Today in IndustrialSage Episode 115, we’re going to go over how storytelling gives far more meaning to your marketing content than just product specs.
How do you as a brand, tell your story? Storytelling is huge; and it’s a big, big, big shift that we’ve seen over the last few years; and it’s going to be even bigger in 2020. How are you going to do it, and why do you want to do it? That’s what I’m going to go over in IndustrialSage Episode 115. You don’t want to miss it.
So, storytelling. We’re going to talk about it. So I’m super excited about it because this is a really…it’s a topic that I’m very passionate about. And it’s something you’ve likely been hearing about for a little bit, or a lot, depending on where you are on this. But the idea of using storytelling in your organization, in particular with B2B, is very powerful and you’re seeing a lot of companies doing it. Most importantly, there’s a lot of companies who are not doing it yet. And there’s a big opportunity to be able to do that.
So there’s a couple of reasons on why you want to do that, and then how you do it. But before we get into that, but what is it when you break it down? What is storytelling? Well essentially, using storytelling for your brand, is aligning sort of a narrative with your brand and your product or service, okay? It’s basically taking everything and being able to communicate it through a bit of a story.
Well, why do we want to do that? Well as humans, storytelling is inherent to us. I mean, if you go back to the caveman days and people would sit around the fire and you tell stories, you’d pass that on. And that’s been going on for thousands of, millennia, generations and generations. That’s how we pass on and communicate, and then pass on stories, through storytelling. That’s kind of inherent, right? All right. Why do you want to that as far as in business?
Well if you think about it, if you’ve got some product or service you’re trying to sell. I’m trying to sell a cup, okay? I’m going to grab this cup, right here we go. Here’s my IndustrialSage mug that is empty. Well, there’s a little bit of water, I’ll drink some. Okay, so I’ve got this IndustrialSage mug and, how am I going to be able to tell a story through it to be able to motivate you and get you to buy?
Well, maybe if I can create some purpose around where this cup came from. Well, the amazing thing is, this isn’t even a cup at all. Where this is came from. This is actually from a nonprofit organization where they are raising funds to be able to help underprivileged youth in Africa. And actually where they have created this is actually from the…there’s a special type of clay that is made and they create it and they make these cups to be able to sell so they can raise funds, and they’re also pairing in with creating new clean water initiatives. And that’s really what it is. “Wow, okay!”
So I just created purpose. Maybe this was a horrible example since it was made up, but I just created purpose around this mug and why it’s important to you. There’s a story around it, that me buying this mug has more purpose and more meaning and there’s a connection to it versus a commodity.
And that’s all this is. Right now if you look at it, and if you knew nothing else about it, and you go look and you see all these different mugs, mug, mug, mug, mug, where’s the differentiation? But by creating a story around it, we just created purpose. We created meaning and so now, when you go to buy this, if you were to buy it, you’re going to buy it for not necessarily because “I need something to drink.” But maybe that’s a secondary reason. But you connected with a story. So I believe in that. I like that. This is great. That’s the opportunity for brands to be able to do that.
Now, that was a little bit of a B2C example, but that is from a product standpoint that I kind of wanted to sort of lay that out. Now, how can you do that in B2B? How can a manufacturer do that?
Well, the idea is, it reminds me of a company, of a client that we had several years ago. And I probably can’t mention the name right now, but they were relatively large, they were in the utility space, they were a distributor. Basically, they helped companies to distribute electrical supplies and equipment for…all the way from like lighting, like LED lights to huge equipment for transmission and distribution high voltage and low voltage transmission lines. So you have the big power poles and all that stuff. So they came to us and they said, “Hey, listen, we want to do an identity video,” and they said, “Well, we want a video about what we do and all this great stuff.” And so originally they kind of wanted this story about like, this corporate narrative of, “Well, we are the best since sliced bread,” and we said, “You know what? Let’s go a little bit deeper about who you guys are and what you do.”
So when we kind of pulled back the onion a little bit, we quickly uncovered that well, yes, they are distributors: truck comes in, product comes off, goes into a warehouse then gets put back on to another truck to go to construction site or a lay down yard or what have you. “Yes, okay. Technically that’s what you do. But you do more than that. What’s the story? What do you guys do?” And we uncovered, “Well, you guys are sort of a cog in the wheel. You guys are a team player, to be able to bring power to the world.” “Well, what does that mean?” “Well, you help to power people’s lives. Let’s think about the impact of that!”
So we quickly created this story, this narrative about how this company, this distributor who thought of themselves, “Oh we’re just moving one product over here to a shelf to another truck. And that’s it. We’re just distributors, just distributors.” “No, you guys are a lot more than that. You guys actually play a critical role. Do you understand how critical the electrical grid infrastructure is? That’s massive!” So we created this story, that was all of these lifestyle elements. It was elements of people going to a baseball game, people having dinner on the street sidewalk, in the cafe, kids building a fort inside their house and it’s dark outside and the lights are on. Talking about blackouts and all these different things.
