The 1914 silent movie serial, “The Perils of Pauline,” was famous for putting Pauline in grave danger, menaced by pirates and Indians, until the dashing hero came to the rescue just as the credits began to roll. Technology companies have long used this formula as their model for their customer-success stories, casting the customer as the hapless Pauline and their products as the gallant savior.

Today, technology companies are rethinking this stereotype as they’ve come to realize that the customer is really the hero of the story.

This new paradigm is influencing both how companies are telling the customer story and how they work with customers to promote their products. Companies are courting customers as true partners and are structuring their customer-reference programs accordingly.

Telling the Customer Story

When today’s marketers tell customer stories, they’re consciously making an effort to avoid telling the story strictly about their products. Instead, many marketers are starting to emphasize the customer’s goals—and, coincidentally, how those goals intersect with the vendor’s product. Of course, since products are different, vendors will strive to emphasize different aspects of their customers’ stories.

Humanizing the Story

Some brands, such as Citrix, with its company motto “Work Better, Live Better,” emphasize success in personal terms. “We never forget that everyone we interact with is a human being and we want to make sure those human stories come across,” said Pascale Royal, Senior Program Manager, Strategic Customers at Citrix.

In that vein, one Citrix success video about Miami Children’s Hospital begins with a pediatric surgeon saying “Babies’ heartbeats are like snowflakes, they’re all different.” The surgeon goes on to explain that when someone calls with questions about a patient, he needs data, wherever he happens to be located. By having access to data anytime, anywhere on any device, he’s able to be there both for his family and for his patients.

Starting with the End Result

Other marketers talk about how the customer can do a better job of delivering their products and services with the help of the vendor’s product. For example, when Todd Craig, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant and Oracle Modern Market Leader finalist, was marketing an ERP software solution, he told the story of how a pizza company could not only they take orders through their eCommerce site, but they could also deliver the pizza faster so it was hotter when it got to the customer.

Explained Craig, “In B2B, your customer’s brand makes many promises and they rely on many systems to live up to those promises. We want to be the promise keepers. I tell my brand story through their brand story. If I can show how a product was improved through better systems and processes, then the prospect can relate to the information I’m presenting. In the end, we’re all consumers, so if I can tell the customer’s story in reverse starting with the produced products, then I have a better chance of connecting with my audience.”

The Rise of Customer Advocacy

Increasingly, companies are going beyond the standard success story and are partnering with customers so that those customers can play a more active role in promoting their brand.

Citrix, for example, has developed a new strategic-advocacy program. Out of 300,000 customers and 600 customers in its reference database, Citrix selected 28 elite customers that the sales team identified as having the best stories to tell.

Citrix partners with these select customers, sitting down with them to find ways they can promote those customers as thought leaders and shine a spotlight on their organizations. Citrix may line up media interviews, create videos, present the customer with an innovation award, promote them on Facebook, and put them up for other opportunities such as speaking opportunities, and more.

“We get to know them on a very personal level and find out what they need, even from a career perspective,” said Royal. “We’re deeply invested in their success. It’s about building relationships and developing trust and nurturing a mutually beneficial relationship that benefits both Citrix and the customer. On the flip side, they talk about Citrix and the success they’ve had. They also champion us in their day-to-day life within their organization.”

Smaller companies are also coming up with ways to nurture customers to brand advocacy on a smaller scale. For example, while Craig’s organizations haven’t created their own customer awards, it does nominate them to publications that put on their own CIO of the year awards. Said Craig, “It’s all about helping them tell their story and promoting their success.”