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I’m not “hip” to most pop culture, and celebrity news is not quite my thing, but man, Anthony Bourdain’s passing hit me more than I thought it would – even weeks later. Bourdain was undeniably an incredible storyteller, and that’s why I, and so many others who didn’t even know him personally, felt the weight of his tragic loss.

His ability to connect with people was unique; it’s like I knew him just by watching his programs and reading his articles. Nobody could tell a story like him. As chef Eric Ripert more aptly put it, “He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many around the world on a level rarely seen. He brought us all on some incredible journeys.”

But this is not about his loss. Instead, I’d like to focus on what I’ve learned from this masterful storyteller over the years. Here are a few of my top Bourdain takeaways:

  • Foster human connection – Bourdain’s stories all centered around real people. Whether he’s eating yak butter in Bhutan or raging at an all-hours club culture in Berlin, all of his experiences centered on speaking with individuals and listening. This is a mistake B2B marketers often make; they are often so excited about talking about how great a product or solution is that they forget to establish a protagonist or intimately understand the needs and motivations of the target buyer. If your product doesn’t help a CSO better identify security threats, a federal IT decision-maker ease the business of government or enable a CIO to simplify systems for users, all the product details in the world won’t matter or resonate.
  • Find the Friction – Good storytelling is all about finding the point of conflict. For Bourdain, it was often about setting the stage – the wars, demographics and other factors that created the culture of the location he was visiting. His trip to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza was one great example of how to deconstruct conflict for greater understanding. For B2B content developers, it’s critical to explain who the “good” and “bad” guys are, the challenges that need to overcome, what’s holding them back and how success can ultimately be achieved.
  • Have an opinion – Understanding the conflict drives home the need for the development of a clear thesis. The more that this thesis can challenge convention, the better. This is the core concept of thought leadership for B2B marketers. To cut through the noise you need to be bold and put a stake in the ground around a topic, and then back it up with facts and other validation points. As Bourdain was quoted as saying, “You want them to feel how you felt at the time, if you’re telling something that you experienced…Or you want to drive them to a certain opinion or way of looking at things.”
  • Cut the BS – Honesty was a part of Bourdain’s brand – for better or worse. Viewers knew that they would get an unfiltered and honest take, and respected that fact. In the B2B world, it’s equally as important to gain the trust of your audience. Nobody wants to feel “messaged” to like a used car salesman. The brand voice has to be genuine and not overpromise. Otherwise, it will come across as fluffy marketing speak. Keep it real like Bourdain, but maybe with just fewer expletives.

If you want to learn how Merritt Group can bring your story to life to engage your buyers, contact us.

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