Want to hear bad B2B storytelling? Go to a networking event. At nearly every one, there’s that guy or woman who will start talking about their business, and give you every rosy detail about what they do, how they do it and how successful they are. And you are so bored to tears you can’t wait to make an excuse to get another drink or use the restroom to escape. How could anyone be so self-centered and dull, you wonder? Yet that’s exactly how most tech businesses talk to prospects – it’s all about their company and their solution. No wonder people find their web sites and marketing so uninteresting. The problem with both your networking acquaintance and your company? Instead of talking about how good things are, they have to start by talking about how BAD things are.
Think about the most successful stories – the top-grossing movies of all time. What do they have in common? Big problems. Long odds to overcome. In Star Wars, it’s a kid and a droid taking on The Empire – the giant Death Star that destroys entire planets. In Titanic, a boy and girl from completely different worlds try to find love on a ship that’s going to sink. In Harry Potter, a kid who lives under the stairs with his neglectful relatives must take on the most powerful evil wizard in the world. What would these stories be without the big problems? What if it was just Luke Skywalker flying all over a peaceful, happy galaxy, meeting nice people everywhere and being welcomed with open arms by everyone. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. That movie never gets made. It was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Not Harry Potter and his Cheery Mates.
Hollywood understands that bad is good. You have to recognize what’s gone wrong, what the challenge is, and what the stakes are if you are going to appreciate it when things get better. The first law of storytelling is: “Show how the world is broken.”
Once the audience understands and feels the problem, once they recognize the consequences of the problem going unaddressed, THEN they are engaged and willing to listen to solutions. But without a clear problem, a solution is largely meaningless. Its achievements feel unimportant and entirely irrelevant to everyone. It’s like jumping into a movie in the final battle sequence. You have no idea who’s fighting, what they’re fighting for, and why it matters. It might look cool, but it has no meaning.
B2B storytelling requires that marketers spend more time discussing the problem, and less time talking about their solution. What issue does your prospect face? How does the issue impact that person? Their organization? What happens if the problem isn’t addressed? Many of our clients tell us that they lose deals more frequently to the status quo than anything else. Why? Because they’ve failed to clearly express the problem in a way that resonates with the client.
The newer the product or category the more crucial articulating the problem is. CRM companies aren’t in the position of having to make a case for the problem their CRM solves nearly as much as, say an AI or Blockchain-based solution. Most businesses understand the value of CRM. AI and Blockchain still elicit lots of head-scratching, and these innovative products can benefit from a deeper dive on how the world is broken without them. And while Salesforce may not have to focus on problems as much as the AI startup, any challenger in CRM space better be able to express why the world needs something other than Salesforce. If there’s already an established solution, there has to be a compelling problem that the entrenched leader isn’t addressing. Better CRM, next-gen CRM, etc. does not solve a problem, and will be received with a yawn, a roll of the eyes, or downright indignation. If it ain’t broke, prospects won’t fix it.
If you don’t know how the world is broken for your target market, you better find out fast. Get to know existing customers, talk to people who would be prospects. Do the research to understand the challenges they face. Find out their pain points and identify unaddressed needs. Understand not only the business challenges they face, but the internal challenges and aspirations they have. What would make their role/position better? How can your solution help them achieve career success – gain more visibility and respect within their organization? When you identify the problem and can talk about it with prospects, they can appreciate what your solution will do for them. And that’s how deals get done.
So stop acting like a networking bore, and start being a true B2B storyteller. Your prospects will listen. Are you able to clearly articulate a problem that prospects understand? Let us know in the comments.