The importance of finding the human story in B2B


The importance of finding the human story in B2B

June 2021
Open book on a table with characters and features jumping out of the pages

The B2C world has long been successful at telling human stories. 

As humans, we need stories. In fact, we’re hardwired to latch onto the emotional aspect of every story we’re told, and from there, make decisions. 

Of course, the power of human-to-human storytelling has long been recognised and harnessed in B2C, where many brands have mastered the art of humanisation by using language and imagery that resonates on an emotional level with their target audience. But we could argue that B2B brands have been slow to catch up, despite them being the same but simply writing for different audiences. 

A more human approach is increasingly important in B2B, especially if brands are to achieve authenticity and build trust. Speaking with an authentic voice is critical to the success of B2B marketing - brands can only provide real value to the people they are trying to reach if they first analyse them properly, understand what affects their daily lives, and speak directly to them using relatable words. 

People connect with people, and people buy from people

This familiar statement expresses what we already know, and yet its truth is often forgotten in the push to sell the next software solution or smart packaging system through a haze of technical jargon. Turning even the driest, inaccessible B2B subject into a compelling, must-read narrative is achievable when glimpsed through a humanised lens. 

Human interest stories can boost the selling power of any B2B brand because they demonstrate that you’re not just a machine churning out information for the sake of it and aiming it in the general direction of a vaguely-interested audience that hasn’t even asked for it. 

We tend to be more receptive to things we can relate and connect to, and this is true if you’re a teenage consumer browsing Instagram for an ecologically-sound cosmetic product or a key influencer with expensive purchasing decisions to make looking for value in a 10-page, jargon-heavy whitepaper.  

Regardless of whether it’s B2B and B2C, it’s still a human talking to another human, or a human selling to another human. We still make purchases for emotional reasons and prefer to engage with a story when we’re being sold to – consider how much the average consumer relies on reviews on a platform like Amazon.  It’s simply easier to catch the attention of another human being and gain their trust if you tell them a good story. 

Moving past the features-focused B2B jargon

As copywriters, we are taught that the target prospect (or customer, consumer or persona) is the most important person in the stories a brand tells. You’re always writing for and to them, and their pain point or problem is your focus. It is then the copywriter’s job to position the problem as the solution and prove the value of your solution above others. 

B2B brands can stumble in finding and telling the human story if they focus too much on the features of a new product over its unique, deeper benefits. This can be easy to do if a brand fails to understand the wants and needs of its prospect or potential buyer. It’s important that any copy or material released by the brand is written by someone who understands this. Don’t task the Product Lead with sketching out marketing copy for waiting journalists or potential buyers as they are likely to focus on the impressive array of features that power the product as opposed to positioning it as a solution.

Instead, get to know your prospect, as this is necessary to finding the human story in what you’re selling, then gather the information you need about your prospect to be able to connect with them on an emotional level through your storytelling, and position your product as a solution to their problem. 

A storytelling book for beginners with paper and pen on a table

Always ask, ‘so what?’

We’re still in copywriter territory here. 

To fully connect with your prospect, a copywriter has to know who they are writing to so they can use the same language. This is where tone of voice is important, but the aim is to tell a powerful story by dramatising the product’s core benefit for the prospect. In discovering the core benefit, the copywriter must get as much information as possible about the prospect (persona) and the product itself.

For a copywriter to be able to find the story they need to talk to the creator of the product to find out why and how it was created.

When putting questions to the product creator/s, the copywriter should take the ‘so what’ approach. A product developer is likely to reel off a list of the product’s features, i.e. what it contains, its make-up. But to tell a story that will resonate with your audience, you need to know what the product does (benefits).

To get to the heart of this, to uncover the product’s USP and be able to demonstrate to the prospect what’s in it for them, it’s likely you’ll need to repeat the line ‘so what’ a handful of times to discover its USP. 

Set the scene using a human situation story the prospect can relate to based on your persona and product research. Make sure you know what the problem is and how the product is the solution. Position the prospect as the hero of that story, then demonstrate how they can overcome their problem or resolve their dilemma through use of the product. How could the product transform their life for the better? This question is just as important in B2B as it is in B2C. 

The copy should not be ‘salesy’, however. It should simply motivate the prospect to discover more, remain engaged or make contact. This is what content marketing aims to achieve. 

Tell the best stories, and the sales will surely follow

B2B brands have not always found a need to connect with their audience on a human level, as they support other businesses who then support customers. But the digital landscape has changed all that. Now it is essential B2B brands have a voice, an identity, and a story to tell. They also need to know who their audience is and use stories to connect with them. 

In B2B, it is still human to human. Make your audience a part of your brand story using case studies and human subjects in your imagery. Discover what matters to them so you know what will resonate and how they like to receive information so you can package that information in a digestible, appealing way. 

Know your audience, tell compelling stories, and the sales will follow. 

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