B2B Mentors: Communications Expert Mary Gardner on Storytelling

Tale as old as time … storytelling is a timeless act of conveying information and experiences. Stories elicit an emotional response and connection between the storyteller and the audience. For B2B professionals, storytelling is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s an imperative to remain competitive and rise above the noise. Communications expert Mary Gardner shares her insight on storytelling best practices that will help you rise above the competition and stand out as a B2B storytelling leader.

Why is storytelling so important for B2B businesses?

MG: The motto “facts tell, stories sell” will always be true. Today more than ever, people want to hear how the service or product impacts others. This is a trust-building technique. If some experienced a great result, then the chances are others will experience great results as well.

How does storytelling live (e.g., on stage presentation) compare with written or digital storytelling?

MG: Digital storytelling can be achieved in many ways — through ads, video, interactive campaigns, and on social media. Video, in particular, brings people into a live sense of storytelling with the unique ability to reach a worldwide audience. So, whether it’s live on stage or on video, the stories we tell can have a major impact on businesses.

As a former publicist, I know that people receive information and learn differently — some are visual, some auditory, and some kinesthetic. Live storytelling offers a bit more of a personal experience, but digital formats also can achieve a personal connection through engaging video and interactive campaigns.

On average, it takes five to seven touchpoints to develop a relationship with a person or product. If a message is continually reinforced to a potential customer through storytelling in a variety of formats, businesses can not only address the varying learning needs of their potential customers, but ultimately empower and influence those customers to buy.

What are strategies that you recommend to become a stronger, more confident, and engaging storyteller?

MG: First and foremost, storytelling takes practice! Write the facts down. People justify decisions based on facts, but they buy based on emotion. Next, tell the story by using the senses — how did it sound, feel, affect, appear for the person or company. The story can always be enhanced by telling it several different ways. A simple way to add texture or drama to your stories is by considering your word choices. A thesaurus is a great way to reference alternate words or phrases that could add more depth to your message.

What are key ingredients to a great story?

MG: Authenticity is always going to be the top credibility factor in a story. It must be real and must have affected someone in a dramatic way. The best stories are simple and make a point that is relevant to many.

As a speech writer, I flip it the other way as well. When a person has an amazing story, I can usually derive many different points to the story by switching out a few words. For speakers, if they have a story from childhood, it can be shared through different perspectives and lenses to address the varying facets of the story. As a result, one childhood story can be used in several speeches for a variety of topics.

What should professionals avoid in their stories? Any common pitfalls that can actually hurt credibility of the story or storyteller?

MG: I think the biggest pitfall is the length of your story — going on for too long or cutting the story too short. The story needs to be able to carry people on an emotional journey, but it has to, at some point, end and have a strong point. If you’re more of a left-brain, analytical person, you should work with a right-brain, creative person to enhance the storytelling. If your story comes across as boring or misses that emotional connection, you are far more likely to lose the sale simply because your prospect has lost interest and moved on. That’s why strong companies combine left brain logical people together with their creative counterparts in marketing and sales to tell the story in an enhanced and relatable way.

About the Author:

Mary Gardner is a nationally recognized speaker, public speaking and communications coach, and consultant. She leads a team that does PR and marketing for speakers. She hosts online courses and in-person workshops and seminars. Gardner’s main objective is to help people improve their business development and communication skills, storytelling, interview skills, and public speaking skills.

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