Soundtrack for this post: Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get a Witness”
These days, storytelling is all the rage (you might even say storytellers are the new marketers). But as Geoffrey James points out, finding compelling ways to tell your company’s story isn’t enough. In fact, you should be telling your customer’s story, not your own.
With that said, I think there’s a solid case to be made that no piece of marketing content is more powerful than an inspired customer success story. It’s an example of what my colleague Devon McDonald recently called “the pudding” content — proof that the solution really is going to add value. And best of all, it comes from someone other than you.
Those two factors make customer success stories an invaluable tool to put in the hands of your salespeople. As Devon puts it, “it is one thing totalk about value — it’s another to truly demonstrate it.”
The Case for Creative Customer Success Stories (in Addition to Your Case Studies)
Prospects want to see what success with your solution looks like. They want to see companies using your product to solve the problems they’re currently grappling with. And if you can present them with examples of how companies they respect and admire are doing amazing things with — and owe part of their success to — your solution then, well, when it comes to decision time let’s just say you have a great chance of being golden.
To clarify, we’re not talking about your boring, run-of-the-mill case study. Case studies can be incredibly valuable, too, diving into more depth and providing plenty of solid context, details, and statistical evidence of your solution’s impact in action. They certainly have their place, and they’re fantastic for providing buyers with ammo they need to justify a decision or a purchase towards the end of their buying journey.
But there’s no reason why your customer success stories have to follow that tried and true (but quite frankly a little dull) pattern and format.
The Big Differences Between a Case Study and a Success Story
In the examples below, four companies are breaking the mold by combining the “proof power” of the case study with the brevity and easy accessibility of the testimonial. In addition, they’re focusing more on making an emotional impact via compelling storytelling than making a comprehensive argument for their solution via research-backed data (though convincing stats certainly do make an appearance).
Specifically, they’re leaning heavily on the power of video to deliver a quick emotional win that can be supported and bolstered with more thorough info further down the line in the customer’s buying journey.
The result is easily consumable, highly sharable, big-impact content that sticks with prospects and can make a real difference in their decision making process, not to mention their perception of the company’s values and brand.
Here are three things I love about these companies’ approaches:
- Turning the spotlight on the customer: First and foremost, these pieces of content tell the customer’s story. They each highlight something that makes the customer special or something incredible that they are accomplishing, then they get into how the product or solution is helping to make that possible. As a result, many of these videos can serve as marketing content for the customer as well as for the product/service provider. That’s a big plus when it comes to requesting time/approval for future testimonials — it makes the proposition much more of a win-win rather than a pure ask.
- Centered around shared values and high-level goals rather than specific features: Another thing many of these customer success stories have in common is that they really concentrate on highlighting how the solution ties into the customer’s core beliefs, mission, and vision. It’s a great approach because things like “building deeper customer relationships” and “operating smarter and more efficiently” are highly relatable/accessible entry points that can capture a lot of general top-of-the-funnel interest. Again, save diving into the weeds for more in-depth content further down the line.
- Highly visual and focused on people: Not only are these videos high quality, the layouts of the pages they live on are also visually rich and appealing, with an emphasis on not only customer logos but — even more importantly — people. Being able to put a face to the names goes a long way towards humanizing these companies’ brands and making the stories that much more personal.
4 Incredible Customer Success Stories Examples
One thing you notice right away when you navigate the “Clients” section of ExactTarget’s website is that it is segmented. The company has created landing pages with customized messaging directed at each of ExactTarget’s customer segments:
Right off the bat, that’s a fantastic way to ensure prospects can easily find content that’s relevant to them. Visitors find a list of solutions/value propositions tailored to their specific needs, along with a featured success story video. The quality of the videos is spectacular. You can see two examples (one enterprise client and one small business client) below:
Microsoft: Discovering Email Marketing Solutions
Feeding Your Kids: Cross-Channel Marketing Client Success
Optimizing web experiences is Monetate’s business (disclosure: Monetate is an OpenView portfolio company), and when you visit the company’s website it shows. Their Customers page is highly visual and centers around its marquee list of customers and collection of customer success story videos.
Check out two video examples below:
In addition to the videos, Monetate also provides additional info via text versions of the customer stories in a more traditional interview form.
Project management software provider AtTask (disclosure: another OpenView portfolio company) puts it perfectly when it says, “But why take our word for it?” The company’s Customers section lists its success stories in a clear and organized layout that breaks down the challenge, solution, and benefits demonstrated by each one. AtTask currently only has a couple of videos on the page (the Trek video below is a great one), but in addition to including links to more traditional case study PDFs the company has also turned quite a few into gated webinars, making them effective lead gen tools as well.
Google “customer success story” and Salesforce.com shows up at the top. The company has been big on customer success from day one and in many ways it sets the standard everyone else is attempting to meet. Sure, Salesforce.com has a leg up considering the wealth of stories it’s been able to glean from its who’s-who client list, but it’s also what the company does with those stories that sets it apart.
Not only are the videos top notch, the individual customer success story pages also break down which particular Salesforce.com products each customer uses.
GE’s Social Story
Facebook’s Success Story
What other companies are doing customer success stories right? What results and/or challenges have you faced developing your own customer success stories?