same concept still apply? The truth is that many of you might believe incorporating this marketing tactic is time consuming or irrelevant to your business audience, but the truth is it works — with flying colors.

For those in the B2B world, you’ve probably heard of B2B referred to as “Boring 2 Boring.” Well, it’s time to end that and spice things up a bit. So, let’s explore marketing storytelling techniques you can use to take your B2B marketing strategy to the next level.

Why is storytelling important in B2B marketing?

You’ve probably turned to the usual suspects in your marketing efforts — urgency, fear, and shock. By doing so, you’ve hit your ideal customers’ pain points with discounts and shiny offers, however, the power of a story can take those one-time customers and make them brand evangelists.

Why does this matter? The most powerful form of marketing is word-of-mouth referrals.

Story-based marketing pulls at heartstrings and cultivates trust. Instead of thinking about your customer as a sale, and them thinking about you as just a product or service, you’re creating long-lasting relationships that break through the barriers of consumerism.

This is especially helpful for B2B businesses, where products and services can often be challenging for consumers to understand. Storytelling humanizes your brand and simplifies complex B2B topics by offering an alternative perspective.

Seven benefits of storytelling you should know

There are numerous benefits to utilizing storytelling as a marketing tactic, in particular, decreased customer acquisition costs and shorter sales cycles. When done right, story-infused messaging elevates and scales your business quicker than you believed possible.

1. Humanizes the brand and conveys personality

Dove portrays a sincere and authentic personality that’s inclusive for all no matter their skin tone, body shape, or complexion type. In a world where fashion brands and cosmetic powerhouses tell women how they should look, their story-infused messaging is a refreshing narrative changer.

How to bring this into B2B

Humans relate to other humans. So, think about how you can highlight the stories behind your team to create a connection with your target audience. As a B2B SaaS business, Dubsado does a really dashing job of highlighting their team’s backstory with super spunky copy. By simply incorporating the story behind your employees, you’re standing out from the sea of other businesses in your industry.

2. Creates emotional connections with the audience

To mention another example from Dove, this campaign showcases a little girl’s future being heavily influenced by all the beauty ads, and urges parents to start a conversation with their children about the industry before the ads do.

By explaining how these ads potentially influence the minds of young girls, Dove creates an emotional connection with parents. They don’t just buy Dove for the product benefits, they purchase from a brand that stands for an inclusive and positive message.

How to bring this into B2B

Let’s look at a video created by Zendesk called, “Sh*t Support Agents Say”. Zendesk is a B2B SaaS company that makes businesses better by appealing to both their teams and customers. In this video, they pull on the relatable emotions of a specific group of people within a business: customer support agents.

Think about a specific group of people within a business industry you’re targeting. How can you create a story-driven video that pulls on an emotion? How could you craft content around current events or values that matter to you and your target audience? By taking a stance, and weaving it into your brand messaging, you’ll create lasting impact and urge your audience to truly care.

3. Motivates customers

The image below is a snippet from the Dollar Shave Club website. This brand is well known for making it easy and fun for new customers to engage with their products and services.

Website visitors can quickly identify the right products and understand how they can become a member through the “Easiest Quiz Ever”, about their daily grooming routine and product needs.

This way, customers feel motivated as well as excited to see how Dollar Shave Club’s products could elevate their daily routine.

How to bring this into B2B

Let’s put this idea of motivating people to work for your B2B business. Motivating others doesn’t mean you need to stop what you’re doing and create a new quiz. Look at Zeb Evans, CEO and founder of ClickUp (a project management software). Each week he posts videos on Linkedin that motivate his target audience to join in on the conversation pertaining to work culture, localization, and even some of his biggest lessons scaling his team.

You can simply motivate your target audience to first engage with your brand by sharing behind the scenes moments and lessons you’re learning along the way. This inspires others and makes you more approachable, too.

4. Works as a basis for customer retention

Canva does an excellent job of creating content their B2B and B2C audiences love. They understand that in order to retain their customers, their offering should not be just about design principles and templates. Their carefully curated blog touches upon various topics, such as case studies (how a redesign boosted a non-profit organization’s impact), efficient organization skills (teaching school teachers how to organize their digital notes), and how-to design guides.

Canva is not just a leading brand for amateur designers, but is also a go-to destination for its users to learn more about several aspects of their daily life at work.

How to bring this into B2B

Map out the types of people that work at the businesses you’re targeting. You have graphic designers, content marketers, business founders, and various other titles. Think about them and create blog content to appeal to their specific areas.

