Storytelling as business content form
Before the advent of the Internet, it was called good copywriting.
I used to believe that to begin a discussion with the words, “Once upon a time…” was a sure-shot conversation-killer. Apparently, I was wrong. Jokes apart, storytelling has become the lead tool to market brands. Businesses, or at least their marketers, have “woken up” to the magic of telling stories to sell whatever it is they have to sell.
(BTW, check the masthead of this newsletter.)
One would have assumed that the cut and dry world of business had nothing to do with the art of storytelling. Well, not so. Apparently, emotion comes up trumps in the cold, logical world of business.
Science, especially neuroscience tells us that humans are more emotional than logical. That’s why they veer towards stories…..told from any platform.
The current buzz around storytelling makes you feel as if it’s something new. But here’s the thing - storytelling is as old as humans. Business storytelling is the new entrant, THEY insist. Is it?
Before life began on the Internet, billboards told a story, so did radio jingles and TV commercials. Storytelling then was called good copywriting. Obviously, some turned out to be poor narratives. But exist it did.
So let’s not carried away by all the hoopla and the hype. What is new perhaps are digital stories. Which means telling your business story with a blog, a podcast, a video, an infographic, even. Weaving a narrative around your product, solution or service is being hyped as the next big thing in marketing. Well, it’s not. Simply, because it was always there; only the format has changed.
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Anyway, business stories can be used to:
Explain an idea
Explain technical gobbledygook
Simplify complex ideas
While it is far easier to tell a story in a B2C market, the challenge lies in the B2B category. Selling a soap with copy weaved around some human emotion is far easier than selling a data analytics product, right? That’s where the content of the narrative comes in.
As any author would tell you, a good story must have a start, a middle and an end (climax). It must be engaging, must have universal appeal, must be immersive, and have recall value. So whatever be the format that your business story rides on, whatever be the time limit, it must be all of this.
Like any other story, a business tale must have a protagonist (central character), almost always an antagonist (pain point) and a solution. But never let your business story be directly about your product or service, or there will be no story but only chest thumping.
There are thousands of well-received business stories out there in the ether but here’s an example from Philips which underlines what I’ve just said.
Have you identified the main character and the antagonist in the video? The central character is the healthcare provider who is supposed to bring relief to people like the fisherman in the video. The “villain” is insomnia/sleep apnea, and the solution of course, is Philips Respironics.
B2B storytelling becomes easier and gets more traction if you give a human face to the business. Neuroscience tells us that most buying decisions are propelled by personal feelings, instead of cold facts or product features.
I have found audio and video are the two most-suited formats for B2B stories. But if you ever find yourself writing such prose, remember this other golden rule of storytelling - create a visual in the reader’s mind. Conjure up such imagery with your writing that the reader is transported to wherever it is you want him to go. Then, tug at his heart strings and you will soon have a prospect dialing your brand’s business development team.