We all love a good story. Numerous studies have proven that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than just being presented cold, hard facts. Top brands like Coca Cola, Dove, Warby Parker and Apple harness this science to their advantage through marketing that focuses on the story. It’s a natural fit for consumer-facing companies.

But can B2B marketers achieve the same success with storytelling?

Yes! Business buyers are still people, so a good story will get their attention and make them want to learn more about your products and services. B2B marketers may just have to do a little more creative thinking in order to bring their brands to life. That’s not easy, and a 2016 report by the Content Marketing Institute reveals it’s an area in which B2B content creators want to improve. In fact, 41% of B2B marketers listed “becoming better storytellers” as one of their top five priorities.

In order to be better storytellers, marketers need to shift a little bit of focus away from the data that can easily consume us and remember that customers (no matter whether B2B or B2C – in fact, we like to say that it should be P2P, or people to people) are human beings who crave a good story. Storytelling is actually blurring the lines between B2C and B2B marketing.

At the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida, the school’s president saw the need for storytellers to share what the academia was focused on with the public. The Story Lab at UWF’s Innovation Institute was recently formed to bring awareness to the school’s work. Story Lab Creative Director Hadley Higginson and Story Lab Outreach Manager Christian Garman recently shared their own story with the Gulf Coast HUG (HubSpot User Group).

The presentation “The Story Behind Story” covered the basics of storytelling that are often forgotten.

Who is your audience?

Before it’s possible to tell a good story, you need to know who you are telling it to. This may sound like common sense, but as a B2B inbound marketing agency, we still encounter companies who haven’t yet identified their buyer personas. And if you do have them as part of your inbound marketing strategy, it might be time to revisit them if they aren’t focused on the right person doing the research for your products and services.

What do we want them to feel, think & do?

Once you’ve identified your audience, Higginson and Garman say there are some key things to remember when crafting your story:

  1. People will only remember 3 to 5 things from your ad, blog, etc., if you’re lucky. The message you are delivering has to be specific and memorable.
  2. Focus on passion and purpose in your message. Then repeat.
  3. Always tell the truth. Authenticity is key. Garman shared a story from his days as a meteorologist at the local ABC affiliate. “I would give the forecast for the weekend which people counted on to make plans. Sometimes, I’d get it wrong and so I’d go on the air and apologize on Monday. Management didn’t like it, but the public thought it was cool. People sent email after email saying how much they appreciated me admitting when I was wrong,” said Garman.
  4. Make it conversational. Talk the story out, but don’t talk in science terms, make it as conversational as possible. This is definitely a trap B2B marketers can easily fall into and one we like to call speaking tech-lish.
  5. Don’t be boring. As a content marketing agency that focuses on creating performance content for unglamorous industries, we work to fight against the “boring” industry stigma every day for our clients. We know that even the most technical, regulated or typically unglamorous industries can create content that inspires and excites audiences.

Higginson and Garman reminded us that great storytelling connects us to each other, spreads ideas, changes minds, and creates a powerful ripple effect. But you don’t have to have a multi-million dollar budget to tell a good story. Marketers can use stories to transform traditional forms of content such as white papers, case studies and blogs. Use that impressive data that you have in your case study but include a compelling client story to back it up. Tell stories that will resonate with readers in your blog posts, and in white papers that explain how your products and services work, don’t just relate them to your customer, tell your customers how their customers will benefit.