Compelling content that entertains and educates its target audience can often be more successful than other generic content shared during a campaign. It is crucial that content marketers align with their buyers and bring context to the content that they are providing prospective buyers. Without this alignment, their content marketing initiatives will never have a major impact on buying decisions.
Laura Ramos, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, will be diving into the topic of adding contextual storytelling into content marketing initiatives during her session at the B2B Content2Conversion Conference, taking place February 16-18 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Ramos sat down with Demand Gen Report to discuss her upcoming session:
Demand Gen Report: How do B2B marketers add a human touch to their content to help tell stories that will connect with B2B buyers?
Laura Ramos: To add a human touch, B2B marketers should approach their content development plans with the objective to connect with their buyers as people, not as companies or statistics. People are wired physically and emotionally to remember stories and share them with others. So the content you develop should:
1) Follow time-tested story structures. Great stories introduce a problem, create interest and tension, and then build to a climax where the problem is overcome. In business stories, we commonly describe this pattern as presenting the "situation, implications, resolution, implementation and benefits realization." Much B2B content skips the first two steps in this pattern and fails to create the tension that captures audience attention. In your marketing, this tension should focus on the challenges of closing the gap between where the buyer's company is today and a desired state, or it should present a future vision where new market opportunities will create competitive advantage.
2) Develop empathy. Like any good narrative, compelling business stories need a protagonist (the buyer), and should create empathy for his/her situation. Creating empathy helps business marketers focus on meeting customer needs while also representing their brand. Many B2B marketers make their products or services the hero of their stories. To tell a more memorable, empathetic story, make your company the mentor or gift-bearer that helps a buyer solve her problem or get unstuck from a difficult business problem.
3) Focus on character development, not developing personas. To present a rational, factual argument that will persuade buyers, B2B marketers write a lot of two-dimensional prose. Even when we go through the trouble of developing personas to represent key buyer segments, our content and message tend to focus on one or two facets that turns these buyers into caricatures rather than real people. Making your "story" come alive requires tapping into their emotions associated with making a business purchase — describe their fears, reservations, concerns about making the choice and the frustrations, failures, and challenges they experienced putting it into practice. The more multi-dimensional you can make your story characters, the more memorable they become.
DGR: B2B content has tended to focus on products, rather than the needs of the buyer. How do B2B marketers adjust the mindset to be more buyer-centric?
Ramos: To create ideas that stick in your buyer's head, abandon old ad copywriting habits and tune into buyer needs and motivations. Learning to follow a buyer's footsteps, and using their journey to shape marketing and sales interactions, will require marketers to learn how buyers really make decisions and use your products or services. B2B marketers rely too much on job title as a primary way to target buyer audiences. They don't spend enough time on what I call "data and handshake" — analyzing macro-level information about who your buyers are and how they became customers while applying the micro-level skills of interview and investigation. B2B marketers also need to take some time to tap into the buyer's motivations. Every so often, marketers should experience a day in their customers' lives to really understand what pressures they feel in their business, what problems unresolved issues cause them and what compels them to finally take action to resolve them. The day in the life experience should also focus on how they use your products or services every day as well as the highlights and low points of their collective experiences.
DGR: What are some quick tips for B2B marketers to improve their storytelling strategies even if resources are limited?
Ramos: Anyone can experiment with writing business prose that stirs the emotions. Arousing feelings like fear, joy, surprise, or sadness causes buyers to use more than just the language centers of their brains when experiencing your message — making your message more likely to stick. Secondly, you can shift from explaining to conversing. Using interactive tools such as surveys, calculators, games, and interactive environments can help to create an "across the table" experience even with potential buyers who may be thousands of miles away. We all love a good laugh or cry, so embrace those twin muses of comedy and tragedy. You attract and audience, and out-compete other marketers, when your content offers something buyers can relate to at a very human level: humor, an eye-opening statistic, a cause for concern, or a personal struggle. Finally, talk openly about failures and redemption and don't shy away from revealing the struggles before the success. When you talk openly and genuinely about painful lessons learned, or times when you had to change allies, or go back to the drawing board, it makes your story believable and authentic.