Attention B2B Marketers: Stop Writing Customer Stories Now!
No one wants to buy your product. There, I said it. They don’t want to buy B2B marketing software, they don’t want to buy video management platforms, and they don’t want to buy SaaS.
They want to buy value.
Yet so much of marketing focuses on the features of products and forgets the why behind the features. Anybody can say my product is twice as fast, or half the price, or has 8 more gigs of RAM. But it's not really about that. It's about understanding why that matters to a buyer. Once you understand that then you can connect your product with those motivations.
You can say, if you had 8 more gigs of RAM you'd be able to spend more time with your kids, or whatever value that buyer is actually looking for. Because nobody's looking for 8 gigs of RAM. They're looking for those life, or career, or job values.
That’s exactly what a great customer story spotlights: the value of your product to the buyer. And in this day and age, great customer stories are table stakes for a good marketing program. You need the customer story; you need the customer testimonial. Not only that, but it has to be authentic, and it has to focus on the values and the outcomes that that customer wants to experience, rather than the features and the specs of the product. And that’s why at Vidyard we don’t create customer stories. We outsource it—to Upshot.
The True ROI of Authentic Customer Stories: Sales Enablement
Beyond authenticity and value, customer stories help bridge the gap between marketing and sales teams. It gives them ammunition, straight from a real customer, to combat sales objections in the field. And our sales team cannot get enough! They just want more, and more, and more.
The two biggest things I hear from our sales team are: “How are we sourcing these customer stories internally, and how can we get more of them?” I actually have sales people come up and say, "Hey, I've got a great customer, and I'd love to nominate them for an Upshot story." Sales cannot get enough of these customer stories, and every time I release a new one out to the sales team, they just eat it up, and they share it, and they get so excited.
Our customer stories are even helping close deals. Sean, one of our awesome Vidyard reps, had this to say about a recent story from Kyle Norton at League: "This is awesome, and it helped me with a deal, because in this story Kyle actually gives stats around a three times higher response rate."
If we wanted to create customer stories at the quality and volume that Upshot provides, it would require a full-time position. The ROI on Upshot isn’t even questionable.
Why No B2B Company Should Write Their Own Customer Stories
I know what you’re thinking: What?! Are you crazy? Why would you trust someone outside of your business to tell your customers’ stories? I’ll admit it, when we began looking at outside businesses and software to handle our customer story creation, I was a bit hesitant. But the more I learned about Upshot, a B2B customer story platform, and the more I understood the benefits of having an independent third-party conduct the interview, and do the writing, and having that writing come from the customer, from their first-person perspective. This just has so many benefits over the way we were traditionally doing it.
The caliber of Upshot’s writing aside, which is awesome, Upshot writes in the voice of the customer, uses their vocabulary, and captures their real-world experience as they tell it. It's just more authentic than if we, a company, were to try to tell the story. It's more believable.
If a person's telling their story, in first person, just by its nature it's going to address those pain points and those value drivers that are so crucial to great storytelling, and great marketing. Not to mention, it's a great way to reward your customers and let them know that you care about them. It makes them feel like they're part of the team, which they are, and then that person's more likely to share that story, and that person's network is more likely to share that story.
Plus, knowing you need customer stories and being able to actually produce enough to fill that need is a whole other problem—a scaling problem. And if you’re like me, you already have so many day-to-day tasks that have to be done, there’s no way you can produce as many stories as you need, and unless you’re a classically trained writer who has spent years honing your craft—talking to customers and creating stories that add value—you probably don’t have the expertise to produce a high number of quality stories.
Another great aspect of having an intermediary between your company and the customer story is because if you're writing it for you (or your company), you're going to have a bias, whether it's conscious or unconscious. As soon as you add a bias to your customer story, you instantly lose the authenticity and the credibility, and people can just see right through it—people are tired of getting sold to. So, whether you work with an agency or you hire a contractor to do the writing, put a step between yourself and the customer that you're writing for.
Parting Thoughts: Double Down with Video
Your happy customers are your best sales reps, and there's so much noise today in the world of marketing that people are starting to get tired of the traditional channels. One channel, however, that's stood the test of time is authenticity, and customer stories are the absolute pinnacle of authenticity. That’s why you can never have enough.
The number of customer stories that we've done basically doubles each year. Our first year we probably did two, five the next year, and this year we’ll do about 10. In 2018, we're looking to create 20. So, if you're not tapping into the authentic voice of your customer, then you are missing out on a massive opportunity. My advice: double down.
You're doing yourself a big disservice if you are not focusing 50 to 60% of your efforts on customer stories, because we've seen that people are inspired by their peers. Hearing it from the mouth of a peer is more impactful than seeing it on a graph or a spreadsheet. Customer stories are going to be the ones that drive the most interest in your product, and are the most relatable.
When we do our customer stories we have a written piece, but we always do try to supplement it with a video showing the person themselves telling that story. Because it's one thing to read it on a blog, but it's another thing to actually see that person and watch their authenticity as they tell that story. So much of communication is visual, and to be able to watch that body language adds a layer of authenticity on top of that story. You can see they actually care. They love the product. They love the company. And nothing gets that love across like a powerful customer story.