Soapbox: Here’s why B2B should get better at episodic storytelling
It's time for brands to build on others' success by presenting their own stories as episodes to keep audiences coming back for more.
Trends in storytelling generally stem from media and entertainment. Once these early adopters demonstrate success, edgy B2C brands borrow with pride. Then, B2B players catch on and test the tactic for themselves.
And so it goes with episodic storytelling. Streaming services and premium television publishers are purposefully presenting stories as episodes to keep audiences coming back for more. It works for Disney+. It works for B2C brands. And, as more marketers are beginning to realize, it works for B2B brands.
Episodic content is a familiar tactic among audiences and drives tremendous engagement. You need to:
- Deliver high value in a shorter than usual timespan. You want your audience to think, “That was interesting, and it didn’t take too long,” and they’ll be willing to come back for more.
- Provide a clear call-to-action at the end of the series. If you have asked someone for this much of their time, and they have cared enough to give it, be clear on what should happen next.
- Think about why you love your favorite series. You can’t get enough of “The Mandalorian” because you are invested in the characters. A nonfiction narrative usually works better than a made-up story for B2B brands, but you can still use storytelling best practices. Establish strong character bonds so people are invested, and end episodes with unanswered questions – cliffhangers – but don’t forget to resolve them quickly.
Episodic storytelling could mean the continuation of the same plotline, or serial storytelling like “Black Mirror,” in which each episode introduces new characters. Either way, quality, character-driven storytelling will reap the best results. Tips for success include:
- Let go of fear! Trust that your plot and your characters will deliver real value.
- Learn from B2B brands that are doing this right. MailChimp’s animated series, “Outer Monologue,” Intel’s drone and AI series, “Preserving a Legacy” and Zarius’ “Marketing Unboxed” are good examples.
- Think beyond video. Episodic storytelling works in virtually all mediums, including blog posts and podcasts. In fact, B2B podcasting will explode in 2020.
All brands will need to morph into media companies if they want to survive. B2B marketers may be hesitant to try episodic storytelling, but I have seen content fail because the story was delivered all at once when it would have been better told in installments. Audiences like episodic storytelling and it is time for B2B marketers to master it.