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Storytelling Mistake-Pulling Threads

by Hank Barnes  |  February 13, 2018  |  3 Comments

As B2B marketers embrace storytelling, I’m seeing an improvement in content quality and usefulness. They are embracing the idea of starting their stories with their customers’ situation rather than themselves.     The approach brings people in and lays the groundwork to reveal how specific products and services can help the customers get to a better place.

But I still see some issues as marketers strengthen their storytelling muscle.    One of the problems I’ve seen a lot lately is pulling threads.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

What I mean by this is that the storyteller will start down one story line, one situation and then introduce another, and another, and another.  If the threads are connected this may be okay, but usually they aren’t.

This creates confusion.  The audience (customer) wants to hear the full story, but is quickly taken somewhere else.   It’s confusing and hard to follow.

When I review these types of efforts, I hearken back to long feature lists or long lists of differentiators.  It’s like throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks.

The alternative–understand your audience, create a collection of stories that are told completely (situation, impact, resolution–and results), focus on making things easy to understand.  And don’t forget progressive engagement–tell enough that they understand and want to learn more, then add details and tracks off the main path, that ultimately collect back together.

Like a frayed shirt, pulling threads in stories ultimately looks sloppy.  Simplify and tie everything together.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: messaging  storytelling  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Storytelling Mistake-Pulling Threads

  1. Hank, you have a great way of expressing this problem. With a stranger (you hope to make a customer), after getting permission to tell a ‘peer story,’ you have 90 seconds max. Net it out and one thread at a time.

  2. Steve Dana says:

    Hank, I couldn’t agree more. “…create a collection of stories that are told completely, focus on making things easy to understand…” Nothing is more detrimental than meandering down a path only to be throw towards another path…and another. I always say when telling a Customer Peer Story, “Get on stage, be good, (know when to) get off stage.” Make the story quick (90-seconds or less) and compelling. Thank you for the great article, Hank!

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