I admit it. I’m a Downton Abbey fan. My wife and I started watching it around the first season of Breaking Bad.
If Breaking Bad is the opiate of TV programming, then I suppose Downton Abbey is the antidote Narcan. Both feature addictive storytelling, just on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Last Sunday, we gathered around PBS and watched the first episode of the final season of Dowton Abbey. If you haven’t seen one of the most popular shows in PBS history, it’s about the two worlds of the snooty 20th century upperclass in England living symbiotically with servants in the basement.
It was’t until I listened to the recent episode of the Business of Story podcast with my guest, brand marketeer and storyteller Kathy Klotz-Guest of Keeping it Human, did I realize that Downtown Abbey is the perfect metaphor for how typical B2B marketing is done.
This was my ah-ha moment from our interview:
“Our job as marketers and storytellers is we’re operating at two levels. I have to solve your company problem, I have to. But there’s this other whole layer that, yeah, I’m talking to a human being that feels risk. If the solution doesn’t work as promised, this person – he or she – feels risk. It’s their reputation, it’s their credibility, it’s their visibility in the organization.”
She continued, “There’s a human need that is a hot potato and nobody addresses it. So you have to tell that story that not only addresses the company need but, how am I going to make your individual life better?”
The upstairs of Downtown Abbey is where the business takes place in all of its airs, garb and jargon. Mostly stuffy and always dressed in the fear of being found out.
Downstairs is where the raw humanity takes place. The servants see and know most everything about the manor inhabitants, yet keep to themselves other than idle gossip and sharing the collective frustration of not being appreciated as people.
Most B2B marketing is exactly like this: shallow and showy features and benefits stuff up front with little regard to the humanity that makes it all happen in the back. It’s ironic that we modern marketers have it backward. It’s not people in service to the product, but the product in service to the people. And those are the business stories we should be telling.
“Don’t underestimate the power of a simple, elegant, memorable, just pure, story that’s honest and grounded in reality, She said. Look for the times where there was a human need met, get to the human need of that story. If you start to peel back the onion about your services . . . what did you really provide at a human level for your customer? How is their life different?”
So the next time you craft a B2B story for your professional services firm, consider inviting the human element to your features and benefits ball. You might just save the estate in the process.