By: Bob Osmond and Katherine Gotts
Consumer brands have long embraced the importance of creating narratives that connect with their consumers on an emotional level, while B2B brands have historically focused on product features and benefits. The B2B customer base is rapidly changing, however, and businesses selling to businesses must keep pace by embracing more customer-centric approaches to their narratives.
Studies show that the use of a consistent brand narrative delivers tangible external and internal rewards in the form of increased revenue, customer loyalty, and talent acquisition and retention. Brand narratives help drive connectivity between a brand, its employees and customer base. Here’s some guidance on how to think about evolving your approach.
Everyone is a Consumer—and Consumer Expectations Don’t Discriminate Between B2B or B2C Products
Many marketers are missing the mark when it comes to the new generation of buyers—millennials don’t make their purchasing decisions the same way their parents did, even in B2B. Per The Drum, the all-encompassing world of consumer marketing has changed. Millennials want a quality product, an experience, a story with emotion—and not just in their personal lives.
As millennials and Generation Z take over buying responsibilities at companies, generational preferences are steering them to companies that share their values and demonstrate authenticity and trustworthiness.
It All (and Always) Comes Down to Story
We’re more likely to remember something when it evokes an emotional response—and the stronger the response, the longer the memory lasts. If you want an important message to stick, share it as a story.
Great storytelling works within brand marketing because it allows consumers to get to know a brand’s personality, authenticity and values. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that 64 percent of consumers who had a relationship with a specific brand did so because of shared values (University of West Alabama). A recent study by the Digital Marketing Institute suggested that, by telling their brand story well, companies have the power to increase the value of a product or service by over 20 times.
Organizations that make an effort to maintain brand consistency experience a growth dividend. Some estimates put the average revenue increase connected to consistent branding at 23 percent (Lucid Press). In another analysis, almost 85 percent of firms attributed 10 percent or more growth to their efforts, with one in five realizing 20 percent or greater growth (Demand Metric).
Your Buyers Want to Be Helped, Not Pitched
Millennials don’t want to be pitched, they want to learn. B2B marketers must embrace this connection if they wish to be successful in building their brands. Key to this is playing the role of mentor, coach, and helper to their existing (and future) customers.
Buyers want and need a mentor to help them in their journey and brands that have positioned themselves in this way are, the data show, generally more successful.
In our work with clients, we put the customer at the center of the narrative process. One approach we take is a simplified “hero’s journey” framework, through which we identify customer goals, the obstacles that get in the way of achieving them, and the ways in which our clients (the brand), can help them overcome those obstacles by serving as their coach or mentor.
We’ve found this approach helps uncomplicate the complicated process of identifying what makes our clients unique. It forces us to look at customers—across different segments—to truly understand what they’re seeking to accomplish and to identify how our clients can help them along their journey to success.
In short, a consistent brand narrative with the customer clearly at the center of the story helps B2B brands differentiate themselves in crowded, undifferentiated spaces.
Additional Reading and Resources