Delivering full-funnel, scalable solutions for sales and marketing teams.
Customized campaigns optimized to target your in-market buyers at any state of the buying cycle, PureB2B’s hands-on approach and buyer-intent data provide you with the sales and marketing pipeline velocity you need.
Get your messaging right for each of the decision makers as this is vital to an effective and efficient conversion of leads. Make content part of your marketing process.
Learn more by watching the video below!
The GuidesFor Network
Reach a targeted audience of technology buyers and access pre-buying decisions content through the GuidesFor Network. Drive sales leads and sales opportunities directly to your conversion funnel. Find out how!
What Marketing Communications Should You Personalize?
Every customer is different. They have different needs, interests, and motivations. So doesn’t it make sense to treat them accordingly? We’ve entered a new era of marketing where customers expect a relevant experience that’s matched to their specific needs. People don’t want to feel like just another number on a list, they want to feel like human beings, and it’s up to businesses to treat them that way.
Personalization has proven to be a highly effective marketing strategy. In fact, Infosys reported 59% of consumers say that personalization influences their shopping decision. Furthermore, Marketo found that 78% of customers will only engage with new offers if these are personalized to their previous transactions with the business. Additionally, MarketingProfs discovered businesses that personalize web experiences see, on average, a 19% increase in sales.
If you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’ll end up speaking to no one. So it’s time to clearly define your target audiences and personalize their experiences. Here’s how:
Your website is a great starting point for personalizing marketing communications. IBM reported that one of their clients saw a 400% increase in response rates from personalized website offers. There are a number of ways to personalize the content on your website.
If you run an e-commerce and online shopping websites, you can personalize offers according to the customer’s account details and shopping history. Here are two great examples from Amazon:
When logged in, they have links on the menu/navigation area with the user’s first name such as “Emma’s Amazon.com” (instead of just Amazon.com) and “Hello, Dan” (which links to the account menu options).
Using information from a user’s browsing history, Amazon.com provides recommendations on products that a person might buy or might find of interest in the future by showing these on the homepage on their next visit.
These examples and many other personalized elements on websites occur through the use of dynamic content, which in simple terms is “HTML content on your website, forms, landing pages, or emails that change based on the viewer.”
You can personalize almost any kind of messaging on your website to the current viewer, as long as you have the right information about them. For example, instead of saying “free international shipping,” use the visitor’s public IP address to detect their location and say “free shipping to Thailand” instead.
Emails remain the most common means by which businesses communicate directly with their customers. Almost 9 out of 10 marketers say that email is their primary means of lead generation, but it’s marketers who use personalization in their subject lines that see 26% more opens. However, email personalization goes beyond including the customer’s first name in the subject line.
An important email personalization strategy is segmentation. The first step is to make sure you have the right data. For example, if you’re looking to send industry-specific campaigns via email, aside from asking for the usual ‘name and ‘email’ fields from subscribers, include a dropdown for industries like retail, real estate, food, manufacturing, marketing, and others.
Then, segment your email lists by industry so that you can send emails that are more relevant. If you have transactional data such as past product purchases or current subscription plans, then offer related products or discounted subscription upgrades in your emails.
Another great personalized email tactic is the use of automated behavior-triggered emails. Take language teaching app, Duolingo, as an example. They send out an email to users who haven’t taken lessons after a specific period with the subject line “We miss you!”
Social media is now a standard tool for any successful marketing strategy. New Media Marketing reported that about 76% of businesses use social media to achieve marketing objectives, and retailers have experienced 133% in increase in revenues after promoting via social media. Because social media is all about connecting with your audience, personalization is a key tactic to consider.
Custom Audiences is a great way to personalize. Available to any business that advertises on Facebook, the feature allows you to create a ‘Custom Audience’ by uploading a customer list with information like purchaser email addresses (which Facebook will encrypt upon upload). Then, you can target your Facebook ad to your desired audience.
A great application of this is if you have a list of people who did a free 30-day product trial, you can send them specific ads that remind them to upgrade their accounts. If you’re running a Facebook campaign to get more email newsletter subscriptions, you can also use a custom audience list to exclude your existing subscribers from seeing the ad.
