Lou Hoffman, who blogs at Ishmael's Corner, wrote a great post about Storytelling in Social Media and Traditional Media. He wrote the post in answer to a question about how storytelling benefits business executives and their respective companies.
He used this example - drawn from a journalism website - about how media has changed:
Don't limit your inquiry, or your thinking, to the basics of journalism: Who, what, when, where, why, how. Think in terms of story elements: setting, character, plot, conflict, climax, resolution, dialogue, theme.
With that last sentence in mind, I thought it might help to discuss just how story elements can be used in the creation of B2B marketing content. By incorporating story elements, your B2B marketing content will be more naturally focused on issues of importance to your prospects - something hard to do when your content is product focused.
Setting: This is the business context of your prospect's specific situation. Think about the differences between verticals, for example. The "setting" is different for each one.The setting can also be oriented around the difficulties the problem they're trying to solve is causing.
Character: This is obviously your prospective buyer. You do use personas, right?
Plot: This is your prospect's business objective. It includes the problem-to-solution route with the business objective as the goal at the end.
Conflict: This is the big, gnarly problem that's keeping them from achieving that business objective.
Climax: This is what I call a Step Back. This is the final hurdle that must be overcome to keep your buyer moving forward to that purchase decision. It's whatever might lead to losing the deal. It could be something that's remained unaddressed and needs to be resolved in order for them to proceed. Or it could be someone on the buying committee who stalls the process with a question that's not arisen previously.
Resolution: This is how you answer whatever caused the Climax to restore your prospect's confidence so that they take the next step to validate you as their partner of choice...and buy.
Dialogue: This is the two-way communication you design to integrate your story elements to engage your prospects over the course of their buying process. Did you get the distinction? Dialogue is not about you talking and them listening. It's about building an interactive relationship through how you design and use your content in the forums where your prospects spend their time.
Theme: The theme is your persona's value proposition:
I need ________to help me________in order to_____________.
Notice that this is NOT your company's value proposition. Using story elements in B2B marketing content must be focused on your prospects' perspectives, not your company's.
When we incorporate story elements into our content, we get closer to creating a narrative that engages people because they can relate to it. Talking about your products will bore them to tears. Talking about the situations they're dealing with in a context they understand-one that helps them visualize solving their problem with your help-will hold their attention and help them transition across each stage of their buying process.
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