When software companies look around for inspiration, there are the usual suspects. Salesforce, Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Google — you know, the unicorns. You don’t often hear stories about SaaS startups like Influitive working to be more like 79-year-old Japanese carmaker Toyota. Two years ago, however, that’s exactly what we did.
Let me explain: In the early ‘90s, Toyota challenged one of its vice presidents with the task of leading a ‘secret team’ of engineers. Their mission was to develop a better car that would sell in increasingly fuel-conscious markets, such as the United States. Not only would this car need to have vastly improved fuel economy and be more environmentally friendly, but it required great performance – and plenty of room in the trunk to boot. The result was the Toyota Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid car. Today, 17 years after its global launch, the Prius is also the world’s top-selling hybrid.
In 2015, we issued a similar challenge to a few members of the Influitive team: how can we help companies generate advocacy 10X faster and easier than they can today?
This group wasn’t secret, but it was deliberately separate. While the rest of us stayed focused on building, selling, and making customers successful with our flagship AdvocateHub product in Toronto, this small ‘Moonshots’ team operated out of a co-working space in San Francisco. There, they could avoid being distracted by the day-to-day hustle and bustle (and biases) of our existing business.
This kind of initiative, known as a ‘skunkworks’ project, has often yielded massive advances throughout history. The Mac, the Prius, the Manhattan Project, or more recently the Google X lab’s self-driving car and deep learning system. Like many of these, our Moonshots team was, essentially, a startup within an existing company or organization.
Today, nearly two years of research and development later, Influitive is finally releasing the result of this startup within our startup: Upshot is a significant leap forward in the way B2B companies generate customer stories. As part of an advocate marketing program or on its own, Upshot helps companies source, create, distribute, and report the results of authentic customer stories much more efficiently.
- David the IT Manager shared how SimpliVity’s hyperconvergence technology helps his small IT team support 350 employees “without breaking a sweat”
- Melissa the Search Supervisor shared how she escapes “Excel hell” with Acquisio to increase responses and decrease cost-per-click
- Nick the Product Marketer shared how he turned $1K into $1M in pipeline with Influitive’s advocate marketing platform
Upshot’s development involved building, validating, and gathering feedback on more than 20 product prototypes. The team in San Francisco tested our assumptions about advocacy, testing each prototype and its output with companies and their advocates. Both groups we interviewed agreed: customer stories are the best content a company can produce, but the corporate case studies put out by companies today are missing a crucial component — the customer voice.
Every case study you’ve ever read has probably gone something like this:
- Company A had problem X.
- It used Product/Service Y, provided by Company B, to try to solve that problem.
- Company A’s problem was solved and its results were Z.
These case studies are bland, stale, formulaic. They don’t inspire or draw the reader in. They’re just part of the broken content marketing machine that has your buyers drowning in mediocre, self-serving content that only 9% of them trust.
The marketing leaders and advocates we interviewed said the key ingredient to making these stories more engaging for the reader, more rewarding for the advocate, and more impactful on the business, is this: make the advocates the heroes of their own stories. Not the vendor’s brand. Not even the company the advocate works for. The individual person. It’s even better — more authentic and trustworthy — if the advocate tells his or her own story from a first-person perspective.
It’s a great idea…in theory. Unfortunately, for most marketers, getting advocates to produce high-quality content on a regular basis is actually pretty challenging. Your advocates are not professional storytellers. They’re IT experts, salespeople, educators, administrators, or accountants, for example. Until now, it has been easier for everyone if marketing teams just keep pumping out those boring, corporate case studies. Upshot is designed to make that process easier so you can empower your advocates to tell their success stories in their own words.
As companies like yours and mine push inbound marketing to the extreme and its effectiveness continues to decrease, user-generated content becomes the key to rising above the noise. In 2017, the messenger is the message. Now, with Upshot, you can get more of your messengers telling their unique, authentic stories everywhere.