Needless to say, the most basic way to personalize communications on social media is to engage with individual accounts. Responding personally to their direct messages and mentioning them in posts shows them that you care about them as individuals.
Advertising on places like the Google Network (including Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, etc.) can be rewarding, especially if you know how to personalize your ads using available features.
One way is to take advantage of Google’s Customer Match. Very similar to Facebook Custom Audiences, Customer Match lets you use an uploaded list of email addresses which can then be matched to a list of users on Google so you can target them.
For example, if you have a list of emails who signed up for a webinar on social media marketing trends. You can choose to retarget these individuals by showing ads that link back to your website when they use keywords like “social media.” Of course, these ads will only be shown to those specified emails.
Remarketing is a personalization tactic that takes advantage of a user’s browsing history (via browser cookies). You’ve probably experienced it first-hand: if, for examples, you googled Adidas Stan Smith shoes and started seeing banner ads on random websites that link you to an Amazon landing page with those same shoes.
Afterwards, you closed the window and started browsing Facebook, then voila, the exact same Amazon.com page for Adidas Stan Smith is now on your Facebook sidebar ads. Remarketing is available on Google and can also be applied to Facebook using Custom Audiences.
Personalizing your marketing strategy is a key tactic to succeed in communicating with your customers. As you make the most of dynamic content on your website user experience, segment subscribers in your email marketing campaigns, target custom audiences on Facebook, and use personalized PPC strategies, remember to use personal information such as names and email addresses with care and in a way that does not violate customer privacy.
It’s one thing to offer personalized communications to improve the customer experience. It’s another thing entirely if your brand comes off as creepy.
To learn more about how to personalize your marketing and improve relevancy, check out our FREE whitepaper!
Do Prospects Still Appreciate Downloadable Content?
Without data, content marketing can feel a bit like a high-stakes game of roulette. However, even though engagement rates are generally down, content marketers can take heart that prospects still appreciate useful and targeted content, including downloadables such as whitepapers, ebooks, checklists, guides, toolkits, SlideShare presentations, and the like.
Because of the large scope of information required to put together a whitepaper, or any report/guide that tries to break down a complex issue, not every company feels compelled to include these downloadables in their content lineup.
But, for people looking for facts, trends, figures, or industry insights, downloadable content is a goldmine of information. Now that you’ve created excellent, unique content that generates interest, it’s time to put your lead generation mechanisms into action. You can do this by gating your content. Gated content simply requires that your prospect offers up a few key details like their name, email address, and location, to name a few in exchange for access to your content. Once you’ve exchanged contact information with your prospect, you’re ready to start nudging that lead along your sales funnel with a nurture campaign.
Downloadable Content is Relevant
Downloadable content comes in different forms and serves different purposes. You can find some of the most common examples below:
As previously mentioned, whitepapers offer in-depth reports and expert insights that typically present a problem and provide a solution. You can use this type of content to promote your brand’s products or services, and even your position on a particular subject. That being said, you should never come off as aggressively salesy. The objective of a well-written whitepaper is to inform, educate, and persuade based on facts and evidence, not to broadcast how great your product is and why they need to buy it now.
Whitepapers can be grouped into three types:
Backgrounders (describe the technical features of a product offering)
Numbered lists (break down important points of a complex concept)
Problem/solution (introduce or recommend a fix for a business issue)
Because readers expect such a high degree of expertise backed by proper research, whitepapers help brands build trust and position themselves as an authority figure in the industry. What sets them apart from eBooks is that they’re far more serious in tone and less flashy.
EBooks are probably the most commonly used content downloadable. For the most part, they’re used to educate customers and to create an open dialogue between your brand and your prospective customers.
You can use eBooks to attract prospects who are searching for specific content. If you’re in the recruitment business, for example, you could create a job search handbook that helps job seekers make the most of their time. By focusing on a topic that represents your brand and is beneficial to your leads, you are in effect enhancing the credibility of your company.
One good thing about this content type is that it’s short and sweet. You can easily put together a spreadsheet with headings or subheadings along with brief copy to list important items or to-do tasks that can guide people in organizing a particular activity or process.
The idea here is to simplify a relatively complex activity and to provide step-by-step instructions to readers who might be relatively new to that particular field of knowledge. If you’re planning to create a checklist, make sure your steps are actionable and keep copy to a minimum.
