Many founders believe they are the best people to tell the story of their company. While they might hire a stellar writer (like you!) to massage their language, CEOs typically are great at letting someone else create prose. However, in many marketing mediums, customer stories add character, clarity and specific examples that turn a just-fine narrative and make it great.
As you start to onboard clients, develop their content strategies and play a part in the growth of their brand, consider making a case for these types of recommendations. Not only are they powerful, but they illustrate your pulse on modern trends within the industry. Here, a few reasons why customer stories can’t be ignored.
What’s a customer story? How is it different from a case study?
First things first, many people confuse a ‘case study’ with a ‘customer story’ — and for good reason. They are quite similar in vein but in execution, they’re wildly different. One way to think about it is in their purpose and ultimately, the goal a brand is trying to achieve.
Case studies focus on numbers, results and outcomes, without adding the ‘why’ or the ‘how’ behind them. These are helpful for elevator pitches and short-win pitch decks for business.
Customer stories, on the other hand, are used to inspire and educate people by sharing a unique journey, according to marketing manager at Volusion, Samantha Rupert:
Whether it’s a video, photo series, or a blog, these stories showcase all of the passion, challenges, and successes customers go through to achieve their goals or to showcase how a specific product is used in a real-life setting. Customer stories generally dig deeper into the nitty-gritty of how the results were achieved and what sacrifices were made along the way.
You can think of a customer story as a way to provide the intended audience with a ‘sneak peek’ into what could be their reality. This immersive experience helps to make the sale, since the person can relate to the experience of another human, versus hard facts from a business.
Customer stories showcase expertise.
Though a customer story is coming from someone who doesn’t work at the company, a satisfied buyer demonstrates that you know your stuff. In fact, senior director of media and industry relations at Fish Consulting, Ashley Davidson, explains sharing these anecdotes of success cements your position as an expert within your industry.
Anytime you can highlight someone who was excited about the work you provided them, the stronger trust folks will have to hire you. Whether you pitch customer stories to your existing clients to add to their content schedule and strategy, or use the feedback from past to gain new clients, this tactic is a solid way to supercharge your business.
Customer stories deliver important information creatively.
“The reason customer stories help companies grow is because of how they deliver important information in different styles,” explains Matt Burns, the head of customer success at Monday.com.
He provides the example of recipe searching online. If you look up how to make a casserole or bake a pie, you won’t just find info on the ingredients and instructions. Rather, Burns explains, they are often filled with tactical information about how to form the dish, along with a first-person perspective that allows readers to connect with another person about the experience:
This strategy has become more prevalent because people see the value of telling a story and also digging into the exact specifics for how it works. The same is true for companies. People can be hungry for all types of information but sometimes there is more value in proving the solution works and other times it’s necessary to dig into how each piece of the solution is formed.
Customer stories shorten the sales process.
Generally speaking, writers don’t consider themselves salespeople. They are known for their words, their ability to turn chaos into clarity and to provide a voice for those who can’t find their own. Their talent is found through paragraphs but really, much of a full-time freelancer’s life is pitching. Especially when we seek to add more content strategy clients to our roster, we have to put ourselves out there with proposals, concepts and decks.
Consider how much further — and faster! — these conversations would become if you included a customer story. Leah Neaderthal, the CEO of Smart Gets Paid, says client testimonials and stories provide tremendous credibility by demonstrating that you can do what you say you can:
When that happens, customers have fewer objections in the sales process and they say yes faster. One of my clients had customer stories on her website and nearly every potential client noted that it was her great customer stories that caused them to reach out.
Customer services stimulate new areas of business development.
For the last few years, you have focused your content business on search engine optimization consulting. It’s been lucrative and successful, but now you want to venture into writing podcasts and scripts for videos. Or say your long-time client is pivoting and adding another offering in their service packages.
To branch out into other venues and extend your reach, Davidson says customer stories can go a long way. Consider offering a discounted rate to a potential or existing client who is in need of your help. This gives you an opportunity to test out your skills, and hopefully, receive a rave review that can expand your net income and improve your brand’s reputation.
Customer stories make for killer social content.
If your client is looking for creative, engaging ways to improve their social reach, posting the same ‘ole memes on repeat isn’t effective. And sadly, neither is simply sharing posts from their blog. For an effective social strategy that captures a wide audience, Neaderthal suggests customer stories.
Whether through video, audio, photos or text, people relate to seeing other people on social channels. This is true for any of your clients, but also for your own brand. If you post a short clip from a client who hired you to develop their strategy, sharing that for your business’s Instagram will be more likely to gain traction than other methods:
Customer stories are insanely valuable, infinitely reusable social content. Even on social platforms where people are naturally skeptical, the second-party validation of case studies builds trust with users. In my own business, my best-performing social posts are customer stories.
Customer stories show a company’s values and fosters trust.
Or in other words: they allow a business to come from the heart. As cheesy as it sounds, chief brand officer at Sunrise Banks, Becca Hoeft, says customer stories are beneficial to any company because they illustrate a willingness to stray away from product-pitching in order to take a pause, and tell a story:
Clients will find these more engaging than a salesy blog and they’ll also realize that you care about the organizations you work with. Foster client interest with compelling stories — not a sales pitch.
And as a bonus, any customer you highlight will be excited to be featured, and likely, share the content with their audience. This extends your reach and will result in leads:
If you’ve written a nice enough piece, your clients will also realize that they can use this content on social media to boost their online presence. In this case, they’ll definitely be willing to do additional interviews.