Very occasionally, a relationship will form between two companies for purely practical reasons. The sums add up, the value is there, and a dispassionate deal is made. But this isn’t the norm. More typically, business relationships share many elements with personal relationships. If you’ve ever run a business, you’ll understand how the powerful sense of ownership and personal investment can make you very selective when choosing companies to work with.
You want partners who operate the same way you do, share your perspective, and won’t do anything to sully your brand by association.
This is why storytelling is just as important in the B2B world as it is for B2C, if not even more important. Your story isn’t exactly the same thing as your brand, and how you formulate and frame your story will have a huge effect on how your pitches and negotiations are received. So what can you do to make your company the perfect partner, and what should you be looking at when presenting or fielding a B2B pitch? Let’s find out.
If you represent yourself in a way that gets a little creative with the truth and doesn’t really fit who you are, your customers will probably notice. Even if they don’t realise consciously, they’ll ultimately view you differently. And your chances are even worse with other businesses.
Think about it: they know the position you’re in, what it’s like to be tempted to coat your company history in a glossy sheen instead of presenting the often-rough reality, and the tricks you might want to use. You’ll have a hard time fooling them. Besides, hiding your failures never helps: people actually prefer to see both positive and negative reviews because they’re more plausible.
Image credit: Pixabay And in the unlikely event that a prospective partner, buyer or seller did believe a semi-fictionalised version of events, would you really want to work with them? Not only could they discover the truth at some point, but you simply might not see all that much value in working with people so easily hoodwinked. So the best thing you can do is be wholly authentic. If the overall fit is right, that’ll be enough.
When pitching something to a business, or proposing a collaboration of some sort, you’ll need to show that you possess a broad understanding of how they work. If they don’t think you ‘get’ them, they won’t believe that you can deliver for them. Well, one excellent way of demonstrating that you ‘get’ a company is to quickly recap its story with a fresh spin on it.
This proves that you do your research, gives you an opportunity to relate their story to yours, and lets you show them that you can offer a fresh perspective. This needs to be done tastefully, of course. No one wants to sit through a lengthy and unrequested summary of a story they wrote in the first place.
As such, make it clear throughout that you’re largely seeking their confirmation that you’ve understood them correctly (as opposed to trying to pass their work off as your own!). If you nail it, they’ll be much closer to seeing you as the right choice.
Networking is a huge part of B2B marketing, and brings with it a broad array of challenges. How do you find people, how do you reach them, and how do you convince them that you have something to offer them? One strong approach is to join communities of businesses with shared goals, or form your own, allowing you to forge meaningful connections that will serve you extremely well. And it doesn’t have to be quite as cynical as it sounds there.
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Rather, simply make a decision about what your company cares about outside of corporate growth and financial performance, and take steps to contribute somehow. This will naturally push you towards connecting with groups pthroughg the same things, potentially though events that will give you further opportunities for outreach. In this way, you can also greatly expand and enrich your story, making your company a much more interesting prospect for all those outside your community links.
Whether you’re telling your story or forging a fresh look at someone else’s, your company should always be presented as the hero to defeat the familiar villains: pain points. You can take jabs at competitors in the process, absolutely, but B2B ultimately relies upon attacking the answers to the following questions: What frustrates those you want to work with? What prevents them from getting things done? What factors worry them on a consistent basis?
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Your goal is to make things better for them; to make their business easier to run, or more profitable, or more efficient. Identify their problems, understand them, and explain why you’re best placed to make them go away. So if you find yourself telling a story that doesn’t in some way reduce to an explanation of how you can fix problems for other businesses, you’re not going about storytelling the right way, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
B2B storytelling is somewhat more demanding than B2C storytelling for two main reasons: Firstly, it needs to hold up under scrutiny. B2B partners will inevitably observe your business closely while you work with them, and any inauthenticity or misunderstandings in your stories will be exposed sooner or later. Secondly, it needs to be considerably wider in scope, as the intense and time-restricted nature of the B2B world means that in many cases you’ll be selling your story and company ethos just as much as your product or service. Invest a good amount of time into telling excellent stories in your B2B operations, and you’ll surely set yourself apart from your competitors.