4 Ways to Pull Great Stories Out of Your Customers

Storytelling makes for amazing marketing because people don’t realize they’re being marketed to. They’re pulled into the story. They develop an emotional attachment to your business and they stick around for the resolution.

Good storytelling casts your customers as the heroes of their stories. You want their successes and triumphs to be told because you want potential customers to hear the stories and think that they can do those things too.

When you cast your business as the wise sage who helps the hero achieve their goals, you become important to the solution. That way people who are considering buying from you understand the valuable role that you play even while you are highlighting the accomplishments of others.

But finding the stories isn’t always easy. Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to have a loyal customer who bathes you in compliments. More often than not, these stories are silent successes that aren’t shared with you. You need to find a way to dig these up so that you can breathe life into them and share them with potential customers.

But how do you do that?

First, a call for stories is not enough. I’ve seen countless businesses inviting people to share their stories with them. And…

Crickets.

The problem with this approach is that people are busy, especially successful ones. If you want their story, you need to find a more creative approach than merely asking. Even people with good intentions and great stories who read your call for stories will often put your request on the back burner behind the more important ones affecting their daily business. You need to go out and get those stories. Here’s how:

Ask Your Customer Support Team/Person

Asking your customer support team for stories of successful customers or fantastic comeback stories is a great first step for two reasons. First, this team (or person) is on the front lines talking to customers every day. If anybody knows what your customers are thinking it’s this group.

The second reason going to them is a good idea is because you’re giving the support person the opportunity to feel important and valued. Very effective stories star disgruntled customers because the story is always in the friction. If you can show a person who is struggling and then overcame that struggle, it’s a lot more effective than someone who just bought your product or service and used it. Ask your team for times when they were really able to help someone. This will assist them in getting to the best stories and allow them to feel special for their efforts at the same time.

Follow Your Customers on Social Media

Follow as many of your customers on social media as possible. This will help you keep close tabs on their wins and successes. When they brag about something out of the ordinary, reach out to them and congratulate them. If appropriate ask them the story behind their success. If it’s a good story ask them if you might use it for your newsletter, web copy,  blog or social media post.

Explain What’s In It for Them

Many marketers approach requests for case studies and customer stories as a favor from the customer. The customer is busy when you come to them begging for their customer story, it quickly becomes an inconvenience for them; especially when you point it out as one like when you ask them to do you a “big favor.”

However, if you explain what’s in it for them they’ll be more likely to participate. For example, instead of asking for a favor tell them they’ve been selected to be highlighted in a newsletter. It goes out to a thousand people and the details of their business and their offerings will be shared widely and in a positive light.  They will quickly see the value of participation for their own business.

Host an Appreciation Event

If you are looking for great customer stories, a solid way to uncover them is by hosting an appreciation event. When making small talk with your customers and expressing your appreciation for them, make it a point to ask them what accomplishments they are most proud of this year. That gives them a chance to boast and they likely will enjoy the opportunity to do so. As you’re listening to their success stories, try to figure out if your business had any part of that. Even if you didn’t play a role in it, it still provides a wonderful opportunity to congratulate them on something they’re proud of.

If you want to incorporate storytelling in marketing for your business, you need to feature your clients or customers. The best stories focus on their successes. But asking them to share their success in your posts on social media is usually not enough to get a response. Instead, use some of these tactics to get them to open up about what they’ve achieved and how you helped.

 

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses and chambers how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com.  

 

Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to eradicate boring copy and bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

How to Figure Out What’s Keeping Your Audience up at Night When They Don’t Have a Clue

Most marketers these days will tell you that the most convincing way to write your web copy is to solve a problem for your audience. You cannot expect your audience to read your site or watch your videos and guess whether you’re good for them or not. Instead, you need to  connect the dots for them. You have to be exceptionally clear of the solution you provide and it has to be the answer to the problem they’re struggling with.

But sometimes your audience isn’t aware of the problem. It may be that the problem is not acute enough yet for them to be entertaining a solution. Sometimes they know there’s a problem but they’re unable to define it. Maybe they’re not sure of the cause or maybe they can’t quite separate it from other difficulties they’re having. Whatever the case may be, if they are unclear about the problem, you’ll have difficulties providing solution-based marketing.

In these cases, you need to find a way to help them better understand their problem before you can provide a solution.