You can be quite creative about how to craft your guide. Whether it’s in short or long form, be sure to include clear and easy-to-follow tutorials on your chosen subject. Since most guides are instructional in nature, users will expect to get practical value out of your content.
Unlike checklists, guides offer in-depth explanations as to why readers should follow a particular step, which requires far more copy than a simple bullet point in a checklist.
Kits offer related pieces of content in a cohesive package. If you’re trying to come up with a kit for your inbound marketing campaign, you may want to include an interactive presentation, a data and research report, and glossary of important terms—all of which are valuable information pieces for your marketing leads.
These content types are arguably the hardest to produce because they require original research, which can take a significant amount of time to collect and analyze. However, this also makes them all the more appealing to your audience because the same information simply cannot be found anywhere else.
If your team has the capacity to collect and analyze original data, developing a research report is a fantastic way to generate leads and build a name for your brand as an industry expert. A great example of a brand using research reports for content marketing is HubSpot with their State of Inbound Report.
There’s so much potential for value in downloadable content both for you and your prospects. It keeps information flowing, and if your content borders on the exceptional, your social media shares will shoot up too.
If you’ve been wondering whether or not to use downloadable content to help generate leads and build brand trust, you can put that question to rest now. The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.
Maxmize the performance of your downloadable content by implementing landing page optimization best practices. Check out our FREE landing page checklist today!
Tips to Make Leads Easier for Sales Teams to Close
Those of us who’ve had our family dinners rudely interrupted by a sales call know how tiresome cold calls can be. Even the most experienced sales professionals seldom relish the thought of having to pick up a phone to launch into a pitch with a total stranger. No one involved in these transactions enjoys them.
Cold calls are still an integral part of many sales teams. However, they continue to be a source of dread for both callers and callees. This is because these types of prospects have not given any indication that they’re interested in your offer at all. In order to have any success when cold calling, you need to turn these cold leads into warm leads before offering a sales pitch for a product they might not even be qualified for.
We all know that converting a lead into an actual customer is a vital step in the sales process, one that must be conducted with adequate preparation and skill. The process of warming up a cold lead and moving them further along the sales funnel takes commitment and persistence.
Marketing qualified leads make the process to conversion easier by observing key indicators that signify a strong intent to buy. Here are ways to make the process of closing sales more seamless and less frustrating for you:
Create a set of criteria to help you effectively identify your target audience. Take note of their digital footprint and leverage available marketing tools to help you find and reach your ideal prospect.
Call your prospects at their place of business, not during their personal, leisure time. Also, studies have shown that the best days to call are Wednesdays and Thursdays and that the best times to call are in the morning (8am-9am) and in the evening (4pm-6pm).
Stay in Touch
Once you’ve contacted a lead, don’t leave them hanging. They’ll forget about you. Today’s digital landscape has provided marketers with numerous ways to stay in touch with prospects, so make an effort to keep them warm.
Send emails to your target audience, and share content that resonates with them. Consider setting up a content marketing strategy that includes sending regular newsletters, blog posts, and other helpful material that entertains, informs, or inspires.
Be a Credible Source of Knowledge and Useful Information
Everyone knows it’s critical that you’re fluent in the details of your brand’s products or services. But, not everyone remembers to be fluent in their competitor’s offerings as well. Remain up to date on what’s new in your industry and share it with your current customers and prospects so that they come to see you as credible resource they can turn to with any of their industry-related questions.
Potential customers nowadays have the ability to do their own research, so make sure you can adequately answer their questions and provide credible advice.
Be a Solutions Provider, Not a Product Pusher
Don’t force a product or service that’s clearly not right for a prospect. Again, this goes back to qualifying candidates—take the time to learn what their pain points and requirements are. Don’t run the risk of barking up the wrong tree by pressuring someone to buy something they don’t need.
Be upfront about being a good fit, and go a step further by offering good alternatives if your products or services aren’t quite right. You’ll gain their trust and respect in the process, increasing your chances of a future sale.
Use an Effective Template for Follow-up Emails
There are three sections to a well-thought out email. First, it has a catchy subject line that resonates with your readers.
