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  • Holly Hughes-Barnes

The Secret to Engaging a B2B Audience (That I Learned When I Fell Off a Cliff)

Updated: Nov 29, 2019


Even if your B2B brand has great stories to tell, it’s likely that you’re cranking out oodles of content with tiny to nil likes, opens, comments or clicks. 


In fact, if you’re like the 65% of B2B marketers surveyed by Chief Marketer, lack of engagement is a real, ongoing dilemma for you.


So, what’s the problem?


Most likely, you’re not utilizing a (nearly) infallible storytelling-technique that’s proven to connect with audiences on a deep, emotional level. The kind of level on which you need to connect with buyers to get them to engage with you—even if those buyers are B2B. 


So today, I’m going to share that storytelling technique with you. Then you can begin using it in your B2B content marketing efforts and finally get more readers to open your emails, comment on your posts and click your CTA buttons. 


And luckily, you can learn it the easy way. 


But I learned it when I fell over a cliff.


How Falling Off a Cliff Helped Me Solve the B2B Connection Conundrum 


Most people have fallen off a “proverbial” cliff at some time or another.


But me? Well, I fell off a real one. A 50-footer.


And, let me tell ya—along with some nasty breaks and bruises—that fall gave me an impressive story to tell. 


In fact, I tell it often—at special church events, on local radio segments, or just to see my 7-year-old son’s eyes get really wide. 


And because I’ve told this story over and over, I’ve seen firsthand how a simple narrative can form deep emotional connections between a storyteller and her audience. 


Many times, I’ve walked into a room full of strangers buzzing around. No one knew me or even cared to. But once I stood in front of them and shared my cliff story, the people in that room connected with me. And they decided they’d like to know me better.


And that’s exactly what your B2B brand stories should be doing for your business. They should draw your audience in, make them feel like they’re part of your brand story and make them want to know your product or service better.


But you can’t just tell stories with stats and features to create that kind of pull.


If you want people to engage with your brand, you have to include stories that elicit emotions. Because without emotion, humans don’t connect with each other. 


And one of the best ways to do this is by weaving stories into your content that use the “show, don’t tell technique.”


To understand what that is, let’s take a trip back to the day of my terrible tumble…


It was a beautiful spring afternoon in April of 1992. 


I was 14—and angsty. I’d spent a big part of the day in the principal’s office at school.


And I was relieved to finally be at my best friend’s house so we could go for a hike, and I could blow off some steam.


When we got to the bluff a few miles behind her house, I sat down and dangled my feet over the ledge. 


Just being there was exhilarating. I felt free—invincible, even. The fact that this was the only place we'd been forbidden to hike to, just sweetened the sensation. 


And as I swung my feet back and forth over that cliff, I felt so right. Like I was more right than I’d ever been and that every adult in my life was clueless. 


I looked at my friend and said, “I can’t believe your parents won’t let us come here. It’s not like we’re stupid enough to fall off.”


And I threw the branch I’d been using as a make-shift walking stick over the ledge for emphasis. We watched it shatter as it hit the rocks below.


My friend never took her eyes off the stick as she said, “Could you imagine if someone fell off?”


“They wouldn’t live,” I replied.


Then she added, “If you fell off, it would be like killing my best friend. Because I was never supposed to bring you here.”


She stood back a safe distance from the edge and looked at me. I took that as my exit cue and stood up.


But as I turned to walk away from the cliff, something went horribly wrong. 


My feet slipped. I stretched out my arms and called out to her to catch me, but it was too late. 


I was plummeting fast. Then everything went dark.


When I woke up, I was lying—broken—at the bottom of that bluff.


And I faced the stark realization of just how wrong I’d been at the top. 


I remembered the Bible verse that says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”


And I wept and asked God for mercy.


Which, as you can see—since I’m writing this article—He granted.


But What Does That Story Have to Do with Creating Engaging B2B Content?


Simple. 


I told it in narrative form using the “show don’t tell” technique. I put you right in the story—instead of just telling you about the story. 


And I’m guessing that because I did that, you thought of a rebellious teen you know. 


Or, maybe you remembered a time when you believed you were much smarter than you were—a time when you learned a hard lesson.


Or maybe you were reminded of your own accident or near-death experience.


But whatever you thought about as you read my story, an invisible thread began to weave its way between my story and yours.


And suddenly, unconsciously, you formed a connection to me. And not just that, you learned lots of things without me actually saying them.


I never had to say, "I believe in God and His mercy, you should try Him out sometime."


I never had to say, "Being prideful is a bad thing. You should stop it."


You internalize what I believe and any lesson I'm trying to get across from the story. Just like the people I tell it to at special church events.


And if you incorporate this type of “show don’t tell” narrative into your B2B brand stories, they work the same way. You get past objections and form deep connections with the prospects and buyers who read them.


And what happens when you make those deep connections? 


Your audience will start to engage with your brand in a more meaningful way.


Still think there’s no room for that kind of storytelling in B2B?


Here are two examples to prove it works:


1. Cisco Technologies uses the technique in its “There’s Never Been a better Time…to save the Rhinos” campaign:


The video starts with a gorgeous Rhino then cuts to a conservationist who spends his days protecting it.


The conservationist says this:


“If you’ve heard a shot, it’s too late. A few years ago, we lost a lot of rhinos. And it was… crisis management. What do we do? How do we do it? We tried everything.”


Another conservationist adds, “We said, we need help—to be given an early warning when a human comes into the park.”


Immediately, you can feel the problem at hand.


Then Bruce Watson from Cisco technologies steps in and describes in detail how Cisco is helping these conservationists save the Rhinos.


And he never once has to tell us, “The people at Cisco are innovative problem-solvers who care about the world and all its creatures.”


Because he uses a story to show us instead.


  • Sleeknote Used the “Show Don’t Tell” Approach to Double Email Open Rates


In fact, their head of email marketing, Rikke Berg Thomsen, wrote a blog post that tells all about it.


Here’s an excerpt from that post showing how she used the “show don’t tell” technique to demonstrate the power of social proof:



Her story drops you in the action and even without seeing the rest of the email, you quickly get the point she’s making.


So, in conclusion, what’s the moral of these “show don’t tell” stories?


Easy.


If you don’t use them, you’re missing out on lots of social likes, button clicks, email opens and ultimately, sales.



If you need a B2B writer who can help you create these kinds of stories, let me know a little about your business and your copy needs (future our present) here:

https://copywritermarketer.com/holly-hughes-barnes

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