5 Lessons a BtoB Marketer can Learn from “Breaking Bad”


B2B Lead Generation | The Power of Great Story-telling

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Walter White
Walter White, High School Chemistry Teacher and Drug Kingpin

Great B2B Marketing lessons can come from anywhere – including a remarkable TV series.

In honor of Breaking Bad last evening, we bring back this popular post.

Have you heard of AMC’s critically acclaimed series “Breaking Bad?” If you’re a business to business marketer looking to implement lead generation programs to engage buyers to drive more sales leads, you ought to check it out. I consider it an Owners Manual for B2B marketing today.

Perhaps you’ve never seen “Breaking Bad.” If not, let’s get you up to speed. Here’s how they describe it:

Breaking Bad follows protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher who lives in New Mexico with his wife (Anna Gunn) and teenage son (RJ Mitte) who has cerebral palsy. White is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given a prognosis of two years left to live.

With a new sense of fearlessness based on his medical prognosis, and a desire to secure his family’s financial security, White chooses to enter a dangerous world of drugs and crime and ascends to power in this world. The series explores how a fatal diagnosis such as White’s releases a typical man from the daily concerns and constraints of normal society and follows his transformation from mild family man to a kingpin of the drug trade.

I believe the B2B Marketer can learn lots from a series like this that they can use in B2B lead generation. Here are 5 key lessons all B to B marketers should embrace:

  1. Tell a great story
    The power of a great story. A mild family man who adores his wife and kids and teaches high school chemistry and works at a car wash becomes a kingpin of the drug trade. That’s riveting!In contrast, most B2B websites are deadly dull – products, services, about us and other boring content. That needs to change. Those businesses need to learn to tell stories. 

    People love great stories. Where can you find great story-tellers? They’re out there. Visit 6 Ideas Content Marketers Can Take from Professional Journalists to learn more. B2B marketers need to learn how to tell stories about their people, products and services.You ought to hire a great story-teller. I look forward to seeing job listings for “Story-Tellers Wanted.”

  2. Use conflict and twists/turns to keep the audience guessing
    A mark of a great story is it keeps the audience guessing. It features conflict, like Walter White’s strained relationship with his wife and unbalanced business partner, Jesse Pinkman. It contains  complex characters, like the seedy, chain-smoking hooker with a heart of gold.Surprises keep us guessing, like the recent episode that featured an almost gun battle between Jesse and two ruthless gangsters. Jesse’s walking up to the heavily armed thugs about to meet his Maker when Walter’s car comes from nowhere to mow down the gangsters.B to B marketers need to learn how to use twists and turns in their stories to keep prospective buyers engaged. Again, I want to see job listings for “Great story-teller.” (Eloqua just hired a journalist by the way.)
  3. Strong complex characters
    A good character has three dimensions. There’s a story around them. Check out a key character, the unbalanced and uncontrollable Jesse Pinkman. Jesse Pinkman Breaking BadThey are complex. How can B to B marketers create complex characters like Jesse?
  4. Give ’em more to do
    New to the Show? Catch up here. Games and Trivia. Meet the Characters. Blog posts. Podcasts. and much, much more. That’s what B to B Marketers ought to do. Create landing pages filled with additional content.  Brainstorm all of the angles around your story, like the folks at “Breaking Bad” did and put all that content on your landing page.  Give your visitors a reason to stick around.
  5. Tease them with upcoming episodes
    After you watch an episode of “Breaking Bad,” you can’t wait to see the preview of next week’s show.  Ardath Albee of MarketingInteractions calls these “cliff hangers.” Brainstorm ideas to keep your audience engaged. As a B to B marketer, you want to hold your audience. As a B2B marketer to create cliff hangers, you need to create a season of stories not single episodes. Cliff hanger are the “glue” that ties the episodes together.

It’s clear that deadly boring websites and static, dull content is no longer good enough to get and hold attention in your lead generation programs. B to B marketers need to embrace great story-telling, like “Breaking Bad.” Specifically, they need to find creative story-tellers for their staff.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the show? How do you think B to B marketer should embrace story-telling? We love comments and Retweets.

What do you think? We love comments and people who share.

Jeff Ogden is President of Find New CustomersLead Generation Made Simple” Check out the online show every Friday at 11am ET, “Laugh and Learn with the Fearless Competitor.” Find New Customers is one of few lead generation companies in New York.

Find New Customers helps companies like yours (with 150 to 5,000 employees and complex products) implement lead generation programs to improve the way you find and acquire high quality sales leads using best practices in online lead generation. Quality leads matter. In fact, a recent study found that sales teams with fewer, high quality sales leads closed more than sales teams with more leads of dubious quality.

If you wish to do sales lead generation online, contact the B2B lead generationexperts at Find New Customers using the form below or follow Jeff on Twitter at @fearlesscomp.