Second, the body of the email concisely demonstrates useful information that connects with your readers. Avoid using this space to write about your company or product, and include links to blog posts, articles, or other reputable sites that offer solutions to common client pain points instead.
And finally, don’t forget to include a call to action to direct them to your site or contact details should they require further assistance.
Let Them Experience Your Product or Service
Offer a free trial so that clients have a better grasp of what it’s like to use your product. Or you can schedule a demo with interested leads at their convenience. After all, there’s no better way to show them how awesome your product is then by letting them use it first. Furthermore, free trials have been proven to reduce the cost per acquisition for new customers.
Do a Timely Follow-up Call with New Warm Leads
Once a prospect has indicated interest, do a timely follow-up call. Remember to refer to your previous conversation or email, and ask questions that engage and interest them.
It’s absolutely critical to respond quickly if you want to improve your chances of converting. Inside Sales conducted a study implying that leads are 6 times more likely to become qualified if contacted within the first hour of expressing interest.
Improve the Sales Process
The process of closing a sale is a lot like running a marathon. Unlike a sprint, it shouldn’t be rushed. You can’t force someone to buy without first going through the necessary steps of targeting and qualifying them based on specific indicators.
There are specific behaviors you must take note of to gauge a prospect’s readiness to convert. Keep these tips in mind and be persistent. Doing so will help increase your sales team’s chances of closing the next time they make a sales call.
Want to know how to close your sales leads like a boss? Check out our FREE whitepaper today!
Content Marketing: An Introduction
Content is indeed King. Various lead generation techniques depend on the production of great content to build relationships with customers and nurture them towards buying your product.
Watch this video to learn more about content marketing and how you can maximize it to generate leads.
Tips for Maximizing Content Syndication Performance
Growing your online audience requires diligence and commitment. You need to stick to your content schedule and publish quality material like clockwork. Though time-consuming, churning out valuable content is a fool-proof way to ensure that your quality score remains high. It also establishes thought-leadership and your position as an industry expert worth paying attention to.
Syndicating your content is one of the many ways to boost your reputation and enhance your visibility. However, a great deal of confusion surrounds this practice. It’s often confused with guest posting, or worse, considered to be plagiarism by those who can’t tell the difference.
Guest posting is about publishing content on one third-party website. Additionally, you’re usually not allowed to re-publish the same content on other sites, including your own. Syndication, on the other hand, is the practice of giving permission to re-publish content from your own site onto a third-party website.
Syndicated content can either be a carbon copy of your content, or it can also mean publishing only a portion of it onto another site. Plagiarism, however, is the practice of copying content without permission or trying to pass it off as your own. Needless to say, plagiarism is a terrible practice and should never be tolerated.
Here are a few tips to help maximize the positive results of content syndication.
Syndicate Your Content for Free
It’s possible to have your content re-published onto a reputable website without having to pay for it. Numerous sites don’t charge anything to repost your content, depending on the industry you belong to. As long as you follow specific guidelines, in most cases, you can easily submit your content to obtain syndication services for free.
Reputable sites typically impose strict quality controls that you must abide by for your content to be published. Others only post content that fits their niche and target audience.
Pay to Have Your Content Syndicated on Popular Sites
Reputable online publishers such as CNN, Entrepreneur.com, and Forbes are usually an extension of their print counterparts or cable TV media giants. Since they are prominent names in the publishing world, these are excellent sites to re-publish your content and amplify your reach and exposure. They also typically charge you for their syndicated services.
The potential to drive traffic and awareness through these sites is enormous. If your content resonates with their readers, you have the opportunity to get exposure from prospective buyers who might otherwise not have heard of you. These readers could potentially become a regular part of your blog readership, and you’d be increasing your thought leadership with readers who have not heard of your brand yet.
Syndicate to Sites with Greater Authority Than Yours
The credibility of the site that links to yours has the potential to give a positive boost to your site’s rankings. This is why you should see to it that you target only the best sites in your niche that Google recognizes as having actual authority. That website’s good reputation will help boost your own site’s authority and help increase your search rankings.
This borrowed authority will contribute to improving your SEO, get more people to see your content, and attract a new source of readers to your own site. The more you come up with quality syndicated content that new readers can resonate with, the more it amplifies your exposure, attracting new audiences, building authority and fostering brand trust.
