Generating more marketing opportunities with customer stories
Research tells us that customer stories and customer evidence is by far the most engaged with content that marketers can create. And it is also the most successful in generating new opportunities, and increasing your close rate.
There are a many reasons why this is true, but the key factor is that it is more relatable and more believable than other forms of content.
How many of us check TripAdvisor before booking a holiday or restaurant visit? How many of us look at the reviews on Amazon when choosing between two items? Well, the same is true in the business world. Your prospects do not believe all they read on your website; but they do believe your customers.
With this in mind, why do so many companies not create more customer stories or optimise the ones that they have?
Here are eight very practical tips that will help you engage more customers in your marketing, create more compelling stories and amplify those stories more successfully; leading to more opportunities generated, and more deals closed.
“I find it difficult to get customers to do case studies”.
These are just a few suggestions to help you and your organisation to take advantage of the most powerful tool you have.
- It’s not a favour – When you ask a customer to take part in a case study as a favour they tend to be more reluctant to give up their time, less cooperative in the process and they often don’t tell the story in its best light.
Try to make it a win-win for you and the customer. After all, if you do it in the right way, you will be showcasing their forward thinking, innovation and great customer experience. When we are creating a video for our customers we will often produce a version that their customer can use in their own internal and external marketing.
- Make them the expert – Play to the ego of the customer. You are creating a story where they are the hero. It is going to be their name in lights, their quote in bold on the website or their face on the video. Not only does this often help them internally to showcase their project success to the board, but it also helps to get their name out to the wider world and it can help with their career progression.
Sometimes the best way to start is to get your customer involved in other elements of your marketing – to get the ball rolling. A great example of this is to invite them to speak at one of your events. Often you can write up the presentation into a story format that requires no more time from the customer. Once you have built up your relationship with them it is much easier to get them involved with more stories or other marketing activities.
And don’t forget reciprocity! The more you can do to help your customers the more likely they will help you.
I don’t think our stories are engaging our audience
- The arc of the story – It doesn’t matter if it’s a written piece or a video you need to get into the story quickly, engage the audience early, and spend the majority of the story talking about the outcome and benefits that your customer is enjoying. Once you have drawn them in by highlighting results they would value, they will want to know more about you and how you did it. Remember, this is not a story about you! This is the customer’s story and you need to earn the right to talk about what a great job you have done.
- Secrets of the interview – Whether you are interviewing face to face, over the phone or as part of the video, there are a number of tips that will help you to capture the best story. I think the overarching advice is to let them tell the story in their own words and don’t restrict their scope with your questions. Pretend you don’t know the story so they have to tell you in full and then drill down on key areas to uncover the true business benefit. For example, if they tell you that the new solution helps them collaborate better, ask them how this helps, and keep asking until you have “peeled the onion” to unveil the absolute business benefit that your solution is driving.
It can be a lot of effort for one case study
- Squeezing the lemon – A customer story can be so much more than just a 2-page case study or 3-minute video. Make sure that you are maximising the customer evidence that you capture. A good example of this is when we create a customer story video. On average we capture 90 minutes of interview narrative for each 2 – 3 minute video. So along with the main video asset we will often create multiple derivatives such as:
- Topic videos – 1 minute video based around a specific benefit
- Perspective videos – 1 minute video based around a specific persona
- Social clips – 20 – 30 second video to use on your social channels
- Infographics – static or animated
- Podcast – 15-20 minutes of roundtable discussion from the audio narrative
- Written assets – blogs, Q&A’s, written customer stories
- Sales enablement – PowerPoint slides, one page sales sheet, mini clips to challenge sales blockers, quotes and anecdotes
Although this may be easier and more visual for video content there are still multiple formats and assets that you can create from a written customer story.
- Buyer’s journey – Where in the buyer’s journeys does customer evidence work best? The answer is everywhere. You can create customer stories and assets to help prospects progress through the buyer journey right to the close. In the awareness phase the story will be based more around the challenges faced and overcome by your customer whereas at the decision-making end it can be based more on the features of your product or service, your methodology and the reasons why they selected you.
We put the story on the case study section of our website. Now what?
- Infuse your website with customer evidence – Based on the knowledge that customer stories are by far the most potent content you can create, why do some organisations hide them away on the “client stories” section on the website? Why not enhance every page with a customer quote, customer anecdote or mini story? Product, service and methodology pages can be very dry but customer quotes and anecdotes can bring them to life and make them more accessible. When you are interviewing your customer, you can capture content that you do not use in the main story but can be used for specific pages of your site.
- Not just for marketing – And remember that your customer stories are not just for the marketing team. Execs need to be able to recount them, sellers need them to close more deals and employees need them to amplify the message through their networks. Your customer stories, evidence and anecdotes need to be made available to everyone and communicated at every relevant occasion.