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Three simple questions to help build your B2B story

As a TV reporter I was always trained to get to the point, quickly. I had to turn a complex situation into a minute’s report, and make it interesting and relevant to the audience so that they wouldn’t switch off.

This is storytelling in the raw. Fast paced events packaged at speed for an impatient audience. Sound familiar?

In order to do this you have to have a way of getting to the heart of the story and finding out what’s most interesting, then putting this at the top. It’s usually by asking the simplest questions that you get the best answers.

I recommend this as a way of building your B2B story. Ask the three key questions and obsess about getting the answers right. Then use these as a way of articulating your narrative themes – the big ideas which will underpin your storytelling this year.  

Question one: who?

Who exactly is the audience for our stories? Who are we trying to reach? There’s a lot of work being done with personas, and I think this is a valuable way to have in mind a few people every time the story is being developed.

The more specific we can be about who they are, the more accurately will we hit that sweet spot where what we want to talk about coincides with what they want to know about. I’ve worked with some technology companies recently who start by saying they sell primarily to tech buyers – the CIO and similar – but, when we get under the skin of the proposition, it turns out the real buyer is another business leader such as the CMO. The CIO is often seeking to service another function. This changes the agenda for our proposition, which moves from a technology discussion (efficiency) to one about the optimal customer experience (revenue), and that alters the sales and marketing narrative.

Question two: why?

This is the critical question: why will they be at all interested in anything in our space? This is not a question of ‘why us’? It’s a question of ‘why anything’? This is right at the heart of a solutions-focussed narrative.

This is a really interesting area to spend quality time investigating. The question we are really asking is: what is the business outcome that can be achieved by sourcing a solution in our area of expertise? If the answer is simply cutting costs or raising revenue then you sound like everyone else. There needs to be a more specific set of ideas about what this means, and this ‘why’ question needs to be the second one that sets our content agenda in 2015.

Question three: how?

How are we going to help these people achieve those outcomes? We need to be very clear about what is special, distinctive or simply great about how we do what we do.

It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it.

In so many cases, the actual product or service set are similar or identical to others in the marketplace. So the areas of distinction need to be rooted in the customer experience. B2C knows this. B2B is catching up.

By identifying these areas of distinction, we can use them as the third question to set our content agenda in 2015.

If, for example, our obsession is in the quality of our infrastructure underpinning the service (as it is with one of my clients), then this should be an area for focus in our content strategy. Articles. videos, white papers, events will all educate the marketplace about the importance of having great infrastructure in place in order to deliver the ultimate customer experience, and the risks involved in not doing so.

Or we may build distinction by other aspects of the customer experience. This is where in my view marketing can be part of the story, by providing customers with valuable and interesting content which is targeted and relevant – and provided to them because they are customers. As a gold credit card holder I get exclusive deals and marketing content. What are you offering your ‘gold card holders’ – ie your key clients? 


These are the three questions that could help build your B2B narrative in 2015. The answers will provide a framework for consistent storytelling.  Notice the absence of one obvious question: what is it that we do? Ironically, that’s probably the least interesting part of your brand story!