Once upon a time, the sales performance of B2B technology companies depended on how good the sales team was. Today, it depends on the quality of the company’s content marketing. Why?
Content marketing is a strategic marketing method for building Thought Leadership position and creating and distributing valuable and relevant content to engage a target audience into a profitable business relationship. Consequently, content marketing perfectly matches today’s B2B buying behavior, which increasingly takes place without contacting vendors’ sales representatives. Because of this, the quality of the content is critical for vendors’ sales performances. It soon becomes more critical than the quality of the sales team.
According to the 2018 B2B Content Marketing Trends study by Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 91% of the 870 US based respondents reported their organization use content marketing, for which they spend up to 40% of their marketing budget.
Anatomy of great content
If content alone is tasked to generate early sales leads, it better be great. Great content is a mix of several ingredients such as relevant substance, insightful data, inspiring visuals and engaging narrative. It addresses customers’ real business goals, problems and issues, and makes sure it will not be missed by search engines.
Great B2B content is also emotional and evokes feelings of trust, reliability, credibility and a sense of partnership.
Since the beginning of time, people have told stories to share knowledge. And, great stories have lived over generations and lasted for centuries. Stories are an effective way to make messages understood and remembered.
When the brain is exposed to a report, textbook or a list of facts, two parts of the brain are activated, Broca’s area and Wernike’s area. These two areas of the brain are responsible for turning words into meaning.
A well told story fires up and engages the brain in more areas. So, for example, if the narrative has descriptors related to smell, the brain’s olfactory cortex is engaged. And if the narrative includes movement, the motor cortex is activated.
Research has evidenced that different organic chemicals such as cortisol, dopamine and oxytocin affect the brain by keeping humans alert and attentive and generating feelings such as empathy and pleasure, when exposed to an engaging story.
This is why it’s so much easier for people to recall stories than facts. When so many parts of the brain are engaged, an experience is created – and people are likely to remember experiences better than facts.
So, how to create an engaging story out of boring technology?
Aristotle concluded that the narrative, mythos, is the most important element of a story. Based on this theory, Gustav Freytag, a German writer, defined the five stages of drama in 1863. This 155 years old plot of a story is also known as the Freytag’s pyramid. It always follows a certain structure: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution, otherwise it is not a story.
Still today, the stages of a great B2B marketing storyline closely follow this classic story plot: opportunity, challenge, solution, benefit and value.
In a typical B2B marketing context, the dialog begins by describing the business opportunities that target customers are aiming at, be it a new revenue source or a lucrative cost saving. This stage essentially describes why a company is in the business and why it should evolve itself by making new investments (in the products the vendor sells).
Once the reasons to aim a business goal are clear, the story continues by describing the various challenges the customers are likely to face on their journey. The challenges are naturally defined so that the vendor can solve them with its products. This stage identifies customers’ real pain points and issues in a creative and attention-grabbing manner.
The opportunity and the challenge together form a conflict, which is an obligatory component to set a scene for a classic story. In the end of this stage of the story, the customer should feel hopeless about his own possibilities of reaching the lucrative business opportunities, until the perfect solution is served at the climax of the pitch.
At the solution stage comes the description of the product, or solution providing the perfect match between customers’ needs and vendor’s offering.
The solution stage is followed by describing and itemizing the key benefits of the solution in an understandable way. When possible, always quantify the economic value of the benefit.
A good marketing story ends by picturing how well the customer’s business has performed since taking the product in use. Don’t settle for generic statements but describe the gained business value using detailed, numerical and tangible expressions. Creating peer pressure by telling success stories about similar companies that have already made the same investment always provides a powerful conclusion for a B2B marketing narrative.
Great content sells!
Good marketing content requires of course much more than just a great narrative, for instance the great sales team. However, the power of story telling has been evidenced by our ancestors in practice as well as the modern science, and thus applying the 155 years old story plot often is the best way to start making the B2B content great. Anyway, it is a question of sales success! And great story telling.
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About the author
Mikko Nurmimaki is a technology marketing entrepreneur and the founder of Grip marketing and PR agency. He has 15 years of global marketing experience from world class technology brands such as Nokia, Ericsson, Spirent Communications and several smaller innovative hi-tech vendors. Mikko has gained solid marketing skills with a broad range of technologies including cellular communications, mobile and IP solutions, cloud and virtualization, value added services, video streaming, Internet of Things and greentech.