The time for relying on simple demographics and firmographics to guide sales and marketing strategies has passed. If B2B brands have any hope of reaching the right prospects, there needs to be an effort to connect on a deeper, highly personalized level.
This is where psychographics and storytelling come in.
Essentially, the function of psychographic data is to close the gap between the more static variables such as job title, income, or company size, and the actual preferences of the people behind each account.
Psychographics is not only a fascinating subject (one I have personally enjoyed exploring) but is also a powerful tool that has the potential to unlock real connections with prospects and build relationships that drive sales.
An integral element behind this is the leveraging of psychographics to mold storytelling that resonates with target markets and ultimately boosts brands.
So, how can psychographics be used to guide storytelling?
At its core, storytelling is the creation of a narrative that captures and maintains interest throughout a thematic or conceptual journey. For most, the concept of storytelling relates purely to works of fiction such as books, TV shows, films, or even artwork.
However, in the context of B2B, storytelling is a tool for positioning content and specific offerings in a way that matches the current preferences and interests of a target audience. Content used in a storytelling strategy builds upon an overarching narrative by walking the fine line of staying both entertaining and valuable by being informative.
Narratives should be easy for the audience to follow. For a lot of fictional works, narratives are built around a simple structure that begins by introducing a theme, creating a build-up and problems, before finally ending with a resolution.
Storytelling in this way keeps the audience invested and entertained so that the message, regardless of the medium of choice, is delivered effectively.
Think about the finale of your favorite TV show. The story likely developed slowly over time with various plot twists, developments, and conflicts dotted throughout the show’s many seasons that kept you hooked.
Without the different stages of the story and a satisfactory conclusion, your enjoyment and interest in the show would likely have waned—and fast.
Now, compare this to the last B2B purchase you made (or at least contemplated). There are likely some similarities between the stages of the buyer journey you progressed through and the structure of the narrative you explored in popular media.
The most salient difference is that a narrative in a B2B context, will likely center on the specific pain points of target personas and how your brand is perfect for solving them.
Rather than introducing characters, a plot, ultimatums, and dramatic conclusions, the B2B “story” follows the trajectory of the buyer’s journey instead, positioning brands in a way that generates interest.
For example, instead of introducing the characters of the story, the B2B prospect will get to know your brand and its offerings at the top of funnel awareness stage. In place of a third-act conclusion, the prospect will reach the decision stage and convert into a client, ending the main part of the story by vanquishing their pain points with your help.
Will there be a sequel? That depends completely on how much the prospect enjoyed the arc of the first story, its characters, and whether they are ready for another installment.
Very dramatic, I know. However, as you can imagine, the real influence of storytelling comes from making the prospect feel like the protagonist and connect with your brand as they progress through their journey with you.
In theory, storytelling can be incredibly influential to the success of both sales and marketing strategies.
However, it’s not as simple as just launching an old campaign and watching the results come pouring in. Creating a competitive campaign that actually performs is quite the challenge. After all, as times change, so do people’s personalities, priorities, and by proxy, their goals.
So, what makes a powerful narrative?
Below, I’ve outlined four best practices for building a solid foundation for setting up storytelling that will inspire your team and help your prospects relate to your brand and your offerings.
Let’s get started:
It’s a given that building a campaign that connects with prospects necessitates a detailed understanding of their needs, preferences, and behavior. Storytelling is no different.
After all, our preferences are always subject to change depending on external factors and anything that may shape the context of our needs. For example, a college student’s content consumption behavior will evolve as they graduate, gain employment, and progress through the various stages of their career.
As a result, if you hope to even make it onto the radar of your different target personas, your content and greater strategy need to be fueled by data to be able to shadow these developments.
Build your knowledge by starting with collecting psychographic data directly from a reliable source, your current audience.
Perform incentivized surveys and conduct social listening. Take the time to hear from clients and narrow down what appealed to them about your offerings or brand. This should also include finding out the kind of content that captured their interest in the first place.
