Content Marketing

5 Lessons in Digital Storytelling from Leading B2B Companies

14 minute read

The Content Marketing Institute recently reported that 80 percent of business decision-makers prefer to get information about a company in a series of articles versus in an advertisement. With this in mind, today’s successful marketers know that the days of traditional outbound marketing are numbered, and that it’s vital to adopt more colorful, inbound strategies instead.

However, it can be difficult to choose an effective digital media marketing strategy. One inbound strategy that has proven successful is digital storytelling, or the abandonment of said outbound marketing techniques (cold calls, email blasts, and print advertisements, for example) in favor of a narrative-based, and often multimedia, approach. Digital storytellers don’t try to sell a brand—instead, they entice an audience by informing them and appealing to their emotions rather than rationale. And in a world where 40 percent of millennials are skeptical about advertising, this less aggressive method seems logical.

While digital storytelling has become widespread in the B2C sphere, it seems that many B2B marketers still don’t know how to make digital stories out of the brands they represent.  However, the advantages of digital storytelling are just as relevant to B2B marketers—after all, behind each business lie real people, and even the most rational of businesspeople allows emotions to play into his decision making.

Of course, B2B marketing does differ from B2C. Because they are sales-focused, businesses are more interested in facts, statistics, and other quantitative data. But it’s still possible to convey the right facts while remaining entertaining and personal—which these five leading B2B companies prove. Add some of their digital storytelling tools to your arsenal of B2B marketing strategies to enhance your brand’s personality.

Recognize that Social Media Marketing Works for B2B Too

Example: GE

Out of all the B2B companies using social media, digital industry mogul General Electric (GE) certainly stands out. The company’s Instagram account, which boasts over 229,000 followers, posts gorgeous professional photography at an impressive rate (a new post every 3-4 days or so). From an artsy up-shot of a wind turbine to a wide angle view of their aptly-nicknamed “Death Star-like turbulence control structure,” GE’s Instagram isn’t what you’d expect from an industrial company. The company makes itself more approachable by focusing on photos of interesting products and providing only snippets of informative information in their captions. They also often post photos of their engineers, putting tangible faces and personalities at the forefront of their brand.

Most importantly, GE’s Instagram account doesn’t include any technical lingo or industry jargon in the way that a conventional whitepaper or eBook might. All companies that use social media should aim for entertainment and simplicity like GE does—it makes the brand more enticing to a much broader audience.

Prioritize Humanity Over Product Promotion on Websites

Example: Intel

Instead of highlighting product photos and technical specs on their website’s homepage, as rivals Lenovo, HP, and even Apple do, Intel takes a less-traditional approach. While a visitor can scroll through Intel’s different product lines at the bottom of the homepage, that visitor must first scroll past several dynamic, multimedia presentations that zoom in on different aspects of the brand. Take the first, for example, which promotes the company’s new ten-core processor. The page displays photos of people communicating via headsets, remixing music, and editing video, wordlessly demonstrating the abilities of this new product.

The ability to tell stories via photos like Intel does is one of the primary advantages of digital marketing. By prioritizing photos of people over photos of the product, Intel invites the prospective client to imagine how Intel’s products would function for them—informing them of the product’s potential, rather than trying to sell the product outright.

Use Video to Create a Cinematic Product Experience

Example: Ingram Micro

Just reading the list of services that Ingram Micro provides—“supply-chain services, technology solutions, mobility and cloud services”—is enough to make a prospective client’s eyes glaze over. This is one of the primary challenges that arises when marketing from business to business–but Ingram Micro manages to excite prospective buyers through the clever, polished videography on their Youtube page. Their most recent video campaign,“Realize the Promise of Technology,” packs time-lapses, action shots, and a lot of cute babies into less than two minutes of video. The result? An exciting, cinematic experience that can both appeal to the viewer’s emotions and make them want more information.

Past videos from the company have taken a simpler approach, with animation and shorter, one-actor pieces, but the result is the same—Ingram Micro has successfully used imagination to appeal to the viewer so that the prospect of doing business with the company seems much more exciting.

Share the Stories of Clients Who Used a Product in Exciting Ways

Example: Philips

Like Ingram’s “supply-chain services and technology solutions”, light bulbs aren’t exactly a product that clients are excited to research and purchase—and the Dutch technology company Philips certainly had that knowledge in mind when they constructed their website. Rather than highlighting the usual statistics or product lines, the website instead features bold headlines (“Philips Illuminates New York City”) and links to countless “cases” in which Philips’ lighting was used in particularly innovative ways (like the luxe lighting design at Paris’s Galeries Lafayette, a giant LED face on the side of a building at Gateway Community College, and a quirky light show featuring construction equipment in Uljanik).

These are factual case studies, but they present their information via photos, videos, and infographics, keeping the reader invested in the material. This is a particularly useful digital marketing strategy for B2B as it strikes the perfect balance between interesting and informative. Furthermore, these case studies encourage potential clientele to trust the brand by demonstrating the brand’s capabilities.

Approach the Reader with Humor

Example: Hubspot

Boston-based marketing agency Hubspot’s “Year in Review” provides a wealth of information on the company’s growth in 2015, which may not be unusual for a B2B agency–but the information is presented in such a fun format that it reads more like a scrapbook than a report.

Achieving authentic humor can be difficult within business to business digital marketing, but Hubspot makes it seem effortless. Important statistics, like Hubspot’s rankings on miscellaneous “best workplaces” lists and the number of pageviews their blog receives, are highlighted with bold fonts and colors. However, they’ve also dedicated space to sillier statistics—like how many dogs visited the office last year and how many pizzas were ordered for end-of-month celebrations. Similarly, the report contains impressive photos of the company’s offices and their annual marketing conference, INBOUND, but they’re juxtaposed with photos of employees sporting rhinestoned Hubspot jackets and bright orange sunglasses.

By using a voice and design that’s both humorous and informative, the “Year in Review” reminds the reader that Hubspot doesn’t take itself too seriously. Because the brand seems fun, it’s easy to be charmed by the company—which may have an added perk, in that readers will be more tolerant of any less-interesting but necessary product information later.