While having a great product or quality service is undeniably important, these aren’t necessarily the things that will win you loyal customers. More often than not, buyers are influenced by a brand’s ability to form emotional connections with them. In fact, Harvard Business School professor emeritus Gerald Zaltman says that 95 percent of our buying decisions occur in the subconscious, where they're fueled by emotions, rather than “logical processes.”
The best way to foster an emotional connection that influences buyers is through your brand story, but if you want your that story to have any kind of power, you have to build it up right.
Focus on personal benefits
Brand stories should always focus on the person making the purchase. Even though B2B products and services are meant for an entire organization, it is important to remember that an individual is the one who will make the purchase and using your products or services on a daily basis.
Writing for CMO by Adobe, Gartner’s Martha Mathers explains how her organization’s “research tested the impact of over 70 brand benefits on a broad range of commercial outcomes,” testing both logical appeals for a B2B brand’s business value, as well as emotional appeals for its personal value to individual employees.
Mathers reveals, “We looked at the impact of these two benefit categories by analyzing their lift on 14 commercial outcomes, which include consideration, purchase, premium payment and advocacy. The data shows that across this collection of commercial outcomes, personal value has twice as much impact as business value.”
No matter what the product or service, focusing on the personal, individual benefits as part of your storytelling will make it more compelling to potential buyers. Logic-based reasoning can be a helpful supplement, but make the individual your primary storytelling focus.
Grow your story from your own values and beliefs
Today’s buyers have a keen sense for authentic and inauthentic storytelling. If you want to make a meaningful connection, your brand story should stem naturally from your own. When your values influence the brand story, buyers will recognize this and respond.
In an email conversation, Alan Vu, co-founder and CEO of Here & Now Supply Co. explained, “The idea of mindfulness and being grounded in the present served as a major bonding point between my dad and me, especially when I started helping him with ecommerce. It even influenced the name we chose for our brand. Our product designs reflect that same mindset, as do our donations to environmental nonprofits. All of this comes from our shared values, so none of it ever feels forced, and I think our customers truly recognize that.”
Consumer research from Stackla reveals that while 86 percent of consumers report that authenticity is an important factor for which brands they support, 57 percent feel that fewer than half of companies create truly authentic content.
To ensure your storytelling is truly authentic, all branding efforts should ultimately grow from your values and goals. This will attract like-minded customers who view supporting your brand as a reflection of their values. Customers will not respond to phony, fake storytelling that does not reflect who you truly are.
Trigger a genuine emotional response with actual stories
Too many advertising efforts (especially in digital and B2B environments) focus more on presenting basic facts or statistics. Though these can be helpful in the right context, they are not a story. They will be quickly forgotten or glossed over.
The importance of actual storytelling was highlighted in a 1969 Stanford study, in which students were asked to memorize 10 sets of words. The group was divided into two sets of students, one of which was asked to construct a story for each set of words. When tested later, the storytelling group consistently recalled over 80 percent of their words, while the control group rarely recalled more than 20 percent.
A similar principle applies to your brand. If you put your products and services in the context of a story — any story — it instantly becomes far more memorable than a digital banner listing your current sale prices.
Writing for AdAge, Pixar writer Matthew Luhn notes that advertising stories should be approached like any other storytelling challenge — connecting with the audience through shared experiences, showing change and providing a clear beginning, middle and end.
This is part of what makes case studies and testimonials so effective. Presenting a real-life story that shows the personal benefits someone enjoyed through your brand helps other potential buyers better see how you could help them, too. Real-life stories that are presented in a compelling manner will make your brand far more memorable.
How will you tell your story?
The right brand story can have a powerful impact. It will influence how customers perceive your brand and their relationship to it. It can serve as a rallying call for like-minded people. When done right, it will help you achieve lifelong brand loyalty.
Take the time to make your brand story truly emotionally impactful. It just might be the most important thing you ever do for your company.