Maybe you do a series geared towards how content marketers could create more productivity in their daily lives by using your product or service. When you pose a solution to their individual stresses, they’ll be more likely to stick around if they feel seen and heard.

5. Also a great way to get new customers

To piggyback off the last point, because Canva’s blogs are super helpful, they’ll very likely get shared and act as free promotion on various channels.

Let’s take a peek at how Eddie Shleyner, the founder of Very Good Copy, incorporates this into his business. Each week he provides fresh micro articles with story-infused, quick writing tips. At the end he encourages — and makes it easy for — his audience to share with others.

How to bring this into B2B

Creating rich, educational, and snappy content for specific individuals within your target audience, and then making it easy for them to share with a friend, is a sure fire way to get lots of referrals.

6. Makes your content unique and exciting

Most of us would gladly binge watch Netflix given a day off and some freshly popped popcorn. We crave stories, and are ready to invest our time in those ones that pique our curiosity and help us relate.

One great example of this is the B2B software company in the UK called Advanced. In their “right the first time” campaign to increase brand awareness, they literally wove in fairytale elements from stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk”.

This helped their complex industry become more digestible. In fact, the CEO of ILTA mentioned he wanted his software to be “like the Goldilocks story: not too hot, not too cold, but just right”.

How to bring this into B2B

When applying this to your own B2B business, think about stories you read as a child and weave that into a “story-telling” animated video (or blog) series, but instead of the original characters, use your company characters (you being the trusty friend, your customer being the hero).

Using storytelling gives a unique and exciting edge to your brand messaging, as it helps people relate and engage with your content. So consider how you can use everyday stories we tell our kids in a new product or service you’re launching.

7. Shows a less “salesy” side of your business

Instead shoving “buy now!” or “purchase here!” CTAs down your customers’ throats, focus on copy that makes them laugh, piques their curiosity, and makes them feel in control. Take Barkbox, for instance: they do a really great job of using humor. In this tweet, you can see how their CTA totally makes their audience feel in control.

How to bring this into B2B

How can you be a bit more witty in your B2B copy? Look into what’s trending on social media, so that you can play into the bigger story of what’s happening in people’s daily lives and be more relatable. For example, Dave Harland is a well-known B2B copywriter in the UK and is popular for his witty and sarcastic LinkedIn posts that reflect his copywriting style and skills.

Core marketing storytelling techniques B2B can learn from B2C

As I mentioned earlier, it can often be challenging for B2B businesses to incorporate storytelling into their messaging because they’re not always talking to the decision maker, unlike B2C consumers. However, it is possible, and I’m going to show you exactly how you can break it down to build it back up— with a story.

1. Build up a brand with personality

Just like you have a playful, serious, humorous, or charismatic personality, your brand has one, too. Think of it as a living, breathing being. To truly humanize your brand, it’s important to give it a personality. Here are some common brand personalities that might resonate with your brand:

  • Educational: like the Moz Blog you’re reading from right now. Does your brand consistently create content to inform others about a different perspective, how your products work, or how-to do something?

  • Entertaining: like Netflix. Is your brand meant to distract others from the chaos of the world, and for a moment just forget their worries?

  • Disruptive/Rebellious: like Harley Davidson. A wild-at-heart kind of brand that’s not afraid to take risks.

  • Sensual and Luxurious: like Red Saint Botanical, a true spirit-based beverage brewed from rare teas. Does your brand ooze sophistication and scream refreshing?

  • Efficient and Motivational: like Nike. Maybe your brand’s heart beats like a champion and is eager to motivate others.

  • Happy: like Coca-Cola. If your brand’s sole mission is to cultivate joy, laughter, and radiance then happiness is its identity.

Even with B2B, your brand personality doesn’t have to fit in one of these boxes, as they’re simply suggestions. Play around with identities and characteristics that feel right to you by diving deeper into your brand values.

2. Create an authentic and original narrative

Every piece of content that you publish should tell a story. Whether it’s an email, newsletter, Instagram post, or blog article, the messaging should be universal, memorable, consistent, and organized. Focusing on these elements will strengthen your content strategy and make it more powerful, and therefore unique. Let’s now take a look at content authenticity in action.

Since 1973, Patagonia has always put out authentic content, constantly showcasing its brand values, company culture, and ethics. It’s evident through stories like trail runner Felipe Cancino’s of running through the Maipo River Valley, showcasing how Alto Maipo hydropower is greatly affecting the ecosystem, that Patagonia cares about our environment.