We brought in the purpose and the reason on what they do, not the tactical like “Okay, this is exactly again moving from one truck to the other,” but the sense of what’s the impact of their organization, as to community, as society as a whole. And so when you start doing that, and you start telling me the greater scope and the greater story there, there is a huge lift in the human spirit. And people just come alive.
So actually with them, it’s funny. I’m excited, here’s what I’m doing right now, if you think about it, unpack this. I’m explaining this to you through a story; and it’s probably resonating a little bit better than me being like, “Well, point A and point B and point C.”
Why? Because there’s something about, let me just sit back and cross my arms and listen, and if you can do a good job and paint that picture, and wow, you can draw people in. That’s exactly what happened with this client. We had people that were coming in saying, “Oh my gosh, I’ve worked at this company for years, and now I feel like I can finally explain to my wife and my kids what I do,” or, “I’m super excited to be part of this organization. Well, I didn’t even think about the greater impact. I’m just thinking, I’m collecting a paycheck and helping to move product from point A to point B.” No, you are doing way more than that. That’s the opportunity. That’s why you want to storytell.
So we’ve explained what it is, we’ve explained why you want to do it. I can go a little bit deeper on that. There’s a lot more. It’s very engaging, really, at the end of the day. It’s super engaging, and that’s how people want to buy.
People want to be entertained. They don’t want to be sold to. You tell me the last time that you called up the window salesman– I know I kind of went off on this last time, but you called the window or door salesman who comes in and wants three hours of your time to tell you about why their windows are the most amazing thing in the world. And you have to sit there through the sales pitch. Do you want to do that? Do you have time for that? I don’t think so. I don’t got time for that. Nobody’s got time for that. But how do you… Would you want to learn?..maybe this word is edu-tainment. It’s learning or educating through entertainment, it’s a combination thing: or maybe storytelling, right? We want to learn and buy the way we want to buy, and storytelling is a great way of being able to do that. You will have people’s attention.
I could tell you another story of another B2B client that we had, and how we used the element of storytelling in their sales pitches where they were meeting in front of companies. We did this video instead of doing…they wanted us to do this whiteboard explainer video…and they’d already done four of them, and they just weren’t going well. And so we said, “Listen. We need to unpack this a little bit differently.” Came back, created this whole, way out-there story…but it was a story, and it was talking about their product and their service, and they had quite a lot of what we call “bacon.” You know bacon-wrapping around everything? Maybe this sounds bad, I don’t know, but it’s what I talk about. We say, “How do you give a dog a pill? You wrap up a bunch of bacon around it.” Well, wrap a bunch of bacon around your content, and guess what? You’re going to have some winners.
So this particular client did the same exact thing. We crafted this story that they could use inside sales presentations. And within two weeks, they had a huge success rate and closed $5 million worth of business. I mean, that’s kind of a big deal. And it was directly related to this series of videos, one in particular. And it conveyed their message and it was like, we evoked an emotion, we got an emotional response. Why? Because we’re selling to humans;. we’re selling to other people.
Even though it’s B2B, when you’re selling things and whatever, but you’re selling to people: that’s the key thing, and people engage that way. So I can’t harp on that enough.
So the next thing is, well how do you do it? “Great, now you’ve got me sold Danny. We totally need to do storytelling for 2020. How do we do it?” Well, there’s a couple ways to do it. It’s kind of like if you think about when I was giving this example of the cup here, for example. Think about, for example– (as an organization this is a good branding exercise. Really, if you haven’t done this, but think about…) what does your brand stand for? What do you do? And why do you do it?
It’s Simon Sinek. “You start with why.” And then you can really quickly understand, you’ll be able to unravel it, and you’ve got to think a couple levels above. But maybe it’s like, instead of, “I’m here to make money,” or “We’re here manufacturing chemical products, because whatever,” it’s like, “Well no, maybe actually we’re in this space because we feel that, being able to power your life,” or control… it’s empowering. “We help to empower people’s lives through x, y, z.”
All right, well, let’s focus on the empowering people’s lives piece. That’s what we do. And that is how, that’s that jump, and that connection between our brand, our product and you. And that’s how we’re aligned. So you can, so once you kind of have figured out that story again, think beyond, think of the results, sell the results. It’s just like in sales, right? For us, if we’re doing video or digital whatever, we’re not selling video. We’re not. We’re not selling digital marketing. That’s not what we sell. Do you want to know what we sell? You probably do know what we sell. We’re selling results.