Keep in mind though, when you’re syndicating content on high authority sites, the quality of your content has to match their potentially high standards.
Select Relevant Content for Syndication
It bears repeating that the content you submit for syndication must match the interests of that website’s audience. So take the time to find out what topics and types of content will truly resonate with the readers that you’re trying to target.
You’re building your reputation with a site that most likely has a higher authority than yours (if you’re doing it right), so you should put your top content forward and syndicate the best you have to offer.
Don’t Let Search Engines Confuse Your Syndicated Content with Duplicate Content
If you’re not careful, you might make the mistake of creating duplicate content when trying to get your posts syndicated. You should know that search engines penalize websites for having content that isn’t unique and original, so take every precaution to prevent that from happening.
There are three common ways to ensure that your republished work is not regarded as duplicate content:
Placing the “rel=canonical” tag on your syndicated content will ensure that it points back to the original post located on your website and attributes all associated authority to the source. This tag tells search engines that you are the original publisher and that the syndicated content is just a copy.
Using the “noindex” tag on the syndicated copy tells the search engines that the republished content should be kept out of the directory and that automated bots should avoid indexing the page.
Direct Attribution Link:
A third option is to get a link back from the syndicated copy directly to the original content on your website. Note that the link should point to the actual article and not just your home page.
Before You Go
If you publish quality content on a consistent basis, don’t let it go to waste by not sharing it through syndication. It is one of the best ways to increase your brand’s online visibility and enhance your reputation. You can opt to syndicate while maintaining a good balance with original content and including curated posts in the mix to sustain engagement and keep visitors interested.
If you’re just starting out, a more aggressive approach might be advantageous so you should take every opportunity for content syndication, targeting high authority sites as much as possible. If you already have a more established reputation, then you can afford to be more selective about where you’ll be republishing your content.
Kick-start your content syndication efforts with our FREE whitepaper!
Generating Leads With Responsive Content
The essence of content marketing is adaptation. Yes, there are tried and true techniques to stand by, but when new strategies come along that bring results, it’s time to change your approach. Responsive content is one of those signposts, and it’s a wise company that climbs aboard this trend.
Responsive content plays a crucial role in lead generation, as this type of content interacts with the audience, instead of passively presenting information. Responsive content can come in many different forms, and they all share something in common—a reliance on multimedia (e.g. text, video, audio, quizzes, and even RPG) to pique the curiosity of their audience.
Gone are the days when content was purely comprised of words. With the rise of smartphones and tablets as the primary tools for viewing content, not all audiences have the patience to scroll through an essay-sized article.
Here are six kinds of responsive content that can generate leads for your company.
Quizzes actively encourage your audience to both read and participate with your content. Treat it as a “getting to know your clients” activity.
A 5 to 10-item quiz can be completed in minutes, and though some of your prospects might not complete the quiz, you still gain some information about them and keep them around for longer.
Quizzes are highly shareable through social media platforms, and if your prospect is happy about the results, chances are he or she will tell their friends about it. Quiz results and links are far more likely to be shared and engaged with than something like a downloadable PDF file.
Like quizzes, assessments are fun ways to get to know your prospects too. However, the difference here is that an assessment evaluates your clients’ skills and knowledge in a particular area.
Buzzfeed uses a lot of these assessments. You can recognize them by their quirky titles and whimsical topics, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll notice that a lot of information is conveyed in this type of engagement. For example, a cosmetics company can create an assessment that matches a person’s personality with certain accessories or cosmetics, potentially uncovering a treasure trove of data about their existing and prospective customers personalities and buying habits.
Just a few simple questions are often enough to learn what your prospects prefer and what their behaviors and motivations are. Surveys provide you with feedback and insight, which can all too often be lost in traditional content marketing.
You can use surveys to improve your product or service, or learn more about your target market.
Calculators help your prospects determine their return on investment (ROI) should they invest in your product. They can also calculate the costs of poor ad performance or the cost of computer downtime.
Essentially, online calculators can be made to calculate just about anything. The aim is to make the data they serve up compelling so that visitors are motivated to use them and then act on that information.
Contests are a clear winner when it comes to responsive content. People love the challenge and novelty of contests, whether they make use of videos, taglines, selfies, or raffles.
