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Why storytelling matters more than ever in 2023

Storytelling often feels like a luxury for B2B marketers, something that’s better left to more experience-focused brands with bigger budgets and more time. But we know that isn’t true.

The B2B buying journey is the perfect use case for telling stories. When the process is long, many people are involved, and differentiation is complicated, a good story can be the difference between a conversion and a bounce.

But in 2023, stories are even more important than they’ve ever been. Devices, channels, and access to information are changing, and research and buying behavior is changing to match. As we think about the growing importance of stories, here are a few reasons why B2B marketers can’t afford to look away this year.

More people are involved in the buying process

B2B buying groups for complex solutions now involve an average of 6-10 stakeholders (Gartner). These stakeholders don’t just need different types of information based on their roles, they also need different formats based on their varied learning styles.

Visual learners typically prefer videos, diagrams, and illustrations. Auditory learners navigate to webinars and podcasts, and kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on demos and self-guided experiences.

While not every marketing budget can support creating this variety, storytelling has aspects that work for all three types of learners. Visual learners benefit from the mental images it brings. Auditory learners benefit from word choice, tone, and other elements of the storyteller’s voice. And kinesthetic learners benefit from the emotion and feeling conveyed by the story.

Technology is making products harder to understand

Technology has advanced at an almost unfathomable rate during our lifetime. While it brings incredible promise and potential, that potential isn’t without friction.

One of the most common pain points cited by B2B buyers, particularly in technical roles, is the burden of staying current on innovations and how they may impact the business. Add to that the fact that not every stakeholder involved in the buying process has a technical background, and it sets up a significant hurdle for B2B marketers to address in order to generate product awareness and demand.

Stories can make it easier for people to understand and remember complex information. They also allow marketers to frame their solutions around example use cases and demonstrate past performance so potential buyers can see how the solution worked in similar situations.

Buyers are getting more info from social media

Social media continues to grow its influence, and it’s changing B2B buying behavior. In 2022, social sites accounted for half of all internet traffic (Tech Jury). But the stat that should really get B2B marketers’ attention is that 84% of B2B executives now use social media as a source for purchasing decisions (Leadspace). But what does that mean for content?

We know attention spans are short on social media – Nielsen says about 2 seconds – but recent testing shows it only takes 0.25 seconds of exposure for people to recall mobile feed content at a statistically significant rate (Fors Marsh Group). And Facebook claims people spend on average 1.7 seconds with mobile content compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop.

In order to engage users on these platforms, content must immediately connect with the user and show relevance. “Flashy” is good for drawing attention, but the message also needs to be immediately consumable within this brief window. 30- and 60-second video spots get a lot of hype, and rightfully so, but they’re no better than a static image if the lead is buried later in the video.

On these channels product features look like white noise. Rich stories package valuable messaging in a more engaging and relatable format that social media visitors expect to find.

Markets are getting more crowded with competitive messaging

The B2B landscape is more competitive than ever. Buyers are presented with an increasing number of options and content explaining those options. As markets get more crowded and more competitive, companies are finding it more difficult to differentiate and build connections with their audience. While the first line of defense is typically a more compelling messaging strategy, storytelling is an often overlooked solution.

Stories have the staying power that brands lack. Even stats fail when compared to the power of stories in generating awareness and recall. Organizational psychologist Peg Neuhauser discovered people are able to recall information more accurately and for much longer when learning through stories compared to learning from facts. And research conducted by psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.

Additionally, Kendall Haven, an internationally recognized expert on the structure and use of story, wrote in his book Story Proof and Story Smart, “Your goal in every communication is to influence your target audience (change their current attitudes, belief, knowledge, and behavior). Information alone rarely changes any of these. Research confirms that well-designed stories ar ethe most effective vehicle for exerting influence.

A looming recession is pushing marketers to do more with less

No one knows what the economy will do, but with a possible recession on the horizon, many companies are looking for ways to reduce spending.

Compelling stories are ripe with opportunities for efficiency. Not only do they have the power to connect with and persuade diverse audiences, their appealing messaging and visuals can be formatted for essentially any engagement channel. Experienced marketers create plans before capturing anything for how they can get more life out of their content through the Capture Once, Publish Everywhere model.

COPE is a content strategy philosophy designed to enable marketers to get to market with more content as efficiently as possible. Begin a content campaign with a hero or anchor asset, then repurpose that hero asset to build derivative assets that can be optimized for different audiences and channels.

Looking for more info on storytelling? Check out this resource we put together on How to Tell a Good Story. It walks through common best practices to ensure your content hits the mark.