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The Hook Made You Look… Even in B2B

What does the narrative “hook” look like in B2B? About the same as B2C.  

The average human attention span in 2019 is less than 8 seconds.  
That’s a long bull ride, but a really short narrative trip.

When you encounter a prospective client, the same person who privately laughs at memes, cries at inspirational viral videos, and yells at characters on their favorite streaming show now sits at the other end of the conference table from you.

So, how does this inform the way your marketing department introduces a new B2B product, service, and solutions to the people you want to reach? What’s going to jump out at them between the infographics,  blog posts, and white papers? Why should they care?

At Centerline, we like to call it the “Reason To Believe.” And isn’t that what we’re all looking for, in our lives and in our work: a good reason to believe?

When B becomes C.

Lines continue to blur between consumer and business stories. Now more than ever, marketing is all about how businesses can transform the lives of real people.

Far too often, standard operating procedure in content marketing is to boil the ocean in the hopes that you can lure a big fish. But what if instead you just boiled up the essential argument? When we set our sights on an amazing story, that triggers our curiosity and unites our common language of narrative, we have the opportunity to reel in nets and nets of hungry viewers.

So, sure…the fishing metaphor is cheesy when talking about a marketing, “hook.” But that’s where this old showbiz term originated. There are countless fish in the sea and countless customers in the world, and everyone fights for their attention. What are you putting on the line to make sure they choose your brand over someone more attractive? It better be a dynamite story that offers them an unforgettable experience.

The Speed for Need

There’s no time to waste. Up against the scrolling social feed and email onslaught, have you captured attention immediately, and in the most captivating light? Every story, every piece of content should be rooted in helping a client solve their most pressing need. As marketers and storytellers, that’s the core question we constantly ask ourselves: Have we captured the urgency of the underlying problem? Have we earned the audience’s time with the most memorable narrative hook?

A strong hook isn’t the norm in traditional B2B; it’s the exception. And the assumption is that a targeted audience will watch whatever you put in front of them.  But remember, they need their interest piqued and needs met, just as immediately as a consumer off the street.

Most ads and videos flicker by without a second glance. But the ones that hook us move markets, disrupt industries, and inspire people to take meaningful action.

B2B requires a great deal of sophistication and context to convey a specialized solution in a short burst of speed. This motivates us to win their trust from the first frame, and effectively cut to the chase, without wasting a precious moment.

Emotion in Motion

Never forget that a person is biologically wired to respond to stories. We’ve all been guilty of only tapping into the minds of our customers, and ignoring the primal emotions that drive the majority of decisions. But because of our natural inclination to be hooked by stories, this provides an opening to create an emotional response that will lead to intellectual acceptance.

Next time you dissect the consumer entertainment model, you’ll remember an obvious yet forgettable truth: respect for intellect counts, but it’s heart and soul that actually sticks with us. Your clients, and the content they’ll most respond to, follow the same rules.

Rather than follow another lecture of mental gymnastics and irrefutable logic, we can instead appeal to our customers’ sense of humanity — their hopes and fears that drive them to work harder to solve the world’s challenges. Before you can incept a brilliant idea or persuasive argument into the mind of the buyer, you need to speak to their heart.

Once they open their receptors and let down their critical guard, you gain access to their most prime real estate: their emotional brain. This is how our minds recognize, receive, and respond to stimuli and situations, and where marketers and advertisers have the opportunity to influence human behavior. Connect first to a person’s feelings, and their actions will naturally follow.

Action Gains Traction

Before you pitch your next big idea and engage an agency to create a new B2B campaign, here’s some helpful homework. Think of it as a process to find the hook that really…hooks.

  • Observe your viewing habits, preferences, and emotions when you connect to new material as a consumer
  • Pinpoint the central question and dramatic hook that earned your interest
  • Explore the core needs, values, and challenges at the heart of your business offerings
  • Narrate an emotional story about how your customers’ greatest goals will continue to elude them, until they take a bold step in a new direction

The stories in B2B need to transform troubling limitations into a thriving future experience.   Limits are the most valuable ingredients in a story, forcing your heroes and characters to adapt and overcome. The same narrative structure applies to businesses, where challenges and obstacles require new solutions and a wise mentor to navigate through uncharted waters.

Good hooks only succeed when you give customers a reason to believe and a reason to act.  For this approach to work, they must be transported by the journey, and encouraged to go further.  Our job is to tell stories. So make them count.