Posted by Jason Ocker

You did it. You have a well-defined strategy. And you built a tightly developed and vetted story around it. You’re already ahead of most B2B marketers.

But now it’s time to start mercilessly changing that story. Like what George Lucas did to Star Wars.

Starting in the 1990s, in time for the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release of his trilogy, creator George Lucas took advantage of the latest digital technologies to make a galaxy of changes throughout the three movies: Greedo shoots first. Hayden Christensen is ghosted in at the end of Jedi. Entire characters are removed. New characters and lines of dialogue are added. Ewoks blink. The Sarlacc gets a beak and tentacles. Darth Vader’s eyebrows are removed in the unveiling scene at the end of the trilogy. Scores more.

And that’s exactly what I’m suggesting you do for your audience. Remove Darth Vader’s eyebrows.

If a story isn’t resonating with your audience, change it. If it’s not driving sales, change it. If it’s not positioning your company as thought leaders in the industry, change it. If it’s working perfectly, well, don’t change it. That’s being a little too much like Lucas. But B2B marketing stories shouldn’t be static, and they should never have a “The End.”

Wait. But weren’t/aren’t people angry at Lucas for these revisions?

Yes, yes they were/are. But the difference here is a crucial one.

Aside from the fact that this Star Wars analogy is closer to a business changing its product (since the Star Wars story in this case is the product and not technically a path to one), Lucas’s changes seemed mostly whim-born and internally motivated. They certainly weren’t based on any objectively interpreted data.

And that’s exactly what should dictate changes to a B2B marketing story. More specifically, immediate data culled directly from your audience. That’s how you find out if a story is resonating or driving sales or positioning your company or solution appropriately.

But getting that data has traditionally been a problem for businesses. Normal methods of gathering it are painful sales and customer surveys and subjectively interpreted anecdotes from the field. Dinosaur stuff. By the time that sort of data comes in and gets synthesized into actions, the old, un-optimized story has been out there too long, especially in today’s fast-moving digital world. B2B marketers need more immediate, relevant data from their audience to adapt their stories effectively and quickly.

And the channels for that specific type of data? Paid search and social.

Like CGI for George Lucas, paid search and social are the most cutting-edge tools for B2B marketers looking for better data. Paid search gives you an immediate and direct insight into the way that customers think about an industry, their own challenges, and your solutions, down to the very language that they use. Social media is where the conversation is happening, where thought leadership is established, where brands are elevated or lowered, where opinions and reactions are circulated non-stop.

These digital channels are highly immediate and extremely relevant. This is where your audience lives and acts.

Today, many B2B companies flirt with paid search and social. It’s a check-the-box activity, one almost begrudgingly added because search and social is obviously such a force of modern culture. Most B2B marketers are far more comfortable with antiquated methods of promotion like print and banner ads, despite all the evidence against their effectiveness and the lack of return of any useable data. Also, admittedly, using search and social well in a B2B context is difficult.

It’s more than just hiring a social media manager. More than just opening an AdWords account. To be able to use those channels, you have to design and build an internal infrastructure that is able to access the search and social data and respond to it accordingly, to set up that cycle of ever-refreshing outbound content and inbound data.

But in today’s digital world, regardless of the difficulty, it’s vital for the success of any B2B marketing initiative. For all the reasons above, but also because that data doesn’t just change your story, it has the potential to change your strategy and the product or solution itself.

And if you can do it well, you’ll be a better George Lucas.

And then Disney will buy you.

Jason Ocker is the Executive Director of Creative Strategy at Maark, where he oversees messaging and story across marketing strategy, digital campaigns, and product design for a range of industries, including finance, technology, government, health, life science, and telecommunications. He’s an award-winning author of five books, and has been featured at CNN, The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The New York Times, and TIME.

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Photo credit: NASA