In a noisy world of non-stop ads and content marketing, it has become increasingly difficult for us to trust the brand messages we see.
First, buyers place a lower degree of trust in branded content, or anything produced by a company about themselves. According to UK marketing agency Earnest, only 9% of B2B buyers actually considered vendor content trustworthy.
Influencer marketing isn’t the key to gaining real trust either. What appears to be a genuine endorsement for a brand is often a paid promoter with no real investment in the company or product, as the recent Fyre Festival fiasco illustrates.
This is why modern buyers place a premium on content where the creator is someone they can trust and empathize with.
When we make day-to-day purchasing decisions, we often check in with our social network as our most trusted ‘circle of objective wisdom.’ In fact, we look for guidance on almost 75% of all buying decisions, according to TapInfluence’s latest report.
When making a significant business purchase, we usually don’t have family or friends with the expertise or industry insight needed to help us make the right call. So we look for the next best thing: stories and opinions shared by our professional network of peers and actual customers. We want specific examples from others like us, who have gone through similar situations to assure us that we are making a sound and informed purchase decision.
Why authentic customer stories are so powerful
Marketers often think of referrals, references and social shares as the most important things they can ask their customers for. But one often overlooked form of advocacy is when a customer takes the time to share their story with the world.
Here’s why these customer success stories are so powerful for your business:
1. Customer stories lower your prospects’ information cost
Giving prospects access to authentic customer case studies can save them countless hours or days spent doing reference calls, looking at competitors’ offerings, or searching for online testimonials. Genuine customer stories speed up the evaluation and increase the likelihood you’ll win the sale.
2. Customer stories evoke empathy from buyers
Buyers want to know that other people just like them have seen an ROI with your solution. An anonymous review or traditional case study doesn’t always allow prospective buyers to walk in the shoes of an actual customer in the same way as first-hand accounts do.
A Princeton study showed that when listen to someone tell a story, our brainwaves actually adjust themselves to match the pattern of the storyteller. First-person narratives of how a customer’s life was positively impacted by their decision to engage with your company will resonate more than any other content type.
3. Customer stories help build up your relationships with vocal brand advocates
Featuring customers in success stories helps them develop and extend their professional brand. You’re enabling them to educate their peers and share their thought leadership. This will make them want to advocate for you even more strongly in the future, and make them more loyal in the long run. It’s a win-win for your brand and for the customer.
How to overcome common obstacles for creating more customer stories
The need for customer success stories is obvious, but it’s easier said than done. (That’s why we’ve created an entire solution, called Upshot, that makes the process easier.)
Here are some of the common challenges you may face, and some ideas for tackling these obstacles.
1. “It’s hard to find and surface these stories.”
Fortunately, finding customers advocates willing to tell their story isn’t as hard as you think. While we recommend having an official customer advocacy program to help uncover your storytellers, you’ll definitely find willing customers by:
- Asking your customer success team they’ve interacted with any particularly enthusiastic customers or successful customers
- Pinpointing the customers who have the highest NPS scores
- Speaking with sales to identify any recent upsells or renewals
- Looking at the most active customers on your social media channels or online community
- Asking your entire team at an all hands meeting if any especially engaged customers spring to mind
- Reaching out to customers who have presented at your events
- Tapping into Customer Advisory Board members
2. “Our customers won’t want to participate.”
Don’t position your ask as a begging for a favour. Instead, position it in terms of benefits to the customer. Tell them they’re getting an opportunity to build their professional profile and clout in their industry by sharing their success story.
You should also make the whole process as easy on them as possible. Pull stats for them, draft some bullet points they can talk about, and offer your feedback along the way.
If you make it a positive experience, and express genuine gratitude when it’s finished, they’ll be happy to promote it and help you out again in the future. (A simple thank-you card often goes farther than you think!)
3. “It’s time-consuming for everyone involved.”
Yes, creating customer success stories can be time-consuming. Your team may lack content writers. Plus, coordinating interviews with the customer and getting approvals takes time.
Outsourcing to an experienced writer with industry knowledge to help coordinate the process and create the first drafts can save your internal team time. Finding this person may require tapping into your personal network or posting an ad on a writing or industry-related job board.
Setting up specific and reasonable timelines for your customer case study will set your team up for success. Minimizing friction is one of best ways to expedite the process of creating compelling customer stories. You can organize this in a shared Google Sheets spreadsheet to keep everyone in the loop.
Here’s the process we recommend:
- Send an invite to the potential customer contributor
- Connect contributor with writer/lead
- Review first draft internally before sending to contributor
- Collect contributor feedback to revise second draft
- Get final approval for second/final draft
- Publish and promote
To learn how Upshot can help make your brand’s storytelling process that much easier and faster for your team and your customer advocates, visit Upshotstories.com.