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Checklist: How to Create a Storytelling Culture

December 4, 2019 | Andrea Lechner-Becker | No Comments |

A Storytelling Checklist

Stories sell. Stories also unite. In consumer marketing we see compelling stories all the time. From Apple’s iconic Super Bowl ad to Peloton’s unfortunate Christmas commercial, B2C marketers use stories seemingly instinctively. Meanwhile, B2B marketers talk in percentages and ambiguous terms. What can B2B marketers learn from this and how can we make storytelling a part of our cultures in a way that takes us out of the stats and into meaningful experiences for our customers?

Favorite Peloton mockery

Peloton Mockery

Peloton Mockery

Here are the steps you can take to create a storytelling culture in your organization:

  1. Gain Buy-In
  2. Assign Responsibility
  3. Assigne Budgets
  4. Assess Stories
  5. Create a Storytelling Process
  6. Training and Enablement
  7. Internal Marketing

Gain Buy-In

To gain buy-in within your organization, you’ll need some talking points about how this level of investment in storytelling will positively impact the business. One helpful way to build your case is to leverage the wealth of data regarding the positive effects of storytelling. That might look like this stat: “63% of people listening to presentations retained information when presented in a story vs. 5% presented with stats.”

Beyond the statistics, you’ll also want to paint a picture of how storytelling can help further other objectives of the organization. Because stories help connect us, they can be used to further relationship-building cross-functionally, which drives improved efficiency and overall happiness in the workplace. They also help solidify company values.

It’s also important to tell your story about the impact on the customer journey. The more consistent you can make every touch point on the journey, the more deals you’ll sell and customers you’ll retain.

Determine the goals of storytelling for your organization. If you use an OKR framework for your organizational objectives, then ensure storytelling relates to them. For more on connecting your goals to the overarching company goals, see here.

Assign Responsibility

If no one champions stories internally, nothing will change. If you’re the one painting this picture of how stories can transform your organization, you’re likely leading the charge or at least looking to be an important part of the change. But you don’t have to do it all on your own.

Use a framework, like RACI, to define responsibilities and ownership levels for each item. These types of frameworks help define explicitly the vision for who will help make this vision a reality.

Assign Budgets

You will need to fund storytelling. In the next sections, you’ll see that you’ll need to spend to create engaging content and distribute it. That means you’ll need to assign budget to the tasks associated with all aspects of storytelling. Read below to better understand what to consider and estimate spend based on some assumptions to start.

NOTE: It’s tempting to pull budget from content, product or customer marketing to create stories. RESIST! In our experience, elevating storytelling to its own budget line item is part of validating its importance.

Assess Stories

Talk to people in every department about your customers. Ensure you’re diligent about getting people with different perspectives. That means you’ll speak with executives, middle management and feet on the street. You will absolutely get different perspectives (sometimes wildly so) from each and that’s the point!

In addition to talking with people at various levels, also diversify your department exploration. This means talking to people in finance or engineering. Begin by asking about their direct interactions with customers. But, as you move further away from departments where mostly everyone has direct accountability, this can lead to a very short conversation. In the event your interview subject doesn’t speak directly to customers, ask how they explain your company to friends and family.

Another good way to get better exposure to stories is to move closer to where they happen. 84% of aligned marketing and sales team sit next to each other or on the same floor. Proximity will not only provide better visibility without all the logistics of scheduling and interviews, but it will also keep stories top of mind. Once you begin the focus, you’ll begin seeing stories everywhere. Being closer to conversations with customer on a regular basis will give you more opportunities to overhear something you can leverage.

Create a Storytelling Process

Intake/Ideation Process

Leverage your assessment into a short list of stories that resonated with you. Start your list of stories that work with those. Sort them into a few categories.

Demographics Type Customer Pain Funnel Stage

Demographics: Categorize the areas you believe are important here for your business. This might be industry, company size, business model (B2B, B2C, B2B2C).

Type Details: Does your story lead with emotion or logical?

Customer Pain: What pain point does your story speak to?

Funnel Stage: What stage in the buying process do you think people are in that need to hear this story? What impact does your story aim to have?

If you need some help determining the purpose of each stage. Register for our on-demand webinar, here (it’s the “storytelling” one).

Then, create an ideation process for people to submit new stories they think should be fleshed out. This could be robust, like an online form, or fairly low-tech, like a quick Slack or email. Depending on your company size and level of participation for unstructured ideas, you should be able to determine how much structure to put in place.

Production Process

Once you have ideas for the stories you want to tell. You’ll need to prioritize them.

Prioritization can be driven by many factors, but urgency is typically the best one, if you’re just starting. As a preview, in the last stages, you want to create internal excitement and tell success stories about using stories. To do that easily, if you incorporate stories into high-priority marketing and sales events, you’re more likely to see fast results.

For example, perhaps your main investment next quarter is on an industry tradeshow and you want to make that a core place to debut customer stories. Because it’s industry-specific, you’ll want to select the stories that will resonate with those buyers. You’ll also want to understand if people there are already aware of you, in consideration phases for your product/service, already in pipeline or current customers. Then, by understanding what kind of story will resonate (emotional or logical), you can validate and justify the priority.

After you’re prioritized which stories to tell, you’ll need to work out what channel will resonate best. The level of detail and scale of this effort will vary greatly depending on too many factors to cover here, but as an example, let’s return to the industry tradeshow.

Perhaps you decide that video will be the best way to showcase your customer story, with a one-sheeter that’s available as a takeaway with the data justifications that customer used in their decision-making process. You likely already have production processes for creating these types of assets, so you get the idea.

Distribution Process

Distribution is often an overlooked aspect of storytelling. Using the industry tradeshow example again, if you only distribute the story during the single conference, you’re missing out on a lot of additional targets. Instead, think about all the areas you can use your customer video.

  • How could it be leveraged on social?
  • How will sales share the video?
  • Would it make sense to leverage it on live webinars in the future?
  • How can you share it internally? Does it make sense for training or onboarding for employees?
  • How can the customer themselves leverage the video? How can you make them advocates of your brand?

Training and Enablement

You have your stories and you’re distributing them. If part of that plan is leveraging the story in the sales or marketing process (which it’s almost certain to), then you’ll want to have a plan for reinforcing and reiterating the usage of these assets. Make sharing them when you want in the channel you want easy. Involve managers and senior leadership in the process of sponsoring the project. They will help solidify with their teams the importance of sharing stories as well.

Internal Marketing

Through consistent training and enablement, you may find buzz around storytelling growing organically. You may however, find you need to tap into your self-promotional skills. If there are core people you need to impress (ahem, people who hold the budget, ahem), ensure you’re informing them regularly off successes. This is the importance of defining goals in the very first stage. Don’t let the revisiting of those fall behind in favor of getting things done. This is perhaps even more important than the quality of your story itself.

If you don’t continue to sell it to your organization, you risk it getting defunded or deprioritized. Don’t let this happen to you!

Conclusion

Storytelling works. This checklist should get you primed for a successful rollout! We’d love to hear your feedback on what’s worked for you in the past. What are we missing? Or questions you have. Comment below or hit us up online on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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