I am what I like to view as a “blank sheet” marketeer. What that means to me is that I can take a concept, idea or product and find some basic data via research or whatever is available and then just start putting thoughts together and shape a story around it. As a former entrepreneur, this was one of my biggest challenges and accomplishments of my career, transforming an intangible concept into a 25-page business plan that would entice investors- starting out with a blank sheet of paper. If I had a perfect analogy for content development, I’d say it’s a lot like cooking. And the best cooking is from scratch.
So when it comes to success stories, I think about this the same way. What’s my end goal and what can I get to get started? I tend to think often we become overwhelmed as marketeers with so much to do, that we can easily over complicate what needs to get done- the end result. In the case of success stories, it’s working with customers to create awareness for your product.
Success stories are all about generating awareness to drive motivation to be interested in your product. They are simply the best tool you can have to share with your customers, and not to mention your sales team that is likely salivating for new things to talk about.
Simplify and Focus to Deliver
But a success story doesn’t have to be a huge presentation or a two page story that you might not have time to write or you might not have budget to have someone else to write. With social media and your website as your delivery channel, you can be on the road to delivering more success stories than you may realize by capturing a few data points from your customers.
In my previous role as a director of communications, where my number one objective was creating media buzz as often as possible to bolster the brand and company, I had some challenges with being able to deliver many success stories- they take a lot of time and yes, it is a process-type of deliverable. But I began to realize if I could slice and dice the customer base, and identify where the best opportunity brands and customers were, I might be more successful than chasing after every little thing that showed up in my email box. I went through the database picked my targets and worked with product development and sales to ensure these customers were top of the list to test the latest and the greatest versions of product. My goal was to secure quotes from customers. Simple quotes that delivered value on the services and products that we provided.
A Consumer Success Strategy that Delivered
As a marketing consultant for a B2C company I developed a campaign that included setting up a toll-free number and inviting customers to “call in and share their story” promoting through a summer email series, with an opportunity to win a month of free service or a grand prize. Customers enjoyed bragging about how they were successful in using the product and I had more testimonials than I thought possible. This was a small business, direct sales target market. They, in particular, loved to share their success and what they were doing to be successful. Given the opportunity I would definitely try that one again, it worked great and it was fun. The approval process was simple, they already agreed to talk about the product on the phone, the follow-up was calling or emailing them to get a cool photo from them to include to promote their quote. In essence the program was about promoting them by using our product. We promoted their quotes in the summer campaign and in other campaigns that were a fit.
Making it Work for B2B
In B2B it’s not always that simple. A customer using your products might find it quite strategic and define your relationship with them as confidential. How do you overcome this hurdle? In a B2B situation the first thing I do is engage a larger team internally. I make sure that I know when product is being tested and demo’d with customers. The relationship built with product marketing and product development becomes ever more important. When you are in the meetings with the customer, this is your opportunity to have them share information about their business. Be sure to ask them for permission to record or take notes during the conversation, or be able to take really good notes. Since you are in a product testing or demo situation, you or the lead person in the meeting can get the conversation started by asking, “Can you tell me about your business?”. Don’t assume that because you have a relationship with them or have researched them that you know everything about them. This is their opportunity to share and tell you their perspective and you often get a more humane unique perspective of the story, that will interest others. Once they share information about their business you can get to challenges and what they need to be successful.
Take What You Can Get and Build
When I am invited and sit in on these meetings, the feedback isn’t always glamorous. Not all customers are happy and often this in testing stages. Sometimes the feedback is just not usable and doesn’t go the way you think. But the second I have the opportunity to capture any positive feedback, I follow-up the same day or next with the customer and attempt to secure their permission to use the quote. It’s fresh in their mind and they remember sharing their feedback. If you can’t sit in on a meeting, there’s always tradeshows and events. Customers are showing up at your booth, there’s your chance to capture what they say. Better yet, with tradeshows you can do simple videos if you want. The more authentic the better.
Most of the time, the customer agrees. After all, it’s only a quote, and they did provide that feedback, and if you tweak the quote a bit, sometimes they feel you’ve made them look better than what they originally said. I also share with the customer that this is not only a promotional opportunity for their company which might lead into more media opportunities, it is also an opportunity to promote themselves.
So You Got the Quote, Now What?
Herein lies the power of a simple quote. If you have many of them, you start to build another story. Customers that are saying good things about you with their brand attached to it. This is a building block. Those quotes can be sliced and diced by industry size of customer, etc, demographically to be used for:
- press releases on momentum
- featured on your website
- media opportunities
- analyst calls
- social media
- email marketing
- executive platforms
You get the idea- the possibilities are endless. And since you now have a slew of quotes, you also have the basis of a success story for your company.
It’s Not About You, It’s About Them
At the end of the meeting, you possibly already have a success story draft in the making. Remembering that a success story is not about your product, it’s about the success of the customer, ensure along the way that whatever you propose to the customer is what they agree and feel comfortable with. The goal is for them to promote the relationship as much as your company will. Of course since it is a person that is quoted, it’s about them as a person too. Everybody likes a little promotion, right?
With social media and customers providing you feedback everyday, you can likely even more easily capture their feedback and share it. Chances are you have many more success stories than you realize readily available. Now you just need to think about how are you going to rally them up and use them as a key deliverable for your sales force to promote and use every single day.
Got some ideas you have used to build success stories with little resources or budget? I would love to hear them. When we share we continue to learn.