In another story, Daniel taps into the mind of a beginner by teaching his daughter to surf. It’s clear that Patagonia not only cares for the environment, but also about how bonding over an outdoor activity cultivates healthy relationships.

As you can see, consistently pushing out content that aligns with your values and brand personality builds a strong bond between your business and customers that can’t be broken.

How to bring this into B2B

Microsoft is both a B2B and B2C brand that offers a wide range of products. In an effort to share business-related stories about how their products are used, they developed Microsoft Story Labs. This was a true win-win, because Microsoft now has user-generated content to share across other channels, and users become more connected to the brand by sharing their stories.

3. Wholeheartedly embrace emotion

Displaying strong emotions helps consumers understand they’re not alone and that they can help a cause greater than themselves, especially when they have a brand by their side.

Toms is a great example of this. On their impact page, they outline their aim to use the profits from their business to contribute to the issues of food scarcity and lack of resources in minority communities.

Overall, consumers are keen to see a strong emotional connection to greater issues that matter, and they’ll be more likely to support a brand that displays this.

How to bring this into B2B

Your audience is made up of individuals, so the emotional element (which is often overlooked in B2B) needs to be a large component to drive the message home. In the same way that B2C does, write out their fears, joys, and anxieties and tie that into how your business could elevate or diminish those feelings.

4. Get to know your audience

Freaker USA, a brand that created a funky universal jacket, wrote this on their about page: “Your little one’s sippy cup can be just as freaked as your 40oz Colt.”

This copy shows how well they know their audience. They understand sometimes parents need a one-size-fits-all product that will keep a child’s milk warm (and stylish) and something for their own adult beverage.

How to bring this into B2B

Simply ask your current clients through interviews, or conduct market research on look alike audiences to get to know them better. Get to know their quirks and nuances by asking them open-ended questions so that you can get first-hand insight that you may not have gotten otherwise.

A business that has managed to understand even the tiniest details about its customers can really nail their paint points. Knowing their basic age, ethnicity, or location isn’t enough — get to know what they like at Starbucks, how they celebrate their birthday, or what Netflix shows they watch. When you understand these specific details, you can surprise them and communicate in their language to stay top of mind.

The bottom line? The better you know your audience, the deeper your relationship with them can be.

5. Make it personal

Snapchat’s Bitmoji app launched in 2016, allowing users to create their own emoji (bitmoji) based on their appearance. Snapchat managed to bring out customers’ inner child through the creation of cartoon-like figures, which they can exchange amongst their contact list.

How to bring this into B2B

People want to feel unique, and they’re drawn to messages that appeal to their personality and way of thinking. The more ways you personalize your content, user experience, or messaging to showcase this, the more they’ll be tempted to try your brand.

Plus, using personalization on your website is a surefire way to grab your audience’s attention. For example, you could offer a targeted lead magnet like a marketing template for those in that sector, or you could integrate a chatbot with pre-set answers so they’ll be directed exactly where they want to go.

6. Hone in on data

As the years go on and we become more integrated with technology, data will continue to play a huge role in how we personalize experiences for consumers.

For instance, Refinery29 used data to showcase how plus-sized women are not adequately represented within images online. They incorporated this data in their brand strategy, and started shooting images and redesigning illustrations to accurately reflect real women in the US.

How to bring this into B2B

By using data and tying it to topics your B2B brand cares about, you can quickly form new and interesting stories, which in turn create an emotional connection with your audience. Collect data on your own marketing campaigns — social media in particular — to find stories that are already working for your brand, and scale accordingly.

Start implementing storytelling into your B2B marketing strategy

Storytelling not only solves some of your biggest B2B business issues (you’re familiar with dreadfully long sales cycles or unengaged prospects), but it can also nourish life-long relationships with customers to create a bigger impact. At the end of the day… isn’t that what we as marketers want?

The marketing storytelling techniques that B2C businesses use are very similar for B2B businesses, too:

  • Brand personality

  • Emotions

  • Narrative

  • Knowing Your Audience

  • Personalization

  • Use of Data

You’ll come to find that the benefits always outweigh the effort a B2B business spends on this process.

By studying B2C brand storytelling (like the One Ran Man story from earlier), you can apply that same mentality and strategy into your B2B business to reap the same benefits.

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B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter



B2B customer journeys that begin at review sites are significantly shorter

The B2B customer journey can be a long one, especially when the purchase of expensive software subscriptions is under consideration.

