Six reasons why stories are more effective than statistics

And how you can make them work for B2B

November 25, 2020

Six reasons why stories are more effective than statistics

Who doesn’t love a statistic? Used properly, they can influence, convince and convert. They are a powerful tool to demonstrate the impact of your product or service. But that does not mean we should use them everywhere.  

Storytelling is everywhere in the consumer world because it does what statistics can very rarely achieve: It makes people feel (Disney's 2020 From our Family to Yours Christmas Advert is just one of many emotive holiday campaigns this year). Nevertheless, it’s fair to say many B2B marketers tend to be more comfortable telling quantifiable, statistical truths.

It's the reason we avoid telling stories to a business audience: because the word is synonymous with fiction. But sometimes the most powerful stories are the ones that are true. And besides, when it comes to getting audiences to engage with your messages, storytelling is what works best.

Here are six reasons why you should be focusing on B2B storytelling over statistics.

1.     They make you more memorable

What better way to explain the power of stories over statistics than with, well, a number.

It’s one you will find crop up anywhere that discusses the power of a strong narrative, and it’s derived from the work of a psychologist called Jerome Bruner. In his book Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Bruner estimates that facts are approximately 22 times more likely to be remembered if they are part of a story. 22 times.

2.     They help people to like you

The power of a good story is sharing experiences that help your audience connect. And according to research by Dr. Robert Cialdini, people prefer to say yes to those with whom they share common ground. In Cialdini’s research, those who found similarities before negotiations were almost twice as likely to come to a successful conclusion – with outcomes worth 18% more to both parties. Never underestimate the persuasive power of likeability.

3.     They communicate your purpose

Unless you’re talking to shareholders, it’s not easy to demonstrate purpose with numbers. A strategic narrative, on the other hand, is the ideal vehicle for expressing the core values in your business. In their book Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard professors John P. Kotter and James L. Heskett found that companies which successfully communicated their purpose and value could achieve profit performance that was 750 times greater than those that didn’t.

4.     They let others share in that purpose

But there’s no need to get into hyperbolic figures about the fiscal value of a good story. Instead, let’s look at the broader value. According to the Harvard Business Review, the greatest benefit of a strategic narrative is its ability to bring all your stakeholders on your journey with you. Finding a human connection can turn your prospects into collaborators, co-creators, participants. Lose that narrative and everyone loses a little bit of direction.

5.     They show empathy with your audience

Stories are inherently personal. They are relatable. Statistics are inherently not. If you can find a narrative that lets you empathise with your customers’ fears, needs and ambitions, you can make a connection that is far more meaningful to your audience.

ShoreTel Connect’s A Day in the Life does not tell you how efficient its technology is. But you can see it. It does not define your increase in productivity by numbers. Instead, you share the journey of a stressed out parent who needs to juggle his life with his work. They humanised their product. Their audience can relate.

6.     They drive long-term growth

In 5 Principles Of Growth In B2B Marketing, Binet and Field say that for optimal long-term growth, your B2B marketing that should consist of 46% brand building and 54% short-term activation. In most campaigns, statistics can be used to make the short-term, logical argument for your product. It improves productivity by X%. It can save you up to £X.XX. But brand campaigns that feature stories can use emotion to create long-term memories and associations. These will continue to influence purchase decisions, reduce price sensitivity and increase margins long after the campaign has finished.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I’ve used several statistics in this post. But my point is not that we should avoid using them, only that they can have a far greater impact when used as part of a wider, more emotive narrative.

Storytelling in B2B marketing is all about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It can result in better engagement and retention of your messages, a more memorable brand and stronger long-term growth.

To explore the potential of B2B interactive storytelling, visit LinkedIn Ad Vantage and immerse yourself in our ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ experience: A Day in the Life of a Marketer. The video below shows you what to expect. Don't forget to let us know what you think via #linkedinadvantage.