I will confess. I like money. More specifically, I like sound return on investment. Not so much for the money itself, but for what it signifies. In a world of commercial interests and globalized business, a world where metrics matter to a lot of people, ROI is one of the most indisputable metrics around.
As I’ve professed many a time on this blog, I strongly believe in softer metrics as well. Interest, long term engagement, loyalty – all of these are extremely important and crucial for the success of just about anything you would want to create that has something to do with storytelling. But it’s when these values convert into ROI that they become easier to talk about, to pitch, to convince future collaborators and financiers to get involved.
In one of my capacities, I work with global companies, hoping to help them improve their outreach and their business through that which I know best – storytelling.
When we talk about B2C – business-to-consumer – this is, well, not easy, but still fairly straightforward. The company has a target group in mind, they have a product or a service to sell, they need to pique the interest and foster the engagement of the end consumer and they need to convert this interest into a final sale. This is not rocket science, this is down to experience, creativity and craftsmanship, and the results can be seen all around you in more-or-less well executed campaigns.
But then we arrive at the B2B – business-to-business – relationships, and the playing field changes. More for certain industries, less for others, but the fields are decidedly different. The inroad to sales are different, the decision process vastly different, the culture, the settings, the procedures and legalities… all very much different. And so, I’ve asked myself; is it feasible to apply similar storytelling methods to a B2B setting as it is to a B2C?
In a sense, definitely, as research has shown. A study from Switzerland in 2014, for instance, focused on the wood industry and a comparison of a traditional pitch vs a storytelling pitch built with visualizations. The results were clear:
”[…] storytelling and knowledge visualization in combination demonstrate to causally increase key measure for companies in B2B environment. Their combination increases customer involvement, several attitude measures and finally also results in a higher purchase intention.”
Now, if I can do something that will increase every positive measurement point as well as increase the likelihood of the people I’m talking to actually buying what I’m trying to sell them, I will do this. And in this case, this ”something” is storytelling.
Then, of course, we come to the ”how” of the matter. What kind of stories, how should they be told, do we need calls-to-action or something else… there are a great number of challenges. As the researchers above concluded:
”Our experience shows that details count very much. Oversimplification, decreased credibility and lower trustworthiness may result. […] It is also advisable to not only use storytelling but also include visual metaphors. The entire presentation must make sense to the listeners and also engage them. Fairy-tale style stories are not at all suitable.”
And all of this comes down to knowing whom your creating your story for, what their needs and beliefs and habits are, and what you would like for them to do as an outcome of you telling them your story.
Finally, I firmly believe that the ”soft practice” of storytelling will have an important role to play in B2B relations and sales in the future. At the end of the day, when the board of directors or the aquisition officers sit in the final meeting with the Excel sheet of possible services or products in front of them, the stories you’ve told them about your product, your services and your experts could be the crucial ones, tipping the scales in your favor. If you’ve done them right, that is…