“The average B2B customer journey takes 192 days from anonymous first touch to won,” according to Dreamdata in their 2022 B2B Go-to-Market Benchmarks — a statistic described by co-founder and CMO Steffen Hedebrandt as “alarming.”

But the report also indicates that this journey can be significantly sped up — by as much as 63% — if accounts begin their research at software review sites, gathering information and opinions from their peers. Journeys that originate at a review site often lead to deals of higher value too.

Fragmented data on the customer journey. Dreamdata is a B2B go-to-market platform. In any B2B company, explained Hedebrandt, there are typically 10 or even 20 data silos that contain fragments of the customer journey. Website visits, white paper downloads, social media interactions, webinar or meeting attendance, demos, and of course intent data from review site visits — this data doesn’t typically sit in one place within an organization.

“We built an account-based data model because we believe that there’s such a thing as an account journey and not an individual journey,” said Hedebrandt. “So if there are two, three or five people representing an account, which is typically what you see in B2B, all of these touches get mapped into the same timeline.”

Among those many touches is the intent data sourced from software review site G2. Dreamdata has an integration with G2 and a G2 dashboard allowing visualization of G2-generated intent data. This includes filtering prospects who are early in their journey, who have not yet discovered the customer’s product, or who have discovered it but are still searching. This creates a basis for attributing pipelines, conversions and revenue to the activity.

“Strategically, our ideal customer profile is a B2B software-as-a-service company,” said Hedenbrandt. “B2B SaaS companies are particularly ripe for understanding this digital customer journey; their main investment is in digital marketing, they have a salesforce that use software tools to do this inside sales model; and they also deliver their product digitally as well.” What’s more, it takes twice as long to close SaaS deal as it does to close deals with B2B commercial and professional services companies.

Read next: A look at the tech review space

The Benchmarks findings. The conclusions of the 2022 Benchmarks report is based on aggregated, anonymized data from more than 400 Dreamdata user accounts. Focusing on first-touch attribution (from their multi-touch model), Dreamdata found that customer journeys where a review site is the first touch are 63% shorter than the average. In contrast, where the first touch channel is social, the journey is much longer than average (217%); it’s the same when paid media is the first touch (155%).

As the Benchmarks report suggests, this may well mean that social is targeting prospects that are just not in-market. It makes sense that activity on a review site is a better predictor of intent.

Hedenbrandt underlines the importance of treating the specific figures with caution. “It’s not complete science what we’ve done,” he admits, “but it’s real data from 400 accounts, so it’s not going to be completely off. You can only spend your time once, and at least from what we can see here it’s better to spend your time collecting reviews than writing another Facebook update.”

While Dreamdata highlights use of G2, Hedenbrandt readily concedes that competitor software review sites might reasonably be expected to show similar effects. “Definitely I would expect it to be similar.”

Why we care. It’s not news that B2B buyers researching software purchases use review sites and that those sites gather and trade in the intent data generated. Software vendors encourage users to post reviews. There has been a general assumption that a large number of hopefully positive reviews is a good thing to have.

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What Dreamdata’s findings indicate is that the effect of review sites on the buyer journey — especially as the first-touch channel — can be quantified and a value placed on it. “None of us questioned the value of reviews, but during this process you can actually map it into a customer journey where you can see the journey started from G2, then flowed into sales meetings, website visits, ads, etc. Then we can also join the deal value to the intent that started from G2.”

Likely, this is also another example of B2B learning from B2C. People looking at high consideration B2C purchases are now accustomed to seeking advice both from friends and from online reviews. The same goes for SaaS purchases, Hedenbrandt suggests: “More people are turning to sites like G2 to understand whether this is a trustworthy vendor or not. The more expensive it is, the more validation you want to see.”

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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Work smarter, not harder, to give customers what they want



Work smarter, not harder, to give customers what they want

Personalizing your marketing campaigns for one customer is easy, but how about one hundred or thousands of customers across multiple marketing channels?

Work smarter, not harder, by using artificial intelligence (AI) as part of your martech stack and giving your customers the unique experiences they crave.

Register today for “Use Data to Create Next-Level Customer Experiences at Scale,” presented by MoEngage.

About The Author

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries.

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How Video Can Humanize Your Brand in 2022 & Other Insights from Wistia’s CEO



How Video Can Humanize Your Brand in 2022 & Other Insights from Wistia's CEO

One of the main things we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic in regards to how people consume content is that they want to be entertained in different ways.


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