Narrative storytelling can help a B2B company connect with their audience on an emotional level. But no matter what kind of story is chosen, odds are it will fall into a specific category. Seven major plot types exist and each feature their own set of distinctive themes and characters:
- Overcoming the monster
- Rages to riches
- The quest
- Voyage and return
Plots are important to storytelling because they help to shape the voice of a brand. They create a sense of consistency and give consumers insight into what a business stands for. For example, a company that tells a quest story may be on a mission to change the world and want their audience to come on the journey with them.
So, how do B2B companies go about choosing the right plot?
Overcoming the monster
Overcoming the monster is the most recognisable story. A hero must battle against the forces of darkness and defeat overwhelming odds to save the day. From Beowulf to Star Wars, the overcoming the monster formula has been repeated countless times.
A B2B company can benefit from telling this story by positioning itself as the hero that helps consumers overcome their problems. A truly compelling overcoming the monster story isn’t about achieving instant success. It’s fraught with tension, danger and the possibility of the hero’s defeat. Brands that are comfortable with sharing their failures can make themselves more relatable in the eyes of their customers.
To tell a memorable overcoming the monster narrative, B2B companies need to understand customer pain points and figure out how their products and services can become the solution.
Rags to riches
This story focuses on a downtrodden character who achieves success because of their natural talents. But the true appeal of a rags to riches story lies in what a protagonist learns when their wealth is under threat.
B2B companies that adopt this approach need to detail how their services can make life better for B2B customers. Does your product save time? Does it help people save money? A customer who feels time-rich is likely to buy into a brand for the long term because they know their needs are being met.
Quest storylines involve the hero embarking on a journey to recover a priceless object and make the world a safer place. To tell a successful quest story, B2B brands need to make it clear to an audience that they are in it for the long haul. Products and services need to be presented as long-lasting tools that can withstand the test of time.
Quest stories can be tied into a brand’s mission statement. Apple are on a quest to challenge the status quo in their industry. Microsoft has pledged to “empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.” Consumers are more likely to see a brand as a source of inspiration if they know it has a clear mission statement.
Voyage and return
Protagonists in voyage and return stories often find themselves stranded in strange lands. The hero comes home with a richer outlook, meaning brands need to consider how to market to consumers that are searching for inspirational experiences.
A B2B conference is an ideal place for spinning a voyage and return story. An attendee may feel inspired after returning from the event because they have spoken to thought leaders in their industry and improved their knowledge.
A comedy plot can make people laugh, but it also involves characters working together to triumph over an adverse circumstance. Once the characters have overcome the challenge, they can move forward and reach a happy ending.
In a B2B context, a comedy plot can show buyers how to overcome a difficult or unfamiliar situation in a light-hearted, informative way and allows a company to come across as down-to-earth and relatable to its target audience.
A tragedy plot refers to a story that is built around human flaws. No matter how successful a character might become, their downfall is inevitable. Tragedy-focused marketing should inspire B2B audiences to think about how they could alter their destiny by warning them on what could happen if they don’t change their behaviour.
Finance specialist BLP created a tragedy-orientated video, ‘The curious case of the FCA letter’, which helped risk officers plan for regulatory risk. The video presented a regulatory ordeal that the target audience could relate to. A woman accidently shared confidential information with a friend who worked for a competitor and it led to an investigation from the Financial Conduct Authority. As a result, the protagonist was fined £80,000 and fired from her job.
The video also explained how the disaster could have been averted e.g. the main character should have understood her regulatory obligations. A brand that tells a tragic story can stop its customers from making mistakes and establish itself as a knowledgeable resource.
Rebirth plots are all about the path to redemption. A flawed character undergoes a transformation that forces them to change their ways for the better. Rebirth stories have the power to be uplifting and alter human perception.
One of the greatest examples of B2B rebirth occurred with information technology (IT) powerhouse IBM. The company started off as a force to be reckoned with in the IT industry, supplying PCs to businesses around the world. But it wasn’t long before other companies like Microsoft started selling computers that were built from cheaper components. IBM adapted by changing into an IT consultancy firm and reformed itself into a global tech support leader.
IBM told its rebirth story by understanding the evolving trends within its industry and adapting to buyer behaviour. Rather than focus on traditional sales channels, they branched out into other platforms like Instagram and YouTube, allowing them to promote relevant content to a modern audience that values authenticity and emotive experiences.
Choosing a plot type for a B2B story is a process that should not be rushed. Learn how to become an effective B2B storyteller by downloading our free guide.