Success sells. But if that's true, why aren't more companies tapping into the victory stories their customers share?
Customers want to see that others have succeeded with your product. It means they can do it too. It brings your brand to their level and offers tangible evidence that builds their craving for your solution.
How to Use Customer Stories To Influence Your Audience
Customer stories increase your opportunities. They give you characters your audience can more easily relate to. They prove that there's value in the purchase. But perhaps most important, they position your customers as the hero of the story.
In Donald Miller's book, Building a StoryBrand, he explains how businesses need to focus on the customer's journey in a narrative format. This is similar to our view on customer-centric marketing, where you focus on nurturing leads, not rushing them into a sale. Miller argues that companies should present themselves as the guide in these journeys, providing the customer with the magical item (our product) that lets them achieve their goal.
There are many ways to execute this methodology, but there's no denying the power of customer stories in your marketing.
1. Customer Case Studies
Case studies are essentially a story about your work with a specific company. The reason many brands fail to provide well-crafted case studies, however, is because their focus remains on showing off the capabilities of their organization.
Instead, case studies should detail the actual adventure a company took when it found yours. You're not just telling your audience what you did to achieve results, you're showing them how you did all those things and provided your client with the resources they needed to achieve it.
This makes the results feel more real to the reader. Seeing that someone increased their traffic by 200% is great, but understanding the situation they were in before and how they overcame the challenges to get there will stick with them much longer.
Look at this bit from one of our case studies:
"Most people would be pulling the plug, thinking they were investing in something that just wasn't going to bring the results they wanted. But, Tom Collins and Ed Fineran of Atlantech were fully bought-in to the strategy. They understood, it's a long-term game we were playing, not a quick-win flash in the pan."
This was during the journey to 10X, where we'd risen Atlantech's monthly organic traffic by 280%. They had high hopes of a loftier goal, and while we did reach a 1096% increase in their organic traffic, this paragraph connects with the audience on a different level.
Inbound marketing takes time, and many of our potential clients grow frustrated in their efforts when they don't see the results they want. This pre-frames our company as a knowing guide while showing the success of our client.
Testimonials are one of the easiest ways to add customer stories throughout your site, and as soon as you launch a product or service, you should be collecting your customers' thoughts.
These can be used on landing pages and within all your content. Social proof is compelling, and if you use it correctly, it can help guide your customers towards a purchase.
The most challenging part of using testimonials as customer stories is that you can't alter what the consumer expresses. Of course, you'll only want to use positive reviews, but how you turn blurbs and quotes into a story others can connect with requires some creativity.
To get more from testimonials, you should ask specific questions. We recommend an email follow up, a short time after the purchase. These questions should provide a framework for how you want the testimonial to flow.
Miller recommends some of the following:
- What was your biggest challenge before purchasing?
- How did the challenge make you feel?
- What changed afterward?
- What specific results can you share?
You can see how these questions guide the consumer to build their testimonial in a workable manner and encourages them to cover everything you need.
Once you have this, you can create a story using quotes from their testimonials, or publish it as is. One solid testimonial can go a long way in your marketing efforts if you repurpose the content.
Be sure to ask for permission to use testimonials on your site. Some customers may be uncomfortable with their thoughts or image being displayed to the public, and you should avoid breaking their trust.
3. Guest Blogging
Similar to testimonials, you can ask customers who've purchased from you to write about their experience.
The priority in doing this is finding your company's ideal customers and using them as brand advocates for your business. Similar to Subway's Jared, one personality who's invested in and supports your brand can do a lot of amazing things.
The more closely customers can relate to that "celebrity," the better the odds that they're a qualified lead for your business.
In DotCom Secrets, Russel Brunson recommends asking loyal customers to publish on their experience on their own blog. Then, if the post helps promote his brand, he sends it traffic through ads, social media, and his own site.
Having the article published on a different site than your own builds credibility with your brand since you're not directly attached to the review.
Like with testimonials, feel free to guide the direction of the post through the questions you ask, not by overt instructions. This keeps the transaction ethical and helps maintain the trust you've earned with your customers.
4. Social Sharing
If a customer takes to social media with a great story about how they used your product, you'd be at a loss to not take advantage of the opportunity.
Social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook already have an option for customer reviews and with the capability to let followers comment on your page, you have a better chance of pulling in some stories worth keeping.
The hard part is asking for feedback, and being prepared for negative comments. Internet trolls always seem to come from hiding when someone gives them an opportunity. But when these posts do pop up, you can add them to your kit bag and promote them when you're ready.
Sharing on social platforms shows your audience what is possible if they purchase your product or service. It also encourages others to share their own stories for a bit of that internet fame.
And, even if you earn a review that comes from elsewhere, you can turn it into an eye-catching graphic and share it on your profiles.
5. Create Customer-Based Campaigns
Like we mentioned in the testimonial section, customer stories can and should be shared on any marketing channels you use. But more than just sharing these stories, you can build an entire campaign around them.
First, if you find a specific story that aligns with your brand's mission, consider building it into various assets. This can be done by repurposing the original content, expanding, rearranging, and adjusting the piece to fit where ever necessary.
Next, you'll need to decide on your strategy. Stories can be adapted in multiple ways like the Soap Opera Sequence from Russel Brunson. In the first email, you'd set the stage, then provide your selected backstory, then their epiphany, and so on. You'd be breaking the story up into five emails that lead the reader to the action you want them to take. And while this is effective when using your brand's usual personality to tell the tale, a story from a customer like them can hit significantly harder.
You can do the same thing with your social campaigns or blog, so long as every post offers some form of value more than just part of a story.
Each campaign should have a goal, as well. If you're promoting your customer service, find stories that show how well your staff took care of a customer's issue. If your focus is on how your product helps consumers, take that approach. It's crucial to find the right story to fit the narrative you're trying to tell.
Using Customer Stories In Your Strategy
Leaving your customer's successes untouched is leaving opportunities on the table. By encouraging them to share how your brand changed their lives and then showcasing their stories, you can connect with your audience on a deeper level.