Contests make audiences more creative, and all that creativity is used to promote your brand. For example, you can hold a contest where users post suggested taglines on Facebook for a chance to win a gift card or other branded swag. You may come across some phenomenal taglines, but you’ll also drum up phenomenal engagement if the prizes are big enough.
Infographics are a great way to spread the word about your product. Infographics and other visual content are shared far more on social media than articles or whitepapers. You can balance information with thought-provoking questions, highly engaging charts, and images, and results to relay knowledge about your field and ultimately, to help your audience decide which product to buy.
Not convinced yet?
Here are some other reasons to consider adding responsive content to your content marketing efforts
Layering different types of media within a piece of content is more intriguing to readers than a simple document with no graphics at all. Times have changed, and audiences prefer content that communicates with them on multiple levels.
Responsive content keeps prospects engaged with your brand. This type of content draws your prospects into a relationship as the more time they spend with your brand, the more attached they feel toward it.
Responsive content can be shared and viewed on different platforms and can reach thousands of prospects in real-time. Technological advances have made it more accessible and interactive than ever before.
Flexibility and Freedom
You have a lot of options when it comes to using responsive content to generate leads. You can add a survey and pair it with infographic material. You can merge contests and surveys. You can use calculators to make your assessments more fun and realistic. The combinations are endless.
Clear and Direct Message
Responsive content tells your prospects what you can do for them, without the need to read lengthy eBooks or white papers. Think about it as informing people about your brand and your products without telling them directly or coming off as too promotional because you’re offering something of value.
Responsive Content is the Future
Responsive content allows information to go back and forth between your sales team and your prospects. It can help you generate quality leads and keep them highly engaged with your brand. The modern era of marketing and lead generation demands that brands develop new and innovative ways to engage and interact with their audiences. Responsive content is a prime example of innovative content that drives audience engagement.
About three years ago, we realized that it was time to spin the B2B tech and business side of our firm out into its own company – and that’s when PureB2B was born. During the past three years, the amount that’s changed in the online demand gen space is remarkable. The market continues to shift and change at an incredible speed. At the heart of the change, the move from marketing based on past behavior, to data-driven marketing based on current information, needs and consumption is transforming the way that technology companies are able to reach prospects that are in-market for technology products. It is so fun to be in the middle of this transition – watching our customers accelerate their sales processes, building products to help buyers and sellers come together more effectively and efficiently, and learning new things every day about data, intent and how behavior today can predict buying in the future.
But in the midst of all this incredible change, what had not changed was the PureB2B website. Until now.
Today I’m excited to announce that we’ve launched a new Website at www.PureB2B.com to showcase the various ways that PureB2B can help technology sellers reach in-market technology buyers. If you’re looking to reach an IT or B2B audience – we have a solution for you.
Our MQL product line offers ways to generate more highly qualified leads and drive immediate ROI.
The GuidesFor site network reaches in-market tech buyers in a targeted content environment, providing a full-funnel solution that helps sponsors identify prospects that are ready to buy their solutions.
Our Account Based Marketing (ABM)solutions provide a direct way to reach a specific list of companies that you KNOW should be buying your products – with better alignment between sales and marketing.
If all this solution information is too much and you’re still in the “learning about demand generation” phase, check out the PureB2B blog. We also have a wide range of additional resources, including white papers, videos and a great place to “meet” a few folks from our amazing team.
I hope you find the site useful, easy to navigate and informative. And as always, I’d love to hear from you – if there is a question you have, feedback you want to share, or success stories to contribute – please reach out to us anytime.
Thanks for the part you play in making PureB2B the amazing success it is today.
Melissa Chang President & CEO
ABS: Always Be Storytelling
You’ve heard it before.
Always. Be. Selling.
It’s the great sales acronym of the age. We at PureB2B would beg to differ. For us, the acronym is still ABS, but here we’re trying to change its meaning.
Now it stands for Always. Be. Storytelling.
Storytelling in sales and marketing is nothing new, but the need to put it at the heart of your efforts has never been more apparent. There is more data, more charts, more graphs, more arguments and fact sheets circulating the Internet than ever before and that number is rocketing higher at a depressing rate.
