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Storytelling for the Sale: Developing a Better Content Strategy Across the Buying Journey

Melody Selby
August 17, 2023 7 MIN Blog

The days of schmoozing potential buyers with lavish lunches and cold calls are behind us. Instead, the new era of effective customer engagement is being ushered in by the power of content and storytelling.

According to Gartner, sales reps only have a mere 5% of a decision-maker’s time during their B2B buying journey. With about 95% of self-guided solution research done by buyers online, how can marketers ensure that these buyers are armed with all the information needed to make an informed decision? The answer lies in stronger storytelling and a more personalized experience delivered through an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy. 

Why Marketers Need Stronger Storytelling 

Buying groups are more discerning and seek partners that can genuinely solve their business problems. And they’re not afraid to cut ties if they don’t feel recognized. In their State of the Connected Customer Report, Salesforce found that personalization is so important that 52% of customers may switch brands if their current solution doesn’t personalize communications to their needs.  

At its core, stronger storytelling more clearly explains the value of a solution through content and messaging that speaks directly to the buying group’s needs. When done well, it has a unique ability to evoke emotions and increase engagement, building trust and relatability with buyers.  

Storytelling also sets a brand apart in a crowded B2B market where every company sounds the same. While features and specifications may be similar, these stories create a unique identity and emotional connection with a target audience. Marketers create that differentiation through more personalized stories that highlight brand values, company culture, or the positive impact of solutions.  

Let’s now delve into the practical application of storytelling at each stage of the buying journey for accounts showing purchase intent. 

Navigating the Buying Journey: Storytelling Stage by Stage 

The process of guiding a prospect towards a purchasing decision involves a carefully orchestrated narrative that aligns with distinct stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Each stage demands a different focus, demanding a tailored storytelling approach.  

Awareness Stage 

At the awareness stage, the marketer’s goal is to capture attention and introduce a relevant problem or need. B2B solutions and services can be complex, making it challenging to convey their value to a potential problem while being unique in execution. Here, storytelling provides a powerful tool to simplify complex concepts and make them more accessible.  

 Use narratives, metaphors, and examples to break down complex information into relatable and understandable stories that resonate with buyers. Content should underscore pain points, delve into challenges, and communicate the worth of solving these issues instead of doing nothing.  

 Thoughtfully curated content types such as blog posts, infographics, explainer videos, and thought leadership articles aid in simplifying complexities while sparking curiosity and engagement. 

Consideration Stage 

Building upon the foundation set during the Awareness stage, the Consideration stage shifts the focus to educating prospects about viable solutions to maintaining engagement by offering competitive differentiators and the unique value proposition of a solution.  

Customer success stories are a compelling form of storytelling in B2B marketing. Sharing real-life examples of how a service or solution helped others overcome challenges and achieve success can be highly influential because it allows buyers to wear other shoes. These stories demonstrate the practical value and ROI of offerings, providing social proof and influencing potential buyers in their decision-making process.  

Marketers should leverage these customer stories, whitepapers, webinars, and expert interviews to delve into product attributes and demonstrate how their solution addresses specific problems. 

Decision Stage 

Armed with information and research, prospects are ready to narrow down their list of options and make a choice on which solution they want to invest in. Content in this stage should highlight the distinct value of a product or service and address any potential objections.  

 Formats such as product demos, customer testimonials, free trials, ROI calculators, and personalized proposals help guide the final decision-making process. 

 Telling a better story throughout the buyer’s journey involves strategic alignment and tailoring content to specific stages. As buyers progress, storytelling becomes more than words; it becomes a journey connecting the brand with the prospect, guiding them toward an informed and confident decision. By adhering to these principles and embracing the dynamics of storytelling through ABM, marketers unlock the potential for more profound customer connections, enriched engagement, and ultimately, greater sales success. 

4 Tips for Crafting the Best Story 

Navigating the buyer’s journey with a purposeful content strategy that tells a better story through ABM requires more than guesswork. It requires aligning key practices that keep marketers pacing with what buyers need. Here are four tips marketers should regularly practice to keep their storytelling relevant. 

1. Know the Target Audience and Personalize the Content

Knowing a target audience is key to ABM and helps tell a stronger story. Use data to take the guesswork out of targeting and lead with purpose and intent. While first-party data provides key insights and characteristics of target accounts, marketers also need access to historical performance, technographic, and intent data to create a clearer picture of the accounts demonstrating the highest propensity to purchase. Use this intelligence to create detailed buyer personas that encompass the specific pain points and needs to guide the content strategy and story. 

Increase conversion rates by choosing content and messaging that uniquely meets each buying committee member with the information they need. Marketers who take a customer-first approach to matching content to a buyer’s mindset through data insights see more engagement and balanced brand building for long-term revenue growth.

2. Embrace Multi-Channel Engagement

Activate a multi-channel ABM strategy that surrounds buyers with personalized content and messaging where they spend the most time, not just on one channel. A true multi-channel approach ensures that a brand is where buyers are to help build brand awareness and capture opportunities to educate and inform their purchase decision. With Gartner research revealing the average software buyer spends just two minutes on a seller’s website but spends hours a day online, a full-funnel, multi-channel ABM approach builds the trust necessary to ensure a solution stays top-of-mind. 

3. Align with Sales Teams and Optimize Often

Success in ABM hinges on seamless collaboration with sales teams. Marketers aligning with their front-line colleagues gain invaluable insights into last-mile objections, customer preferences, and values that resonate with potential buyers. This alignment helps craft narratives that address specific pain points and objections, fostering a more persuasive and effective storytelling approach.  

Optimizing the ABM strategy is crucial in maximizing campaign impact. Uncovering each account’s most effective channels, content, and advertising makes it easier to determine optimization opportunities faster. Watch engagement metrics like impressions, open rates, site visits, and downloads to understand how buyers respond to the story. Other performance data like pipeline volume, value, and velocity tell marketers how campaigns affect the sales pipeline.  

Marketers taking a data-driven approach to campaign optimization generate more revenue from target accounts, improve the ROI of marketing efforts, and increase win rates through more relevant and personalized marketing. 

4. Stay Relevant and Embrace Innovation

In a rapidly evolving market landscape, staying relevant and compelling is key to standing out and pivoting a strategy when outside influences demand it. Marketers keeping a vigilant eye on their space regularly engage with industry analysts to understand marketing trends, competitor standings, and factors that impact a brand’s positioning.  

Embracing innovation in content creation and exploring latest content types and formats becomes instrumental in capturing and maintaining the audience’s attention amid the sea of information. Storytelling isn’t confined to a single medium or method. By experimenting with a mix of content formats and types, marketers create a multi-dimensional narrative that speaks directly to an audience’s needs and preferences, forging a stronger and more relatable connection throughout their buying journey. 

Stand Out with a Stronger Story 

Winning over customers and preparing them for a sales conversation is more than just ads and content pieces. Marketers need to think through the buyer’s journey and create more personalized storytelling to stand out from the competition and resonate with prospects. Stronger storytelling helps marketers accelerate deal conversations and foster lasting buyer relationships.