"People are no longer buying goods and services, they’re buying stories and relations and magic." Seth Godin
Okay, so you're asking why storytelling?
Well, we all love stories. They are captivating, entertaining, emotional and woven with wisdom.
They are the foundation of our life.
So, why do we often forget to use them in our business?
Especially in the B2B arena.
Think about your own business. When was the last time you pitched to a potential client using a story?
If you're like most companies and entrepreneurs, maybe never.
But, here's the fact, 95% of our decisions are made unconsciously, using no reason or logic.
So, why do we still try to sell our products or services only on facts?
It's your company's vision, values, purpose, and story which will move your clients to act.
Storytelling isn't just for the B2C crowd.
Increasingly, B2B companies are using their story to connect with their customers.
Now, when we talk about storytelling, it's not the curated ones drummed up and tested for advertising purposes.
No, the ones we're talking about are those true to the heart.
It is the narrative which guides story-driven companies in everything they do.
We all know the ones which touch us personally, for example, TOMS Shoes, a prominent B2C example.
In the past, B2B marketing was stiff and ridged. I like John Gerzema's coined term, "boring-to-boring."
It was believed that feeding the client with facts and figures, in essence being rational and numbers driven, fit best the customer.
As if B2B companies spoke to each other in some type of code.
Luckily, things have dramatically changed.
More and more B2B companies are embracing marketing tactics once only deemed appropriate for B2C ones.
And even more, B2B brands are now showing their vision and social values.
The shift shows B2B brands as emotional beings. As an integral part of our growth, our communities, and our future.
And, it's happening on both sides of the equation.
Companies are more inclined to do business with other companies where there is a sense of 'why' in them.
And, this isn't just something made up.
A study by FORTUNE Knowledge Group and the global advertising agency gyro went out and talked with top executives (in the US), and what came out of it was a simple truth: companies are made up of people who like to do business with those who have a soul-driven purpose.
Now, this may surprise some, but sixty percent (60%) of the executives polled said "that knowing what a company stands for is much more important in choosing a corporate partner than innovativeness (21%) or market dominates (20%). "
What's more, knowing what a company stands for is valued more highly than business brawn or even brains because a purpose creates an emotional connection.
And, eighty percent (80%) of respondents felt that a successful company's biggest idea is often the one upon which it was built.
It's that humble beginning, the seed, which grows into something strong and healthy.
We've seen it in the successful B2C companies.
Think Apple and the Macintosh. The iconic 1984 ad. The company remains true to its beginnings. And so do we as consumers.
The waffle iron and Nike.
TOMS Shoes and its One for One® business model.
You get my point.
In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, your brand needs to stand out.
Even B2B brands need to connect emotionally with their potential clients.
And this needs to happen before asking them to buy.
Some say we've moved from the Information Economy to the Meaning Economy.
What does this mean?
It means we want to work and buy from those companies who stand for a purpose which aligns to us.
Companies that tell their story and build a tribe around their brand, create trust and loyalty with their customers.
And, their customers become an integral part of the brand.
It's truly a win-win on both sides.
Traditionally, we've perhaps used stories only as a communications tactic, ways to get people to see us while overlooking their power to help us see ourselves.
And by that I mean, our narrative can guide how we create value for our customers, build trust, foster connection, influence, sell ... and on and on.
As Steve Jobs famously said,
"the most important person in the world is the storyteller."
Here are examples of B2B companies who have put their story, in essence, their narrative as the guiding North Star of how they approach their clients, their marketplace and their employees.
It isn't an easy feat to humanize logistics services and captivate an audience around cargo ships.
Well, if you're Maersk, they've nailed it.
Using their company's family history and their values the company draws us in.
Through stunning imagery on Instagram, they grace us with beautiful photos of not only shipping containers and freight vessels, but of the beauty of the waters, those containers and vessels cross.
Maersk Graces Instagram with Beautiful Images of their Freight Ships
If you need a good example of how to leverage your About page to demonstrate your company's purpose, meaning, and vision, then Maersk is an example worth spending time with. You'll see why it has remained a family-driven, a.k.a. story-driven company.
At Cisco, the company's narrative is clearly its why.
And, it encompasses everything from its humble beginnings, to its far-stretching hopes and vision for the future.
The documentary The Network Effect - Looking Forward embodies their belief of how networks are 'tools of change' and 'bring hope.' Once you've watched it, you clearly come away feeling the sense of purpose the company feels towards society.
Cisco's vision is woven into every aspect of their website, from the opening page 'see what's going on today at Cisco,' to their About page 'between hope and possible, there's a bridge.'
The company amplifies its narrative in the Our Story page as it tells us why the company began and it brings us in emotionally with the - 'a love story that changed the world.'
It is refreshing to see the word 'love' used by a B2B company.
Cisco connects emotionally with its audience. It creates a tribe around its cause.
And the dedication doesn't stop there. The company has its own podcast, 'Beyond the Network, One Company, Countless Stories.'
Most people know of IBM. And, for some, its image is perhaps outdated.
The company through the years has taken great strides to be more human, to help us understand the good their solutions bring to society.
IBM is a company which has evolved greatly from its humble beginnings.
It is a company not shy of storytelling.
Grasping complex products such as Watson isn't easy. And, Watson's impact on our daily lives can seem daunting, if not scary. Through story, IBM helps us understand Watson's value in society.
As their chief corporate storyteller for Watson, Louis Richardson says, "a story is essential to explain a complex product."
IBM uses story in the context of the human element on Instagram where we see how Watson is used in training dogs for the blind.
Who doesn't love photos of pups. IBM uses the story of its
work with Guiding Eyes to show us the human side of Watson.
Of course, IBM's story began long before Watson. And, those humble beginnings are what makes IBM the long-standing company it is today.
Even if those technologies are long outdated, they are the ones everything we have today is built on.
Hard to believe Kickstarter officially launched in 2009 and their community of designers is showcasing innovative products at CES.
Once you know their story, it is clearly part of everything they do. From the spark that created a whole new way of giving the power of innovation and creativity to the individual, to who the company is today.
Kickstarter's 'Just the Beginning' podcast features stories about how independent creators bring their ideas to life.
Their commitment to the independent creative is the source for the launch of The Creative Independent, a resource of emotional and practical guidance for creative people.
Now, that is commitment.
Here's the company's mission:
Kickstarter's mission is to help bring creative projects to life. We measure our success as a company by how well we achieve that mission, not by the size of our profits. That’s why we reincorporated Kickstarter as a Benefit Corporation in 2015
As Bernadette Jiwa reminds us in her book, Story Driven
Great companies have something in common:
They don’t try to matter by winning.
They win by mattering.
The people who build them know what they stand for and act on those beliefs.
Every company has a story ... a why.
Let it be the spark that drives your company.
Use it to build an emotional connection with your employees and customers.
Remember, every company has a tribe.
So, what are you waiting for?