12th October 2016
I’m a bit obsessed with dance lately. And at the weekend I happened to see Darcey Bussell – former Royal Ballet prima ballerina (and Strictly Come Dancing judge) – on the Jonathan Ross Show. She was promoting an upcoming documentary she’s hosting on Dame Margot Fonteyn, the prima ballerina who became synonymous with English ballet and who almost single-handedly propelled the Royal Ballet and its English style onto the international stage.
Darcey told a story about when – as a young ballerina, just 20 years old – she met and was mentored by Fonteyn as she about to perform her first Swan Lake as prima ballerina. Darcey told us how at the time she was obsessed with technique, with the execution of the dance steps –sustaining the en pointe throughout, the positioning of her arms, the height of her leaps, etc. Then she spoke about Dame Margot encouraging her to forget about the technique and concentrate on the story, that it didn’t matter if she had the most perfect technique, if she couldn’t connect with the audience through the story then her performance would not be a success.
We talk a lot about story-telling in B2B marketing. And this story that Darcey told could be an analogy for B2B marketing, with the addition of a point implied but not overtly stated by her. Because technique and story-telling work together; unless the technique is superb, the story cannot be told as effectively. In other words, without the foundation – the technique, the theory and the understanding of the dance itself – it is impossible to interpret the story through the medium in a way that really matters to the audience.
However, as Dame Margot told Darcey, the story is critical. Even with the most gorgeous technique, and the most precisely choreographed and danced ballet, if the emotional connection isn’t made with the audience, the dance becomes just a dance, with no resonance and no impact.
There’s another element here as well. Darcey had just been promoted to principle ballerina and she had years and years of technical training and experience behind her. While I can only imagine the nerves performing on stage for the first time in such a role, to reach this moment in her profession, surely the technique would be so ingrained that she would completely trust that foundation. She would then be free to concentrate more on the story and less on the technique.
And this is the lesson we really need to learn and internalise in B2B marketing. Firstly, we must understand and trust in our ability as marketers. However, we’re so often focused on the technique – all the myriad tactics and channels – that we’re getting caught up with each output, each step, and losing sight of the story we want to tell, what we want to achieve, and most importantly, how our customers will respond.
Marketing is like a dance.
We absolutely must get the steps right and we must do them well. But if we do not engage and connect with our customers, marketing becomes just a lot of fancy footwork without any relevance or meaning at all.
Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.