The idea of ‘brand storytelling’ is everywhere. You can’t move these days for blogs and Slideshare decks and webinars and videos that advise you on how to borrow the techniques of filmmakers and novelists and even Aristotle and apply them to your content marketing – the hero figure, the telling detail, the narrative arc, the resolution of conflict, showing not telling, and so on.
It’s all interesting stuff, but you can’t help feeling that many of these techniques are things the best commercial copywriters and marketers have always employed. Advertisers are masters at telling emotive stories, PR people run seminars on how to manufacture conflict (and then show how the brand they represent is best placed to resolve it), and what after all is a good case study – that age-old staple of content marketing – but a humanised, neatly-plotted account of a company’s business proposition in action?
And you can’t sometimes escape the suspicion, too, that story-telling seminars are really just an excuse for the gurus of narratology to replay their favourite video from Apple or IKEA or the Dollar Shave Club. (Please insert your own examples here.) ‘What emotions does that evoke for you here? How did that make you FEEL?’ they always ask.
At which point, what I always feel is a frisson of profound empathy for the marketer of b2b services or considered purchases or other deeply unsexy products. ‘But I’m in pest control / disposable drug-testing kit provision / marine insurance enterprise software solutions. What’s my story? What am I supposed to make my target audience feel?’ Well, here are a couple of ideas…
Show your work in action
Sometimes what you do has a beauty all its own – and the best way to promote your services is to show them in action. If you’re a tree surgeon or a ship-builder or an exhibition installer, a time-lapse video showing your well-oiled operation seeing a job through from start to finish can tell a powerful story of your professionalism and slick teamwork. If you specialise in office removals or industrial cleaning, what could be more reassuring than a film showcasing the successful transition from needy Before to successful After?
Serve up your expertise as entertainment
Most b2b businesses harbour specialists who’ve built up reserves of specialised knowledge that can seem daunting even to non-specialist colleagues, let alone to external audiences. But these experts are great for entertainingly nerdy, top-of-the-funnel content because you can package up some of that knowledge as answers to those questions people have always wanted to know. Would cockroaches really survive a nuclear blast? Ask a pest controller. How much jail-time would The Grinch or Lord Voldermort get in a non-fictional court of law? Ask a lawyer. What are the most unusual song requests at funerals? Ask a funeral provider.
Every business exists to address a need; by extension, your content exists to address a related content need. And the more niche and specialised your offering, the more value your content can offer to the right people.