The above comment is a reminder of no matter how complicated or complex a business and its products may be, there is a human story to be told. Offering us the ability to connect on a personal and human level. GE probably represents one of the most diverse organizations in the world with a portfolio of businesses and products, which can be characterized as complicated, complex, high-tech engineering, and heavy industrial. B2B corporate storytelling in the most human-centered manner can be seen as quite the daunting task.
Buyers Are Wanting To Know More
The overabundance of information choices now available on the Internet means the criteria-laden and specifications aspects of complex products are now more readily at hand for buyers. The implications for B2B organizations are when buyers respond or initiate contact, they desire more. And, the more may not necessarily mean more commoditized information about product specifications.
In my qualitative buyer research work in the past few years for buyer insights research and buyer persona development, I have had the opportunity to engage buyers who are dealing with complex and complicated environments. Based on more than a couple of hundred interviews over the course of the past few years, I can say with confidence a noticeable shift is occurring where buyers are moving past the logical and rational and into wanting a stronger connection to the human story.
A New Challenge For B2B Marketers
This shift, which is a result of the continuous expansion of the global digital economy, presents new and interesting challenges for B2B marketers. Somehow, someway, B2B marketers will need to connect to the human stories unfolding for their companies as well as for the companies they hope to serve. They must do so with keeping in mind human stories are dynamic versus static. These stories will have many chapters and will continue to change over time.
There are several areas B2B marketers, like GE is doing today, will need to focus on in order to make the personal human connection a reality with buyers:
- Embrace who you are as a company and find internal storytellers, who can share the human-side of what they are working on
- Become good at story listening and translating these stories into powerful ways to establish a personal and human connection
- GE is uncovering the path to market share by focusing on first gaining mindshare with customers and potential buyers
- Learn imagination, as GE does, to take potential buyers to another place and help them see a different vision
- Learn to tell the story of products and services in complicated environments in terms of what they can change versus what they do
One of GE’s more successful human experience marketing efforts have been the introduction of childlike imagination to connect the human stories happening inside GE with the human stories of their customers. Here is a clip of the What My Mom Does At GE campaign:
The Most Important Idea To Grasp
What GE is grasping and B2B marketers need to grasp is in order to understand what buyers care about and understand their human story, it takes a dedication to listening. Listening and insight translation is essential, both internally with producers as well as externally with buyers. Stories cannot be made up or be pulled out of thin air.
We cannot lose sight of the powerful word connection here in storytelling. The human story you tell must connect to the human story buyers’ care about. You may have a good story to tell but if it cannot connect to what people care about, then there will be little return on your story approach. Which, ultimately leads to the need to gain deep understanding and buyer insights into the stories, which really matter to buyers. It takes the investment of time, skill sets, talent, and dedication to listening to do this effectively.
It is a commitment GE puts forth to make stories a key aspect of B2B marketing and corporate storytelling. A question B2B marketers and organizations should be asking for the future is if they are ready to make this same commitment? A commitment to understanding the array of human stories, waiting to be heard and told, which ultimately will transform B2B marketing from what we see it as today to what it can be tomorrow – connecting people and buyers to real human stories.
What follows is the perfect ending in my mind to this little story. Here is Beth Comstock explaining GE’s vision of a human-centered and personal connection approach to B2B corporate storytelling: