Opinions, best practices and research into B2B marketing strategy and practices

The role of storytelling in Three Voices™ strategies

In a conversation two days ago with social media veteran Jomar Reyes, one of the people who inspired us to write The Death of Propaganda, he spoke enthusiastically about the role of storytelling in B2B marketing and communication—and emphasized that, in his view, storytelling was a key component of any Three Voices™ strategy.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the concept of storytelling as it is told by advertising agencies and consultants to corporations. Too often, it is used to describe slightly more engaging ways of communicating corporate information, something companies should be seeking to do anyway without having to re-label their activities as though some element of Disney magic is now involved. In my view, storytelling is not a new discipline for corporate marketers or a new category of activities (this stuff is storytelling, this other stuff isn’t). That’s because essentially, everything is a story or part of story. We understand the world around us by forming our own stories about what things are, what’s going on, what may happen. And we use stories every time we communicate anything at all to anyone else. So we all tell stories every minute of our day (and in our dreams, too, of course). The degree to which such stories are able to change the mindsets and/or behaviors of others is the real issue for marketers and communicators—and this is where “storytelling power” becomes highly relevant.

In a Three Voices™ context, storytelling power is strongly correlated with the principles of thought leadership, credibility and customer advocacy. Thought leadership (as evidenced by many great thinkers in history) tells an important story about your company and the industry that has the power to gather followers and which puts people in the right frame of mind to place you on their default short list. Credibility is one of the magic ingredients of a good storyteller: you are much more likely to believe in and be motivated by a story told by someone whom you perceive to be highly credible. I always laugh when I read the writings of some populist preacher or life coach that opens with something like “An old sailor once told me…” as if a man who has spent most of his life sitting on a boat out at sea, most likely with little education and awash with alcohol when on land, is an appropriate guide as we all attempt to navigate the complexities of modern life. But people swallow such lines hook, bait and sinker. But I digress.

The third principle I mentioned was customer advocacy. For me, B2B storytelling power also has a lot to do with the way in which you help buyers to develop and polish their own stories about which solution is going to be best for their needs. Become a trusted guide on the journey they are taking, tell them what’s important and enable them to gather the parts of their story in the style, depth and media that suits them best.

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Jonathan Winch

I’m Jonathan Winch, partner at cylindr BBN and a B2B marketing enthusiast. I've participated as a strategic and creative resource in the marketing and communication sphere for over 25 years, making contributions to the strategies and communications of companies of all sizes, the best known of which include Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Danisco, GN ReSound, Hempel, Nokia Siemens Networks, LEGO, Coloplast, and Johnson & Johnson. My mission? To help B2B companies make the most of the value they create for the world. My hobby: Nutritional science, particularly sports nutrition.

One Response to The role of storytelling in Three Voices™ strategies

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