But how do you do that if they don’t know what their problem is? And how do you figure it out? As in other types of marketing, the best way to do this is to be as transparent as possible in the following ways.

What is solution-based marketing?

Solution-based marketing is the approach that focuses on the customer need behind particular businesses. In solution-based marketing you use a problem to shape your web copy. Don’t focus on the negative. Instead, present an opportunity for growth or potential for your customers. For instance, remember the McDonald’s catch phrase “ you deserve a break today”?  That is an example of (assumed) solution-based marketing.The problem that is not directly names is that people are stressed and overworked. McDonald’s is jumping in and suggesting (without directly saying it) they can provide the solution to that stressful existence. They can provide a much-needed break.

Solution-based marketing is its most efficient when the problem it’s solving for is known by the  potential customer. However, in the case of the McDonald’s example, the customer may not even realize how stressed they were until McDonald’s presented the solution in suggesting that they deserve the break.

How Do You Know There’s a Problem?

If your customer doesn’t know there’s a problem, how do you?

Every business has a problem the question is whether the business owner has taken the time to define and understand it.

In many cases what they recognize as the difficulty is not the actual problem but how it is presenting itself. This situation can be compared to a very painful headache. When most people have one, they refer to that as the problem or the reason they can’t do something or why they’re in a bad mood. However that’s just how the problem is presenting itself. There’s an underlying cause of the headache like maybe dehydration. While the headache feels like the problem, it’s really the dehydration that is at the center of the issue. If you really want to solve the problem, you have to fix the dehydration.

Most people look to stop the headache because that’s the pain. This is only a temporary solution. If you’re using solution-based marketing you want to alleviate the pain by getting to the heart of the problem, not just solving how it’s presenting. You can do this several ways.

Look at reviews

Examine your reviews and that of your top competitor. What are the phrases that keep coming up over and over again? Use those words and comments to shape your content and web copy headlines.

Talk to Your Customers

Create a panel of your most loyal customers or if you don’t have loyal customers, talk to some of your most recent ones. Ask them why they bought from you. And if they bought from anybody else. If so, ask them why they bought from that person.

They may bring up price, proximity, or referrals as the reasons why they chose one business over another. These are symptoms just like that headache. You want to dive deeper. Use the words they mention to get to what they’re really concerned about. For instance, if they refer to budget as the reason they selected someone, they’re likely watching the bottom line.

You want to make sure you talk about the danger of the competition that doesn’t stay within your budget or expensive upsells and charges that aren’t negotiated in the original conversation when creating content.

Look at Requests on Facebook

Have you ever noticed people on Facebook asking their following for recommendations on local businesses? When they do, very few people get right to their immediate need such as asking for a veterinarian in New York City. In most cases, they have a story to tell before they launch into their need.

Maybe they’ve gotten burned before or want to make sure they give all the background. Maybe they don’t want to waste anyone’s time or they want to get the ideal fit. But whatever the reason, they tell a story instead of asking for the referral directly.

Because of this, business recommendations can be a wealth of information. Peruse these in your local city group on Facebook or read your friends’ by clicking on the recommendations tab on the left hand side of your Facebook profile.

If you still can’t figure out what the problem is plaguing your potential customers and what’s keeping them up at night, do some research on your ideal demographic. By using your target demographic, you can search for their most common struggles. Through identifying their most common struggles, you can then create content around those difficulties and test how your audience responds to that content.

  • Is that content shared?
  • Do they click on it and interact with it?
  • Did they leave you comments or ask additional questions?
  • Is it a heavily visited post?

Any of these things can indicate that you have struck content gold and are providing something that is a great value to your audience. 

While you could create content that reflects all of the problems that your ideal demographic might face based on research, the easiest and most efficient way to figure out what’s bothering them is to do some A/B testing with questions on social media.

No one has time to write to every possible concern in the world. You have to narrow those things down. Focus on the top three reasons your customers may be struggling. Ask a couple of pointed, open-ended questions on social media that would help you better understand your active audience. Using this kind of crowdsourced R&D can assist you in creating valuable content without a lot of trial and error.

This tactic won’t completely remove the need to do some testing to see what people respond to but it will get you halfway there and provide you with good insights as to what people need from you most.

 

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com.  

Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to eradicate boring copy and bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.