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10 thoughts on “5 Lessons a BtoB Marketer can Learn from “Breaking Bad”

  1. You’ve taken an epic TV show that has changed the face of television and trivialized it into a two-bit pitch to sell your B2B business. What company in their right mind would find your approach appealing or something they could trust or entertain. You’re virtually trying to convince companies to learn how to distort the truth, embellish the facts and concoct personnel falsehoods all in an attempt to keep prospective customers on the hook – when the bottom line is basically smoke and mirrors and a ‘carnie’ scheme to get them to buy your service and/or product? Pathetic try. No cigar… that is, unless your line of business is drugs!!!

    1. Thanks for your reply, Sal, but I could not disagree more. You are simply wrong.

      Most B2B website are painfully boring. Is it possible to create storylines and characters?

      You can get proof at http://www.suitemates.com where Kinaxis does a great job of storytelling. And HubSpot does a great job too.

  2. Disclosure: I have met Jeff Odgen face-to-face once; I have not met Mr. Sal Flanagan.

    Although I have never seen the show, and I don’t consider it a sacred cow and certainly not a “TV show that has changed the face of television, I understand what Jeff Ogden is trying to tell people.

    It’s easy to put up a boring site about boring B2B products, but it’s hard to get results in terms of interest and qualified leads. Buyers want to hear something great that has been done with a product or service and want to believe that something great will happen to them if they buy it.

    1. Like make them money

    2. or save them money

    3. or solve a major problem.

    They want assurance that the risk of adopting a new solution by a new vendor is minimal.

    Stories are important in helping buyers understand the value proposition of a selling organization and how the product or service in question can address one or all of those three things.

    I read your post several times. Nowhere have you advised anyone to “distort the truth, embellish the facts and concoct personnel falsehoods.” You’ve simply engage customers and make something mundane more interesting.

    Peace

  3. Disclosure: I have met Jeff Odgen face-to-face once; I have not met Mr. Sal Flanagan.

    Although I have never seen the show, and I don’t consider it a sacred cow and certainly not a “TV show that has changed the face of television, I understand what Jeff Ogden is trying to tell people.

    It’s easy to put up a boring site about boring B2B products, but it’s hard to get results in terms of interest and qualified leads. Buyers want to hear something great that has been done with a product or service and want to believe that something great will happen to them if they buy it.

    1. Like make them money

    2. or save them money

    3. or solve a major problem.

    They want assurance that the risk of adopting a new solution by a new vendor is minimal.

    Stories are important in helping buyers understand the value proposition of a selling organization and how the product or service in question can address one or all of those three things.

    I read your post several times. Nowhere have you advised anyone to “distort the truth, embellish the facts and concoct personnel falsehoods.” You’ve simply told them to engage with customers and make something mundane more interesting.

    Peace

  4. Interesting! You have one guy trying to capitalize on the popularity of a TV Show’s popularity and you have another that’s critiquing a show’s he’s never seen before. I think you both ‘broke bad.’

  5. I’m a new fan of Breaking Bad… I’m also as deeply into B2B Marketing as Walter White is into trouble. Jeff, it’s funny that you generated a little heat in the comments. There’s probably a lesson in that, too. In fact, I have a question for Sal.

    How does he think shows like Breaking Bad — you know, shows that have “changed the face of television” — pay the freight? How do they finance the immense production costs? How do they pay the writers and actors? Answer? (Wait for it, Wait for it.) That’s right: Marketing — or, more precisely, Advertising.

    The work that he blithely dismisses as “smoke and mirrors” and “carnie schemes” makes it possible for him to enjoy this fantastic entertainment. It’s a profession — for better and sometimes worse — that literally changes the face of everything. I hope — in reflection — he appreciates the irony.

    1. Thanks for your note, Britton. Actually, a bunch of people said I should have spammed that really negative comment. But by letting it through, a lot of people came to my defense. I only got into the show recently too, but I LOVE it. And you’re right, marketing (advertising) pays for that production.

  6. Briton, far be it from me to generalize and classify all marketing and advertising as “smoke and mirrors.” That wasn’t my intent in critiquing Ogden. My point was targeted at his strained analogies comparing the show’s ability to capture an audience as a business model to attract customers to a B2B operation. His ‘create stories,’ ‘tease them,’ ‘create complex characters’ will sell a TV show, but not a legitimate business. You sell a business based on marketing it’s credibility, its honesty, its testimonials, its quality product and/or service – not hyping it for the sake of hype – but promoting it because it’s worthy of exciting an audience based on its merits and substance – not it’s storytelling superficiality. Consumers in today’s Web 2.0 milieu see right through that amateurish approach.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sal, but I agree 100% on avoiding deception or superficiality. The power I was trying to make was to embrace the power of great story-telling. I certainly stand by that idea. And I believe companies can use fresh approaches to build trust and engage buyers in an open and honest dialog.

      Want to see how one company embraced story-telling to engage buyers? SuiteMates makes fun of large enterprise software firms. It’s professional and very, very funny. And it tells a story with strong, complex characters. One can certainly not call that an “amateur approach” as you say, Sal.

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