Bringing Storytelling to B2B Marketing: Introducing the Seven Basic Plots
B2B content gets a bad reputation for being boring. But good content should never be boring, and B2B is no exception. They key to creating good content is to make it relatable, and what better way to do that than storytelling?
Storytelling is ingrained in human nature, and throughout history, storytellers have played a critical role in the development of society. It’s how we pass knowledge down through generations and keep cultural traditions alive. One of the key characteristics of storytelling is its ability to take what would otherwise be a forgettable lecture and communicate it in a way that ensures the listener remembers. It’s one thing to tell a child not to go outside at night because they might get lost in the dark – it’s another to tell a story about the bogeyman who snatches up lost children in the dead of the night.
Anthropologists and writers throughout the ages have endlessly theorized the mechanics behind powerful storytelling. One such theory, set forth by Christopher Booker, is called the Seven Basic Plots, which holds that every story in the world can be categorized into seven basic archetypes. They can be translated into B2B content that’s more engaging.
In this article, we’ll give you a short explanation of each plot type and how it can be used in B2B content, but you can read more about the seven stories in Booker’s book
Plot 1: Overcoming the Monster
In fiction, this plot describes when a hero sets out to defeat an evil entity or force that threatens the hero and that which they love, such as in the Harry Potter series.
In B2B content, this plot describes when a company confronts and defeats an issue or challenge that threatens their future.
Plot 2: Rags to Riches
In fiction, this plot describes a story in which a person gains something they desire, loses it, then gains it back. The overarching theme of this story is personal growth. One example is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
In B2B content, this story describes a company that grows from a small enterprise into an industry leader.
Plot 3: The Quest
In fiction, this story describes when a hero sets out to accomplish a specific task but finds their path beset with challenges and dangers. You might recognize this story archetype from the Indiana Jones series.
In B2B content, this plot describes a company that sets out to accomplish a specific business outcome that feeds into their larger business strategy.
Plot 4: The Voyage and Return
In fiction, this story focuses on a hero that goes on a long journey to lands unknown, gaining life experience and eventually returning a different person. A classic example of this story is The Odyssey.
In B2B, this plot describes a company that breaks into a new market, eventually leading to the overall transformation of the company.
Plot 5: Comedy
This story archetype is one of the most difficult to grasp because ‘comedy’ isn’t necessarily synonymous with ‘humor.’ In fiction, comedies are light-hearted, generally have a happy ending, and demonstrate a triumph over adversity. Reliably, the central problem becomes more and more complex until one single scene reveals its true nature, giving the characters the clarity they need to solve it. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a great example. Most romances also fit into this category.
In B2B content, this story describes when a company faces an array of challenges and discovers there’s one underlying cause for all of them. Once the cause is addressed, the challenges are mitigated or disappear entirely.
Plot 6: Tragedy
In fiction, a tragedy describes a story in which the main character, who’s usually a mostly good person, has one major flaw that leads to their downfall. A famous example of a tragedy is The Great Gatsby.
In B2B content, this plot describes a company that has one major problem or makes one bad decision that leads to its ultimate failure.
Plot 7: Rebirth
The final archetype describes a story in which the main character faces an event or challenge that cause them to change and become a better person. The most famous example is A Christmas Carol.If you’re a 90s kid, you may also recognize this plot from The Pagemaster.
In B2B content, rebirth is a story in which a company undergoes a major transformation and comes out the other side stronger and more successful.
What are the benefits of using the Seven Basic Plots framework?
We’ve already discussed one major benefit to the framework – relatability – but there are other advantages that shouldn’t be overlooked when considering whether to use one of the seven story archetypes in your content:
- By breaking your content down into elements that align with one of the story archetypes, you can create content that’s more focused and easier to follow. It can be tempting to try to make a content piece that does everything for everyone. The story archetypes help you stay on track, which will make your content more impactful to the people who are actually using it.
- Sometimes, coming up with the content format and structure can be just as time consuming as writing the piece itself. By using a story archetype, you have a foundational template to follow, so that it’s faster to get to the development stage of content without sacrificing strategic value or quality.
- The story archetypes don’t just work for single content pieces either – you can actually use them to create full nurture streams to drive your prospects to your services or products. By aligning your chosen story’s plot elements to the buyer’s journey, you can create a simple but strategic nurture stream which gives you the opportunity to increase your conversion rate.
Regardless of whether or how you use the seven basic plots, it’s important to hone your storytelling skills and add them to your B2B content toolbox. Storytelling is a great way to create compelling content that gives you a competitive edge and keeps your brand at the forefront of your prospects’ minds.
Learn more about the different ways you can use the seven basic plots in our next Bliss Blog post, which dives into two use cases to help you get started using the story approach.