Editor’s Note: Next Level Creative is a blog series that explores the artistic side of B2B content creation. We offer ways to level-up your marketing by unpacking the attributes of great storytelling across different media and channels.
We love AI, don’t get us wrong. But there’s been a lot of talk lately about AI and machine learning mastering the written word, and some experts are predicting a future where human content writers are obsolete and on the breadline.
Advances in AI-generated content are exciting, and it can relieve some of the burden writers face in generating simple top-of-funnel content or responding to business emails. Still, we’re certain our jobs are future-proof, and here’s why.
A past Next Level Creative article touched on the importance of content that’s relevant and resonates with readers. Fed the right keywords, AI can generate relevant copy, but it’s missing the human element needed to craft content that makes people feel something. It simply can’t compete with the thousands of years of experience humans have with storytelling.
Because each brand has its own voice, core values, and other elements to consider, there is no plug-and-play formula for writing powerful sales and marketing stories. There are, however, tried and true frameworks for crafting narratives both large and small that resonate with customers.
Here’s how you can apply these frameworks to your sales and marketing storytelling.
For Brand-Based Narratives
At 6sense, we find inspiration in Andy Rankin’s framework when it comes to telling our company story and communicating what our brand stands for. This is our interpretation of it:
The Big Trend
“The Big Trend” is the undeniable shift in your customers’ world that creates big stakes and an urgency for change. This will vary based on your industry as well as your customers’, but in the case of 6sense, it’s the trends towards account-based everything, and developments in big data and AI leading to the potential for unprecedented insights into buyer behavior.
Naming the Enemy
“The Enemy” you identify is your customers’ challenges — not problems —they face due to the major shift you pointed out. Why challenges and not problems? A problem suggests your customers have done something wrong, which they haven’t. They just have yet to adapt to the changes, and may not even be aware they need to adapt until you point it out.
For future 6sense customers, the main challenge revolves around the increasing anonymity of online research combined with the demand for personalized marketing campaigns. That’s a confounding combination unless you have some magic up your sleeve!
The Promised Land
It might be tempting to reassure your customers that you have the ultimate solution to help them face their challenges, but resist it for now. Instead, offer them a vision of “The Promised Land,” or what it’ll look like once they’ve successfully made the changes needed to overcome their challenges.
At 6sense, we sum up the Promised Land in the phrase, “Know Everything So You Can Do Anything.”
Capabilities Are Key
Now your customers understand their situation. They know there’s been a change, they know what’s at stake if they don’t adapt, and they know what they have to gain if they do. With that context in place, describe how your solution’s capabilities will lead them to “The Promised Land.”
Present evidence of your solution’s ability to deliver a “happily ever after” ending. This could be in the form of stats and metrics, but customer success stories often have a greater impact. It’s easier for a reader to connect with an example of how someone else in their position found success than it is to connect with numbers alone.
For Persona-Based Narratives
The framework above works well for telling great stories with a broader narrative. But there’s another framework for telling stories meant for a specific audience, which is ideal for an account-based approach to content creation.
It’s based on Donald Miller’s book Building a Story Brand, and it follows a familiar plot that your customers have experienced with countless books, movies, and myths — but now they get to be the hero of the story.
Every story starts with a hero, which in this case is your customer. This is where a deep understanding of personas is critical, because your reader needs to see themselves in the story. Set the stage by demonstrating you understand what their role looks like, what they’re most passionate about, and what their objectives are.
Every hero needs a villain. For your customers, that villain could be a few things: the obstacles that make their jobs frustrating, the things they stand to lose if they don’t overcome them, and — sometimes most importantly — the fear and insecurities they feel over facing those obstacles.
Remember, your customers don’t need a hero, they are the hero. But every hero needs a guide, and this is where you come in.
You can’t face the villain for them — you can’t instantly make their job easier, land them more sales, etc. But you can empathize with their situation, and show them the path to victory. And like Obi-Wan handing Luke a lightsaber and teaching him about The Force, your solution is part of that path.
The Call to Action
Once you’ve established yourself as a worthy guide, end with a clear call to action. This lets your customers continue their story in the next chapter, so to speak.
It doesn’t have to be a “Buy Now” button or a demo sign-up form. A link to a customer story, related article or ebook, or resource library can also move your hero along their journey.
AI can do a lot of amazing things to help B2B sales and marketing, like predict pipeline, uncover hidden buyer intent signals, or help craft emails. But it can’t understand the elements of a good story. As B2B content creators that happen to be human, we have that advantage.
And as marketers who work with an account-based mindset, we have another advantage, too. We have a rich understanding of who our customers are. We know what drives them, we know what frustrates them, and we know that behind every title like CMO, Head of Sales, or Manager of Rev Ops is a hero with a story that’s just waiting to be told.