Businesses can talk about their great service or incredible products all day, but self-promotion can’t come close to instilling the kind of credibility and authority that comes from customer testimonials and customer stories.
Customer voices provide a form of credibility that businesses can’t manufacture, and prospective consumers are being increasingly affected by the opinions and experiences of people like them. Moreover, showcasing the stories and positive experiences of your clients allows satisfied customers to do the heavy lifting for you in a manner that resonates with potential customers.
Remember, no matter the size of the business, from five employees to five hundred, the most powerful form of advertising is word-of-mouth marketing.
When you need more than testimonials
Testimonials are powerful tools, yet, they can be limiting at times, particularly if they sound fabricated or insincere. And their credibility can come into question from consumers: “Did the company write them? Are these real people?” Beyond that, prospective customers can’t as easily relate to the standard laudatory comments about how Company X is great. However, they can see themselves and their own unique situations reflected in the story content we create.
Customer profiles get beyond the confines of a testimonial. Rather than a repackaging of customer feedback, these are, in essence, feature stories — narratives that take prospective consumers into the lives of satisfied customers to show how your product or service made a difference. Readers can imagine themselves being served by the same product, service or solution that left these real-life clients so completely satisfied.
The process begins by identifying and interviewing satisfied customers willing to share their stories. Learn more about their lives, including what led them to need your product or service and how your solution spurred a satisfactory outcome. Showcase your company’s dedication and expertise through the lens of one person’s story.
Aim for 500 to 750 words with a photograph of your subject and a well-crafted headline. Use crisp, active sentences and don’t try to squeeze your customer’s life story into a relatively tight space. Focus on setting up the need for your services and the results you deliver.
Customer profiles are a great complement to traditional testimonials, which should remain part of your overall marketing and online reputation management strategy. Full-blown narratives allow prospective consumers to project their own circumstances and needs on the customer who has previously benefited from your product or service.
A great advantage to these stories is that there’s really not an industry unsuited for customer stories. Service-based companies are an ideal fit, but any company that provides a product, service, or solution that impacts consumers can benefit from these stories.
Choosing the right customers to highlight
You need customers who are passionate about your product or service and open to sharing their stories, names and photos with the world. Full names and photos are critical for the success of these stories — in fact, there’s little use in publishing any stories without them. Customers who have compelling backgrounds or whose experiences showcase your company’s values or commitment to excellent service are ideal.
Finding the best subjects takes time and initiative. It obviously depends on the industry and the individual, but in general, people are more than willing to answer questions and share a little of themselves for a product or service they appreciate. Many are flattered that someone is taking an interest.
Skip customers who express the slightest doubt about having their name, likeness, and story on the web — you want satisfied customers to stay satisfied.
How to overcome barriers to finding and using the customers’ stories
There are three barriers to creating compelling customer stories:
- Finding customers with these stories to tell
- Finding someone who can interview the subjects and write compelling copy
- Finding someone who can pull it all together with an intriguing design
Regarding the first, companies can use social media, their front-line employees, surveys, and other methods to identify satisfied customers who might be willing to share a story of their experience. Emails and calls from satisfied customers are great sources. The other two stages require a commitment to content marketing and storytelling.
Ex-journalists are ideal, because they know how to conduct interviews and tell stories. Elevating your content requires both time and money, and it starts with personnel, whether it’s an in-house writer or a stable of freelancers. Committing to customer profiles means committing to professional media creators.
Now that you have the profiles, maximize them!
Push the customer profiles from your website, your social media channels, and any other online platform you can find. Spend money advertising these stories on Facebook and Google. Splash names and faces above the fold of your home page. Feature a story in your monthly newsletter. House all of them in a unique library on your site. Use every means at your disposal to get these stories out to all potential customers.
Word-of-mouth is more powerful than any commercial or ad. If you can get great reviews from your customers, use them to your advantage. Seek out your committed and satisfied customers and encourage them to sing your praises. Every one of us is more likely to buy a product or service that is recommended by someone we trust, rather than promoted by a paid spokesperson. This is true for every single consumer in the market. If you have customers willing to talk up your company, you can’t get better advertising. Let your customers do the talking!
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Testimonials image via Bigstock