31-03-2021

CUSTOMER PUBLISHING AS STORYTELLING

There are many ways to tell B2B brand stories. A customer magazine is one of the better ones.

Author: Daniel Porter

The story of marketing in the past decade is, in many ways, the story of “storytelling”. It’s not a new concept, by any means, but along with the related idea of “content marketing” the term has gained a huge amount of currency within a marketing context in recent years.

People don’t just want to be sold to. They want to be engaged with, to learn something, to be entertained. Brands that can find a way to do all this then find the actual selling process much more straightforward.

We work with B2B brands to help them communicate their stories to loyal customers and new audiences. Video is an immensely powerful tool here, one that we have plenty of thoughts on. But for its potential to engage people’s attention for an extended period of time – customer magazines are hard to beat. In fact, the CMA has estimated the average customer engagement time for a content marketing title is 25 minutes, compared with mere seconds typically spent looking at an advertisement of any kind (Source: MarketingWeek).

For the existing customer they inspire loyalty, giving them something tangible of value that they can actually hold in their hands, connect with and learn from. Where prospects are concerned, it’s a powerful opportunity for a brand to position itself as more than a mere supplier.

A B2B customer magazine provides endless interlinking opportunities to build a brand story; communicate values; comment on market trends and topical issues; educate and inform; demonstrate expertise, and ultimately cross promote multiple products and services. Readers can be seamlessly directed to online platforms to learn more and to continue the engagement journey, and in large organisations, such publications can also be a valuable internal communications tool to share important news and to encourage everyone to buy into a shared vision.

This isn’t a sales brochure, or a product catalogue. Both have their place, but they’re only really used as a reference when someone is already looking to buy. A customer magazine occupies a very different place in the marketing mix and in the buyer’s journey. It needs to be something that people want to read; even something that they look forward to – so careful thought needs to go into putting it together. Done right, you’ll find new customers who never would have looked at a piece of straight sales or marketing collateral from you. And you’ll sell new products and services to existing customers through engaging and informing them.

When we work with clients to develop a customer magazine, we start by asking what the audience wants. For example, we’ve found that B2B customers really like to read stories about people or businesses that are very much like them, that they can identify with. So customer case studies about a challenge overcome or a problem solved are an extremely powerful tool.

Industry trends and future predictions are another sure-fire way to attract and hold people’s attention. These topics really matter to business owners and decision makers, and real market intelligence is always highly valued. To work, these pieces need to have authenticity. It’s OK to mention a product or service if it’s relevant, but these articles can’t just be a poorly disguised excuse to shoehorn some sales copy into a story about the future of the sector. Industry analysis and commentary has to stand on its own merits, or no one will read beyond the first few lines.

Ultimately, customers are not naïve. They know that the magazine they’re holding is promotional marketing. But if the content is valuable and engaging, it doesn’t matter. They will value it, and they will engage with it. And when brands find a way to achieve that with customers and prospects, everyone wins.