So the question facing you now is not how can I create content?
It is now, if I create content will anyone even see it?
No, seriously, if you create content that everyone else has made over and over again then no one will ever see it. The truth is that fact sheets, product descriptions, vendor checklists, demos and hyperbolic statements might have their place, but in order to woo customers, companies will ultimately have to come to rely on story.
We know you’ve heard it all before, content marketing has absolutely taken over the entire Internet and content marketing informs us all ad nauseum that telling stories is a good thing. This is true. The one thing that many people aren’t talking about is how to tell those stories well.
Story is hard. Story is complicated. Story is messy. Great stories are not something that can be undertaken lightly.
So how do you tell a compelling story?
In Hollywood, when anyone sits down to write a screenplay, they ask three simple questions. Who is my hero? What does she want? What is keeping her from getting it?
In three acts, the protagonist goes from zero to hero and audiences everywhere thrill to see her act, grow and change over time. They identify with her weaknesses and aspire to her strengths. The audience invests in the hero and if the story is good enough, they are completely swept away. They grow and learn with the hero and in a really great film, come away changed.
So how is this accomplished?
In a word: structure.
The story may (or many not) feel very organic, one scene flowing into another, but underneath all the dialogue, moving moments, action hits and plot points there is an ironclad structure undergirding the entire story.
The legendary Billy Wilder describes structure as being very simple.
In the first act, you get your hero stuck in a tree. The first act describes the setting. It sets the tone for the rest of the story and introduces the world and the characters. (Set the scene. This is before the problems start).
In the second act, it starts to rain. The tree catches on fire due to the sudden lightning storm and then someone starts to throw rocks at your hero. (You engage your problem and escalate the conflict).
In act three, you get your hero down from the tree. (You solve the problem and the hero rides off into the sunset).
So who is your hero? Believe it or not, your hero is your customer, not you. What does your customer want? And how can you help them achieve it?
Simple, right? Well, sort of. Take a look at any recent Hollywood flop and you’ll realize that getting the story right is harder than it looks. So, if Hollywood, those masters of storytelling can’t always get it right, what does that mean for we mere mortals?
Don’t worry; we’re all better storytellers than we think.
Story is all around us. We tell ourselves a story to get ourselves out of bed. We tell ourselves stories as we nervously walk up to the restaurant for our blind date. We tell ourselves stories as we tuck our children into their beds for the night. What will their future hold?
We tell ourselves these stories.
The same is true in business. When we consider a new product or partner we are always seeking, testing, evaluating and matching up our stories to theirs. Are we a good fit? Can this product truly help me? Will they answer my calls if I have a problem? How will this affect my company in the long run?
We tell ourselves these stories.
Customers are the heroes of their own story. They have a problem and they’re seeking a way to overcome it. This is where your product, your content and most of all, your story comes in. You need to take a step back from framing your content as the hero and recast it as the plucky best friend. Your goal must be to insert your brand into your customer’s story as a supporting character, willing to do anything to help them overcome any and all obstacles or antagonists that come against them.
You must find a way to insert this supporting act sub-plot into whatever kind of content you’re creating. Not only that, but you can use the fantastic tools available to you through our brave new digital world and get social, start blogging, hop on Instagram and Facebook and start telling people the story of your brand.
But, you might say, my brand is boring. We’re a business-to-business company; we have no story to tell.
Not so, my friend.
Tell people where you’re coming from and where you’re going. Tell the story of an average day in the office. Tell stories about your employees. Tell stories about your customers. Allow your employees to tell their own wacky stories. (Wistia is especially good at doing this with their Non Sequitur Fridays series written by employees from all levels of the company). Share your triumphs as well as your failures. Be genuinely genuine. In other words, be awesome.
Tell your story.
Story is powerful. It is one of the only mediums that can break down our very human resistance to change. A story can change a mind when even data fails to make an impact.
So the next time you sit down to write your next twitter post, fact sheet or Instagram caption, remember to stop and ask, “What kind of story am I telling here? Does it fit into our larger goal? What act does this fall in? Did I leave the oven on this morning?” Oh, wait… maybe that’s just us…
Here at PureB2B we’re working on a Triple H operational theory; we strive to be human, helpful and humorous in all of our interactions. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.