Why Authentic Storytelling is the Key to Customer Advocacy
The key to a positive line of communication and converting new customers into long-time advocates lies in authentic storytelling. Some ways to do this include creating personalized touchpoints, positioning the customer as the hero, and mixing up the medium, says, Ben Gibson, CMO of Nutanix.
The age of hearing about a company for the first time through a sales or marketing representative is long over. Now, the most powerful kind of selling in our increasingly digital, social and data-driven era is the selling done by our customer advocates.
Customer advocates paint a realistic picture of your product and spread recommendations through word of mouth and social shares, making them a B2B brand’s best marketing tool. In fact, customer advocates are 50% more likely to influence a purchasing decision than other customers.
But too often, we see companies exploit customers for personal benefit, spinning stories that focus on a company’s product and drive potential advocates away.
How do we change the relationship here, opening a positive line of communication and converting new customers into long-time advocates? The answer lies in authentic storytelling and getting to the heart of a story the customer wants to share. Here are some ways you can get started.
Create personalized & mindful touchpoints
When reaching out to a potential new customer, it is crucial to stay mindful of quantity and quality of touchpoints to start the relationship off on the right foot. Rather than always initiating the conversation, give customers the option to self-nominate by creating a page on your website that lets them volunteer to share their story.
Once you’ve established the beginnings of a positive relationship, avoid customer “friendly fatigue” by thinking about how you can bundle or prioritize customer asks. Think about varying touch points throughout the relationship. Don’t simply reach out when you need something; reach out to spark a conversation and make them feel valued and trusted as a long-term partner. Brainstorm ways you can help them too, like sharing speaking scores from events, so they can understand how they did and can take that feedback into a future session.
After a customer helps to share your story, reach out with a personalized thank you note and gift tailored to their interests. Handwritten thank you cards still go a long way!
Position the customer as the hero
In creating customer reference content, position the customer as the hero and help them shine in the spotlight. This might be easier said than done, given you ultimately want your brand in the spotlight as well, but there are a few unique ways to create content that dives deeper into the details to deliver a more authentic story.
To create this content, ask the right questions and thought starters when talking to customers about their journey, and gather their thoughts on industry and IT trends so the content reflects them as an industry leader. Ask them what advice they would give to peers looking at updating their datacenter, or if they saw any unexpected benefits following this transformation. By weaving these thoughts into customer reference materials, you build thought leadership credibility for the customer while simultaneously promoting your story.
Telling human interest stories also allows you to go beyond technical content and humanize the materials, further positioning your customer as a hero. If your customer has a unique background, has overcome significant hardships, or is vocal about a talent, weave that story into content. If they give back to the community, ask if they have a favorite charity and partner with them. Then, both the customer and your own company can give back, and you can share the story through a profile or blog piece featuring their commitment to supporting the charity.
To maintain the customer relationship past the initial case study or profile, find ways to develop “lookback” content. For example, create a “where are they now” ebook series featuring customer stories from the past and include new insights on where they currently stand in their digital transformation journey.
Mix up the medium
Determine the right medium to share each customer’s story for optimal views and shares that modern viewers will find interesting and that will drive traffic back to the page. Videos can spark interest, but viewers have increasingly shorter attention spans; in fact, BBC notes “the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds now.” So keep videos short! At Nutanix, we make sure to cut videos on our website to three minutes to ensure the content holds viewers’ attention. For social, we create video teasers optimized for social platforms that last about 15 seconds and can run with or without sound.
Thirty-two percent of marketers say visual images are the most important form of content for their business. Mix graphics into materials to keep readers engaged, and continually test new kinds of graphics to see which resonate with readers most. To keep up with changing trends, we’re currently revising our written case study PDF template on our website to make it more concise and visually appealing.
In the age of social, everyone wants assets that encourage sharing, reposting, and retweeting. Repackage strong soundbites in customer montage videos around particular themes, and push them out over social channels. Develop a customer profile spotlight series across digital and social channels and newsletters. Pull and highlight customer quotes prominently across your webpage and social channels, and make sure to tag the company and spokesperson for optimal views.
Given customer advocates have a significant impact on how others perceive your brand, it’s worth the time and effort to build real, authentic relationships with customers and foster strong customer advocacy. By implementing the methods above, you are well on your way to build and promote the best kind of customer relationships – ones that are open, transparent, and benefit both parties equally.