How to Automate Demand for B2B Brands with Storytelling
Every strong business has a sales funnel through which they convert people into customers. Oftentimes, this process is time consuming and can take a whole host of sales reps or an entire business development team. But what if you could save time from having to explain the need for your product or service? What if you could 10X the total amount of potential customers that your marketing speaks to? In this guide, we’ll help you to ‘automate’ your sales funnel with a long-term strategy for converting new leads with effective brand storytelling.
We know it sounds too good to be true, but, we promise that there is nothing dubious here and we’ll explain how effective storytelling can do a lot more than just entertain. With the right story, you can explain the problem, your solution, and why it’s important – all before your customer even (metaphorically) walks in the door. Why branding and not marketing, you may ask. Because branding is the core of what you are selling – it is the vision, the idea, the solution, and most importantly; the future your customer needs. While marketing is how you reach customers, branding is why they stay and keep coming back for more.
Read the Room
It should be obvious that you need to understand your customers on a basic level. Knowing who they are and what they believe is crucial to crafting a targeted story. Imagine telling the same story you told to your friends on a night out with your in-laws. If you don’t know your audience and can’t read the room, your story will fall flat-- and you’ll be left with very awkward family dinners. The same goes for your customers – the people with whom you are building a business relationship with. However, unlike your family which you don’t get to pick, you can choose the types of people that you think will make for great customers. Don’t get too carried away here, there still needs to be a market for your product to sell, but take advantage of the freedom you have in deciding your ideal customer. To reach these people, work on developing detailed ‘personas’. Personas are humanized versions of the ideal customers that you’ll want to reach through your storytelling. As representatives of your target market, you’ll need to understand the emotional motivations for what they care about and what motivates them to act.
Begin With Building Personas
In building a persona, you will want to include basic demographic information-- what is the average age of your customers, their gender, religion, race, etc. All of these social constructs will help you to establish the type of persona with which you want to build a connection with. Keep in mind, companies often need more than one persona to encompass the diversity of their customers. However, too many can leave you trying to cater to too many people and cause you to lose focus. Personas are even stronger when they’re based on real people that you have business relationships with. If you have someone in mind that you like working with or that you think really values the product or service you sell, take it a step further by anticipating the motivations that brought them to you in the first place. What were they looking for and what do they care about that made them a potential customer in the first place?
Once you have developed personas that represent your ideal customers, you now know who you need to target with your storytelling. While branding is the vision and future that you’re creating, marketing is how you’ll reach customers and get your message out. You are going to interact with people who have different needs, information, motivations, and priorities regarding your industry, services, product, solution, and company. You need to meet your customers where they are. This is the sales funnel.
The sales funnel is a metaphorical funnel where potential leads go in the top and, hopefully, get converted into customers at the bottom. However, most companies only go after the potential customers at the bottom of the funnel; at the position in which they are deciding where to buy a product or service from. What many business owners, marketers, and sales people don’t realize is that ‘actively buying’ represents only 3% of total potential customers in their effective market. Granted, customers in this stage are more likely to make a purchase sooner, but if you’re like most businesses, you are missing out on 97% of potential customers.
Enter: Your brand story. Telling an effective brand story can turn this traditional marketing strategy on its head, and bring your brand to the other 97%. In a sales funnel, you have those who are not yet problem aware (60%), those who are problem aware (20%), those who are information gathering (17%), and those who are buying now (3%). At each of these stages, you have the potential to introduce your brand to a customer through your brand story. And you should. The process of moving people through the sales funnel and helping them to go from ‘not problem aware’ to ‘actively buying’ is called demand generation – creating demand for your product or service.
Right now you’re probably thinking: Being able to reach the other 97% of potential customers sounds great, but how? This is where most people get lost and don’t know what to do. Most marketers and business owners have heard of a sales funnel and probably understand what it means, but in practice using a sales funnel for sales enablement can get clunky quickly. Who hasn’t used a CRM or sales software to track where customers are in their pipeline? Sales software definitely still has its place and we don’t think you should ditch your CRM, but what if you could move customers through the sales funnel in a hands-off approach that would let you sit back while customers converted on their own?
Meet Your Customers Where They Are
The key to effective storytelling that can help introduce, educate, and convert new leads is aligning people on a series of core beliefs that will walk them through being introduced to your brand, being educated on what you do, and why the product or service you sell is crucial to the future they might not know they need. We’ll begin by breaking down your brand vision into core beliefs. At each stage of the sales funnel, there is a core idea or belief that your customers need to align with in order to be ready to move to the next stage of the funnel. If the person you’re trying to reach doesn’t recognize they have a problem, they can’t move to the next stage unless they’ve fully bought into whatever core idea will help them to recognize this problem.
Automation Through Storytelling
Storytelling helps us to ‘automate’ the process of aligning leads on these beliefs due to the chronological nature of narratives. If the story you tell is compelling, your audience will be hooked on following where it leads. Think of the last time a sales rep tried to sell you something. Maybe they cold-called you and tried to sell you on car insurance. But all you wanted to do was hang up because you don’t even have a car. You’ll never sell something if the customer doesn’t think they have a problem. Instead, imagine you hear about a cool new tech company that’s revolutionizing how people take notes. You can take notes whenever you want with a pen and paper, but if you care about technology and like the idea of technology-enhanced future, people will buy into it if they like the story of the future it tells.
Brand Storytelling Instead of Advertising
This is exactly what Elon Musk did with the widespread adoption of Tesla over the past decade. As a newcomer in an industry that is widely considered to have one of the largest barriers to entry, Musk was able to achieve a huge amount of success and attention through growing a fanbase dedicated to the story of the future Musk told. Tesla was built on the promise of clean transportation that preserves the luxurious car experiences that the middle and upper-classes have come to expect. He not only delivered on making cars that run on electricity but made doing so sexy. Tesla wasn’t the first electric car company to market, yet people line up to buy Teslas before they’re even built and all without spending any money on advertising.
Align Customers On Core Beliefs
Your storytelling should be based on the personas you’ve built. At every stage, anticipate what your audience is feeling, thinking, and doing instead of dealing with the overarching problem at hand. Figure out why they are stuck in the current stage and what they need to align with before they’re ready to move to the next stage. An effective brand story can do all of this on its own by stringing together a narrative that seamlessly aligns people on every belief in succession.
The core idea behind your brand is essential to the brand story. It is the purpose behind why you’re in this business and the vision that you have. But, it is also what you need customers to buy into. Focus on what your solution means for the shared-future with your customer. By evoking emotion, shared purpose and vision, you will not only see them convert to customers, but see familiar faces return.