We’re selling growth. We’re selling new business. We had a client who told me, it was kind of a smaller client and we were just talking about just fun hobbies and all this stuff and this guy was like big into boats and he was like, “Oh, there’s this boat, this…” I think it was the Cantius. It was a Cantius boat that’s manufactured up in Michigan or something, and he’s like, “Yeah, really one day, I basically want to retire and be on the Cantius or whatever, and go travel and go do all this stuff.” Like okay, well listen. What we’re selling, these videos are going to help you get to that Cantius. You want to go have that lifestyle, you want to go travel, you want to do, this is going to help you to get there.
Alright, so for you sales people or you’re like, “Yeah, I totally did– I get this. Been there done that…but that goes into our marketing.” Well our sales and marketing should be aligned, right? And so if we can align that…we can align those stories, now we’ve just got to go tell them.
How do you tell them? Well, one area is video. Video is a really great way of being able to do that. How do you do that? Your identity or positioning video, for starters. Who you are, what you do, what you stand for, why you do, is perfect for a video to be able to play that and say, “This is it. So we are not distributors that move product A and B, we help to power people’s lives.” And we show that, that’s one thing.
Another really great area is with your case studies or customer testimonials. Tell their stories, like, tell what they do, that’s super powerful right now. I can tell you there’s a lot of companies who are not doing that. That’s where things are going. Tell your customers’ stories. And I’ll challenge you to tell your customers’ stories and don’t talk about yourself. There’s a lot of companies that are doing a really good job of that– or a couple, right now. I’ll point out, and this was several years ago, and to be honest, I’m not sure if they’re still doing this anymore, but Grainger, I want to point out to you guys. I really loved your Everyday Heroes series.
So if you aren’t familiar with them, they might have stopped actually a couple of years ago, but they were highlighting customers of theirs and just kind of showcasing their business and it had nothing to do with their products. And they had all these stories about, “Oh here’s the boat operator, the ferry operator, here’s the police officer here.” And they literally just kind of, they focused and they were there. They were the everyday heroes and they put the limelight and the focus on them. Okay, that’s super smart.
Several years ago, probably a year and a half ago we had Lowes and Kobalt Tools that came in: same thing. They were doing all of these stories around their customers on how they were using their products, their tools. And it wasn’t like, “Oh, I had to get my, here’s my new calibrated whatever tool and I’m using it.” You saw the tools in there, but it wasn’t like the focus of it and it says this wasn’t a product video about the fact we’re selling it. It was more about the story of, our stories of these people and really cool things they’re doing. They’re doing it with their tools.
That’s what people want to align with and connect with. If you can tap into someone’s heart or someone’s initiatives or goals or just really a deeper meaning and you can align your brand with, that’s when you’re going to have a win because that’s ultimately and people want to, you’re going to be able to grab their interest from there. Now, you may be saying, “Hey listen, B2C versus B2B…” I don’t care. It still works. It still works B2B because again, why? Well, you’re selling to other humans. Okay? So figure out what that is, what is your story? Tell your story. Tell your customer’s story.
Maybe you do case studies. It’s all about, sure how they implemented this solution, but focus on, “Hey here’s customer XYZ. This is where they’re from. They’re from Beaumont. And this is what Beaumont looks like. This is the community there, and this is what they do, and they’re awesome over there. And they had a challenge with this. And we just felt so happy that we were able to help them solve their challenge so we could help them with the mission that they have, and to be able to continue on that,” and it’s just, it’s really good amazing stuff. You can do blog articles, tell stories in blog articles, tell stories in images, use your social to be push that out there.
So anyways those are a couple key ways you should really be thinking about this. And I know a lot of companies kind of struggle with it. Because it’s not like, “Oh we need our content to be for sales. We’ve got to hammer it and it’s got to be super transactional,” and that’s honestly that’s a big mistake. Because, people see through that. People want to be educated, they want to buy for, when they go home, and they’re on their leisure time or they’re on social media, whatever, what are they looking at? Are they looking at over the next sales like or whatever? No they’re looking at entertainment. They’re looking at what’s on Netflix, they’re binging on whatever. So maybe we should go that way. Just a thought.
That’s probably why you’ve been hearing a lot about storytelling and all that good stuff. And I get super excited about it, passionate, I probably went way too long than I was supposed to. But anyways that’s sort of my thoughts today on the power of storytelling and how you can implement it, why you should implement it, and how you should implement it in 2020. It is going to be, if you want to figure out how to differentiate, differentiate that way. That’s a great way of being able to do that.
So anyways, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you have any questions, I can answer them for you. I’d love to do it. You can reach out to me at IndustrialSage.com/questions and I can answer them for you. And I’d be happy to do that. So that’s all I’ve got for you today. Thank you so much for watching and or listening to me rant and ramble. I’m just playing. Now I hope you got some good value out of it. And I will be back next week with another episode of IndustrialSage. Thanks, see you next week.
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