Most brand stories are out of balance and we have the data to prove it. B2C marketers are typically out of balance in a different way than B2B marketers, but there are noticeable trends for both. Read to learn the imbalances to watch out for in your brand story.
We detect the use of storytelling through the lens of our 8-Point Arc. Our storytelling arc measures storytelling through the complete customer experience—from sales & marketing content to on-boarding and ongoing customer marketing and support.
Brand storytelling can be measured through a framework
The first six points on our 8-Point Arc specifically detect how the story is unveiled, starting with the communication of market or environmental factors to driving the prospect or customer to act. After processing and analyzing hundreds of B2B and B2C brands, we noticed an interesting trend in storytelling. There is an over-focus on points five and six of the 8-Point Arc (Reveal Offer & Drive Action).
Reveal Offer is the brand offering a gift to the hero of the story: the customer. This gift (e.g. product or service offering) is what will enable the hero to overcome obstacles and seize opportunities (Trigger Event) and ultimately get to a better place (State of Mind/Market Dynamics).
Drive Action is the brand appealing to the hero to take the action now that the story has been told. The action might be providing information in exchange for continuing the journey or actual purchase.
B2C marketers are overly focused on driving action
The first trend we have seen is B2C marketer focus on driving action. 81% of B2C brands put a disproportionate focus on driving action in their story. This is a remarkable number!
We analyze B2C brands that have e-commerce offerings and some that don’t. Regardless, the trend is consistent; B2C marketers are quick to drive the prospect/customer further down to journey to action. While the desire to drive sales is understandable in today’s competitive market, there is risk in this approach. If the drive to action is presented too early in the journey and without the proper set-up (the earlier points on the arc), you run the risk of the customer opting out of the journey.
We can easily identify the B2C brands that are over-incenting sales behaviors because it’s always reflected in the content. This approach may work for a while, but it won’t in the long term.
It’s important to ensure you have proper set-up before hammering your customer to act.
B2B marketers are overly focused on revealing offer
B2B marketers also have a storytelling imbalance; however, it’s in a different part of the journey. 53% of B2B brands place a disproportionate focus on Revealing Offer in their story.
The compulsion to communicate products and services is understandable. However, exactly like the B2C example, if the customer is inundated with detailed product information before they are ready to consider such content, you take the risk of driving them out of your story and journey.
Storytelling imbalance leads to disjointed customer experience
When we see gross imbalances in these areas, we know it’s the product of one of two things (or both). Either the organization overly focused on incentives, and repercussions around sales resulting in content that is disproportionately focused on supporting that metric. Or, the organization has a lack of sophistication in their content marketing approach.
We’re not suggesting that a sales-driven culture is bad. Not at all. But like anything, sole focus on a single metric can be damaging long term. It drives unintended behavior within the organization and will likely lead to a disjointed customer experience.
For the customer, it’s a one-note experience that will often drive them elsewhere. Have you ever walked into a retail store to browse, possibly buy something if you find something compelling; only to have a sales person follow you around asking “Can I help you find something?”
I have a 3 strike rule; ask me 3 times and I walk. If those retailers are telling themselves that that’s good customer service, they’re fooling themselves. And it may work in driving some sales, but at what opportunity cost? And we all know it’s a horrible experience if you don’t want assistance in that moment.
That’s the product of singular focus on driving sales action to meet objectives for your business, not their needs. The content marketing equivalent is being overly focused on points five and six in the 8-Point Arc.