Gathering these insights will enable you to identify the channels and content types that are working the best for specific personas. From there, you’ll be able to prioritize the right content at the right time, and on the right channel to shape the story you want to tell.
Next, it’s time to build off the understanding you’ve developed of your audience and examine the buyer groups making up each target account on a more granular level.
Much like your favorite media, each buying group is often made up of a diverse cast of members, each with their own roles and responsibilities.
Finding out the power dynamics of these groups is essential to determining how each individual will respond to narratives, as well as the part they will play in your storytelling.
Think of the stellar casts in blockbusters like Harry potter or TV shows like Seinfeld. Even though both stories and genres are dramatically different, the characters in each helped to define the shape of the narrative through their roles and contributions to the overall story arc.
The B2B buying group is no different (apart from the obvious lack of wizards and laugh track), as each member also plays a unique role in driving the decisions made by the committee. Understanding the different parts being played is integral to building storytelling that resonates with their individual needs.
Here are some basic questions you should aim to answer to guide your storytelling:
How much true decision-making power does each member have?
The golden question. Even though this is quite abstract, gaining more insights into which members hold the keys is essential to shaping your storytelling to match their perspectives.
How long have they sat in their seat?
There is a big difference between a new member and someone who has been booked for multiple “seasons.” Although seniority does not always translate to power, it’s an important factor to take into consideration here.
How often do they interact as a buying group?
Depending on the structure of the buying group, not all members will meet as regularly as others and will therefore have less input into the decision process. As a result, you may find that one member, in particular, holds more power than others if this is the case.
Once you’ve identified where and how each individual “cast” member fits into the structure of the buying group in the organization you are targeting, you’ll be able to implement more detailed campaigns.
This is a crucial step to nailing down the multitude of factors and variables that will influence how you tell your story to the buying group and allow you to engage multiple members with personalized storytelling strategies.
Even with an abundance of data, it is important to ensure you are leveraging content that is best aligned to your target market’s interests in order to support your storytelling.
For example, as the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) continues to evolve, their preferences will likely center more on content addressing how to boost revenue. However, this may not be the case for all CMOs, so how can you determine the right strategy?
The simplest way of doing so is to conduct A/B testing for how content performs across multiple channels and how those individual channels perform in terms of driving engagement.
It’s important to approach knowledge of your target market and the personas within as a theory. After all, data is always up for interpretation. Verify your theories by tracking real-time results and improving the accuracy of your strategies and future plans.
Many neglect the emotional side of B2B but the fact of the matter is that B2B is just as driven by emotional triggers as B2C is. It’s because of this that everyone involved in a B2B purchase should regularly be reminded that they are dealing with another human being who cares about their needs.
Prospects are looking for interaction with brands that goes beyond marketing messaging, creates an impression, and leads to a deeper connection. After all, the initial hook from marketing materials will likely become forgotten if not properly nurtured into a relationship.
Take the time to create a conversation with each prospect. This will encourage them to forge a stronger connection to the story you are trying to tell with your brands and offerings, which in turn will boost your sales opportunities.
Just like the structures found in popular media, the B2B buyer journey has a beginning, middle, and end. Treating the buyer journey as a narrative allows you to shape and align the experience prospects have with your brand to their expectations and perspective.
Essentially, the story you tell with your marketing messaging and content is the tool that will help prospects connect with your brand on a deeper level and feel that their unique needs are important.
So, if you’re looking to boost client lifetime value and retention, be sure to implement these best practices to leverage the power of storytelling and make clients want to come back for a sequel.
Psychographics is a part of INFUSE’s DNA. We’re a one-stop-shop that can handle all of your needs, including the strategies outlined above to deliver you outmatched engagement with your audience, no matter how niche.
Based in Chicago, Jeff Cleasby, VP of Strategic Accounts, has 25 years of experience in sales and marketing and is constantly reinventing and perfecting his craft. Jeff is passionate about showing B2B businesses the power of multi-channel lead generation solutions and psychographics. An avid sports fan, keen reader, and road bike rider in his spare time, Jeff brings his competitive spirit and expert sales knowledge to the INFUSE team.