B2B Storytelling

Pledge Week: Give Thanks By Giving Back

I am conducting a marketing experiment and I want your help.

I have been doing event marketing for Neighbors, Inc., a nonprofit in South St. Paul that, among other things, runs a food shelf. Like many nonprofits, they participate in events as a fundraising tool, one of which is an annual Walk To End Hunger. This events is like many fundraising walks or runs in that participants solicit sponsors to raise funds on behalf of the nonprofit in question.

I am going to do the Walk To End Hunger this year and I want you to sponsor me because I think nonprofit fundraising is a bit broken and I want to try a different approach. I  am going to document my marketing efforts for this project and compile the insights I gained and the lessons I learned into a report, which you will receive if you sponsor my walk to the tune of at least $25 (but hopefully more). If you’ve found any of the content I’ve published since 1995, please take this opportunity to pay me back a little.

All you need to do is click here to visit my Walk To End Hunger Page and sponsor me. Here’s my video pitch:

…and now, you’re regularly scheduled programming:

Most Important Elements Of B2B Content

  • 81.5% of B2B Marketers listed engaging & compelling storytelling among the top three elements of effective B2B content
  • 52.6% cited the originality of the content and
  • 49.2% included custom content among their top three elements
Photo of a bust of Homer, the Storytelling Oral Poet

THOUGHT: At first blush, these numbers would appear counter intuitive because we think of B2B content–case studies, white papers, webinars, etc.–as utilitarian, serving an educational purpose for the target audience and a business purpose, typically lead generation, for the company that produced the content.

B2B content is utilitarian, but for to be effective it must also be compelling.

I often tell people coming up in communications fields that their first obligation–as a writer, graphic designer, videographer–is to entertain. And I define entertainment broadly. Simply put, you need to command the attention of the audience you wish to reach by creating content that is entertaining to them.

A time-tested way of entertaining is by telling a story. Storytelling as a utilitarian technique for transferring knowledge has been around since we can remember. The oral tradition used folktales, songs and poetry to hand knowledge down from one generation to another.

Though the technique has been around since time immemorial, that doesn’t mean we’ve necessarily learned to apply it to our business communications.

Back in the day, it was all too common for the marketing materials (website copy, product feature sheets, etc.) for technology companies to be written by the engineers or software developers, replete with insider techno jargon, obscure acronyms, and precious little insight into the product itself. Digesting it was a confusing, frustrating mess.

In this context, entertaining could simply mean the absence of frustration. But we’re mostly beyond that now, thankfully. The responsibility for producing content has been transferred to people who have an understanding of marketing.

But that’s not to say they necessarily have an understanding of storytelling.

Rex Hammock’s post earlier this Summer illustrates just that point by contrasting Apple’s press release announcing the iPad in 2010 with Microsoft’s press release this year announcing their Surface tablet.

While Microsoft’s press release touts the technical aspects of the Surface and the Microsoft talent that engineered it, Apple’s press release tells the story of what it will be like to own an iPad.

Case studies, white papers and webinars, the lingua franca of B2B marketing, are perfectly suited formats for telling stories if you consciously create them to serve that purpose.

But it’s clear B2B Marketers are struggling to do so: 53% say producing truly engaging content is a big content marketing challenge. That’s likely because simply don’t have the in-house talent capable of telling engaging stories.

I would not be surprised to see a greater demand for employees schooled in the humanities and the visual and language arts, as content marketing becomes an ever-growing B2B marketing practice.

SUPER COOL TOOL: The Do Share extension for Chrome allows you to create and schedule posts to your Google+ profile or Google+ pages.

TOMORROW: Beyond Social Media Radio

Join me, BL Ochman of the What’s Next blog, and Albert Maruggi of the Marketing Edge podcast tonight at 8:30 CST for our BlogTalkRadio show, Beyond Social Media. This week’s topics: Social Communications Centers & LG’s Scary Elevator.