In theory, it should be easy to tailor your marketing to match the needs and expertise-level of your audience. After all, your team is talented, and they live and breathe your tech. But there’s a powerful force working against you (and all domain experts): the Curse of Knowledge.
The Curse of Knowledge is a well-documented cognitive bias in which experts find it difficult to imagine not knowing something that they already know. In other words, it might be a challenge to communicate complex information to those who have no context for it, even if you know this information better than anyone.
Sound familiar? For those of you at category-defining startups, or ones that use trailblazing technology, this problem is especially common. We’ve seen it time and time again working with some of the most innovative founders in B2B tech. How do you translate your deep knowledge into messaging that resonates with your audience?
In this post, we’ll share a few tried-and-true storytelling strategies for beating the Curse of Knowledge. These strategies should look familiar to you; they’re based in age-old storytelling and literary techniques. When applied deftly, they can lead to ingenious new ways of telling the story of your product — and making your audience want to know more.
Strategy #1: Classic Storytelling
It’s no secret how large a role emotion plays in marketing, and storytelling is a great way to add emotional resonance to your messaging. Additionally, telling a story will give your audience a simple narrative structure to follow, which will help make any abstract ideas more concrete.
In storytelling, there are 7 major archetypes, and they’ve been refined and iterated countless times over thousands of years. There’s a reason these 7 archetypes have emerged: they work. Below, we’ve focused on three of them that can be especially helpful in shaping your B2B marketing messaging.
1. Overcoming the Monster, in which a hero who must conquer an evil force
Classic example: James Bond or Harry Potter
The “main character” to focus on: Your customers and/or your company as the hero
How to use it: Give your customers a compelling antagonist that is threatening them. Your startup/product is the hero that helps customers beat the antagonist.
2. Rags to Riches, in which the disadvantaged hero gains what they lack
Classic example: Cinderella
The “main character” to focus on: your customers + their success stories
How to use it: Show how your product improves the lives of your customers by saving them something meaningful—like time or money. Show your customers overcoming adversity with help from your product.
3. The Quest, in which the hero must reach a certain destination (and encounters obstacles along the way)
Classic example: Lord of the Rings
B2B Example: CleverTap’s “Journey to Success” video series
The “main character” to focus on: Any prospects or current customers who are facing a daunting challenge and need to forge ahead — e.g. companies with an ambitious growth roadmap, legacy organizations who need to modernize, new companies who need to scale fast.
How to use it: Show yourself as being your customer’s trusted partner along their perilous journey. You’re the only one who can help them get where they need to go…aka the Sam to their Frodo.
Strategy #2: Analogies and Metaphors
Analogies and metaphors are very powerful tools when you’re trying to deepen your audience’s understanding. By using an analogy or metaphor, you can reframe your key message into something familiar and relatable to your audience. This will help them understand the benefits of your product without needing to fully understand the technical details. Here are two tips for how to use analogies and metaphors in your B2B marketing:
1. Draw parallels between your product and a common non-B2B-tech experience
This tip can be especially useful if you are trying to define a new market category, since your audience will not have others to compare you to. Here’s an example of how to use it:
Imagine you’re the CEO of a company that secures third-party API connections. You know securing API connections is a critical element that all modern enterprise businesses need, and you know you have the solution, but how do you begin explaining this obscure problem space to your target audience?
Try an analogy: an API is just like a waiter in a restaurant. The waiter takes care of all parts of dining out: from explaining menu specials to taking orders, serving the food, and taking payment for the meal. But, at this particular restaurant, there is a waiter who has decided to run a scheme—swiping people’s credit card numbers and selling their information to make some extra income on the side. While there is usually an implied level of trust between a restaurant and diners, a compromised waiter can cause major issues for both sides of the relationship.
With this analogy, you can have your audience consider how unfortunate it would be if their credit card information was stolen, which will help them understand how bad it would be for a similar theft of information to happen to their company’s data.
2. Visualize, visualize, visualize
Strong visuals can have an extraordinary influence on bringing your analogies and metaphors to life. Where an analogy or metaphor makes a technical concept more digestible, the addition of a visual is a great tool to really help the concept stick.
Here are a few great examples of this idea in action:
Our client Acumen.io helps engineering teams with their productivity by unifying the data from various software engineering tools to identify bottlenecks, risks, and other helpful metrics. On their website, Acumen designed a simple yet clear visual metaphor that equates their product with superpowers a video game character might have. Much simpler to take in, right?
In this video, HubSpot’s goal is to help people understand AI and what it is used for. The video draws a contrast between what people have come to learn about AI through TV and movies—and how it actually works. HubSpot opens the video with images of robots and cities in outer space, and then they transition back to reality and show images of regular people using AI to do things like check the weather, ask what time it is, and find the best driving route.
It never hurts to add supporting images to your written content to help convey your point even more strongly (like we did in this blog post!) Sendinblue does this on their homepage by offering customers the chance to “take a free test drive” of their services. Sendinblue is an email marketing platform, which of course has nothing to do with driving, but comparing the free trial to a test drive adds a layer of familiarity and excitement, and helps make sure incoming prospects know what to expect.
The bottom line
When used well, stories, analogies, and metaphors enable your customers to better understand your product, see the need for it, and want to champion your brand. No matter how complicated your product is, using these storytelling tips can help you beat the Curse of Knowledge — by transforming your deep expertise into persuasive golden nuggets that your target audience will be clamoring to consume.