I’m not going to belabor the point concerning the power that story has (which is magnified when delivered via video). I’ve covered that in previous posts, and so have many others. What I’m tackling here is the difficult process of creating a story when none exists. Case studies are effective sales tools and they’re already in story format. What happens, though, when you want to tell your prospects about your complex B2B product or service, but you don’t have a case study?
Use these steps to create your story:
1. What problem does your product or service solve?
A story needs conflict. Highlight the business problem that your client is dealing with… the one that your solution will fix. Your protagonist (or hero) is that target client – whoever is feeling the pain of the status quo. What does that character want? He wants to save time, save money, or improve output in some way.
NOTE: This becomes the theme for the story. I write it on a sheet of paper and pin it to the cork board on the wall where I can see it. Any idea or bit of business (no matter how clever) that isn’t ‘on theme’ does not make it into the story.
2. What happens next?
The story needs to move forward. Show your hero struggling with his problem and trying to solve it himself. All stories have this element. There’s an obstacle to overcome, but if it’s taken care of on the first try, you have a boring story. So, your hero puts up a valiant fight. He works hard, brainstorms, asks colleagues for help… but doesn’t come up with a solution that’s viable.
3. How does your hero change?
The story’s events should affect your hero in some way. He should come out thinking or acting differently than before, or what’s the point? Your solution makes his life better. He has more time to devote to business strategy, or more money to spend on R&D, or his product is so improved his profits soar.
4. Who else is involved?
Are others (at your target business) affected by this problem and solution? In our two to three minute videos, we try to keep the number of characters to a minimum. Each additional character takes time (even if it’s just a few seconds) to introduce. But you need more than one character… you need someone for your hero to interact with. It could be his boss, a peer, or a subordinate. It’s easy to paint these others as troublemakers, but this other character will have influence on the buy decision, so portray them in a favorable light.
5. Include the all-important Voice of the Customer.
We’re assuming that you can’t get permission to do a case study (or the case study you have is underwhelming). That shouldn’t stop you from contacting customers and interviewing them about your solution. Assure them that it’s off the record. Ask about both positive and negative aspects.
NOTE: You should be doing this anyway. You’ll be surprised at the valuable information you unearth.
You’ll learn about new uses of your product, issues it helps that you weren’t aware of, and additional benefits it bestows. You can use these in your story without attributing them to any specific client. Just be careful to keep the story on track. Pare away anything that is not essential to your primary theme. If you find something ‘off theme‘, that’s a really compelling topic, save it for your next story/video.
6. Change it up!
Once you have your first draft done, try different genres. Rewrite it in a humorous tone. Replace statistics with emotional triggers. This is B2B so we don’t want to be frivolous or syrupy, but I’ve found that these changes often give me a few ideas that add interest to the story. Most of the jokes get cut, and most of the stats are reintroduced, but the final story is richer, more memorable.
7. Start with a bang.
Remember you have to grab the viewer at the beginning. Look over your story and see if there’s an intrinsically riveting scene, and see if you can place it at the beginning. Time does not have to be linear in your story.
The above is just the text-based story. We still have a lot of work to do to produce a B2B marketing video that people will watch, that they’ll be persuaded by, that they’ll retain and share.
The next step is to translate our story into a script that tells the story visually. It must describe the sights and sounds to show, not tell, the story. We’ll cover visual storytelling in our next post.
Here’s a sample video based on a story we wrote:
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