We all know stories are powerful. They not only engage the audience but help them remember more. That’s why storytelling is so critical to your B2B content. Telling stories rather than simply producing content, can set you apart. So, how do you tell better stories in B2B marketing? It starts by having a proven B2B content framework that maps to the pillars of good storytelling.
A content framework is a repeatable process that helps you define the core elements of each piece to ensure consistent, quality content. The completed framework acts as the brief for all those involved in the project by not only setting a clear direction, but also providing answers to key questions in one spot.
A content framework is a repeatable process that helps you define the core elements of each piece to ensure consistent, quality content.
Before we look at the B2B content framework, let’s explore the pillars of storytelling as we need to ensure our framework is built on a solid foundation.
What makes a good story?
There are many different approaches to storytelling, and opinions on what makes a great story vary widely. Some say you need 3Cs (conflict, characters, conflict); some say you need 3Ps (people, passion, purpose). The take that’s always stuck with me comes from The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You by Contently co-founder Shane Snow and former VP Marketing Joe Lazauskus. They define four pillars underlying all great stories:
- Relatability: We latch onto stories that connect to something in our lives.
- Tension: Whether it comes from direct conflict or curiosity, something compels us to want to find out what happens.
- Novelty: We pay attention to what’s new.
- Fluency: We ‘stay tuned’ when every piece of the story flows into the next.
So how can a B2B content framework ensure we build in these pillars of great storytelling for better B2B content? It starts by answering four questions.
The four ‘magic’ questions behind an
effective B2B content framework
The answers to these questions will help you be confident you’ve incorporated the pillars that make a story great:
Who is your target audience?
While it may seem obvious to say you need to be crystal clear about who you’re developing content for, many marketers assume it’s implicitly understood and more than a few, when pressed, really don’t know. But it’s hard to be relatable without being sure of who you’re trying to relate to. The more specific you can be — not only about personas but also about which vertical markets they’re in — and the better you know them, the more meaningful and engaging your content will be.
What’s the angle?
An angle is the unique slant a story takes. It’s not your topic, it’s the way you come at the topic. Say you’re promoting a new kind of mug that self-heats liquids. One angle could be about how this novel invention makes microwave ovens obsolete. Another might hang the whole story on the convenience factor, or quality of life. The angle you pick determines how the story flows and what gets emphasized most strongly. It should be articulated clearly in the lede and create some tension, making readers want to know more.
What’s your unique PoV?
Even a clearly defined story angle will not get you far if your audience has heard it before. You also need to make sure it’s rooted in a unique point of view (PoV) — and convince your audience that you’re credibly positioned to tell it. Being fresh, different or controversial are all ways to increase the novelty of your story. Once you have your angle, look closely and make sure you can say what is unique about the story you are telling.
How does it connect to your broader corporate messaging?
A strong angle and unique PoV delivered in a story tailored to a specific audience will make your B2B content engaging, but it can’t stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of your content and brand. You don’t want the audience feeling like the material came from a different planet. Connecting to your broader corporate messaging and themes gives the story a fluency that will help ground the reader in what you are saying — and more trusting of it.
Some people object that pre-defining story elements is restrictive because as you do research and interview experts, things may change. You do need to be flexible and willing to adapt, but if you don’t start out with clear direction for your B2B content, you risk getting lost along the way.
…if you don’t start out with clear direction for your B2B content, you risk getting lost along the way.
Three critical details not to miss in your B2B content framework
Answering the four questions above gives you a solid foundation for developing effective B2B content. But there are three more critical details to iron out before you’re ready to proceed.
First and foremost, you need to set a clear goal for each piece of content and measure against it. I talked a lot about this in my previous post. Establish the goal up front and revisit it throughout the content creation process to know you’re on track. Being clear about what you want to achieve will actually help you answer the questions about audience, angle, PoV and linkages to your broader corporate messaging.
Second is defining keywords at the outset. This often gets left to the end, enlisting an SEO expert to optimize web pages, blogs and videos after they’ve been developed. But choosing keywords strategically before you start writing and building your content around them integrates them more effectively and ensures they’re relevant to what you want to say, not just how they’re ranked by search engines. Choose keywords you want to be found for, not just how the pages rank.
The last detail to address is content format. This is often where people start — “We want to create five blogs on Topic X…” — but in fact it should come later in the planning process, once you know the story you have to tell, because then you’re in a better place to choose the format that will best bring that story to life. Will video have the most impact? Will an infographic make complex data easier to digest? It’s like planning a move. Sometimes you need a big truck, sometimes all you need is a cargo van — but you can’t pick the right vehicle until you know what you’re trying to deliver.
The right B2B content framework will deliver results
Making sure your stories align with the four pillars of great storytelling and fit within a well-defined content framework lets you pursue your B2B marketing goals with confidence. If you are struggling with telling better, more authentic stories, check out the B2B Content Survival Guide we recently developed at Zinc Marketing. And if you want to talk about your challenges, we are here to help.
Making sure your stories align with the four pillars of great storytelling and fit within a well-defined content framework lets you pursue your B2B marketing goals with confidence.
Download the B2B Content Survival Guide.
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