What Can The World Cup Teach Us About B2B Storytelling?

Monday, I ran down to HP’s Cupertino cafeteria to grab a quick salad before my next meeting. I was surprised to see the room – normally empty -  packed with the lights dimmed. Normally, this meant an EVP was holding a quarterly update. Instead, the large projector screen was down with the Italy v Paraguay game playing. Without any sound, the room was quiet with the occasional synchronized sound of the “oh’s” and “whoa’s” of an intent audience. As I was getting my grilled chicken, there was the unmistakeable roar of the crowd reacting to a goal.

Alcaraz Header against Italy courtesy of Fifa.org

It was Antolin Alcaraz scoring his studly header against the stunned Italians. The Paraguayan players said they were playing for Salvador Cabanas who had been shot in the head in Mexico City earlier in the year.

Human stories like these stop us in our tracks. They are powerful enough to fill a normally empty cafeteria with people from all cultures. Good B2B marketing – or good marketing for that matter – will have the same stopping power. It’s all about putting it into a context that people will care about. The most tried and true formula is to tell a story.

The 5 Basic Storytelling Elements Applied to B2B Marketing

The Main Character – When you begin laying out a pitch to your customer, you may be tempted to start with an exaggerated problem, then introduce your solution to the problem. Instead, consider developing a character like you would if you were writing a screenplay for a movie. Ideally, this person should have similar qualities to your target audience. If you’re shooting a video, look for someone who looks like your target audience. Good character development will draw your potential customer in and make them care about what you’re about to say.

The Setting – Like the main character, the setting should help establish a connection with your audience. In B2B marketing this can mean choosing an industry and geography most relevant to your customers in which your story unfolds . When I present to customers, I always try to find and memorize a case study from their industry and region to earn their attention. (As I’m writing this, I’m studying about Smart Meters for a utility company presentation tomorrow).

The Plot – Your B2B plot should have a set up, a build up, and a pay off. What crisis does your character have? Was there a breaking point which gave your company an opportunity provide the solution? What were the results of the solution? And how did you help your customer “win” in the end?

The Backstory – In marketing, you need to make your point fast, fast, fast. So, the backstory in B2B marketing can be as simple as the context of your “main character’s” business, such as a big number – NYSE trades 13.3 million contracts traded per day – or a brand of which everyone will know the backstory. This helps set us the importance and drama of your story.

The Detail – This is your opportunity to embellish the story with color – make it more realistic and human. Depending on your marketing deliverable, you may or may not have an opportunity to embellish – but, this is the lowest priority element in B2B marketing.

When you put all these elements together with your B2B value proposition, you’ll have something much more powerful and impactful than 95% of what is produced today.

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3 Responses to “What Can The World Cup Teach Us About B2B Storytelling?”


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