3 Ways Brand Storytelling Improves Customer Success Stories « Goldberg Communications
Even during the heyday of “speeds-and-feeds” technology marketing, technology companies have always valued one type of brand story.
The customer success story.
After all, who else but a fellow customer can validate that a software application or technology solution actually does what it says it’s going to do—and solves a real customer challenge.
And so, when I asked marketers who touted themselves on LinkedIn as brand storytellers what brand storytelling meant, I wasn’t surprised that most admitted that they were in charge of customer-success-story marketing.
I next wondered whether their use of the term “brand storytelling” was yet another case of marketing spin. Were these marketers simply calling the same-old customer-success-story rose by another name? After all, brand storytelling has become quite the buzzword.
It turns out, brand-storytelling case studies really are different—and better—than their ancestors in three specific ways.
“The biggest change is that we no longer talk about features,” explained Michael DiLeva, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Bentley Systems. “Case studies have gone through two stages of evolution. First, they began to talk about advantages. Now we’ve moved on to outcomes. Advantages have to do with workflows. Case studies that stress advantages talk about how the vendor’s solution helps the customer do business differently—become better, faster, more efficient. When case studies focus on outcomes, they talk about what the business or end user gets out of using the software from a personal and business perspective. In other words, we’ve changed what we talk about from what the product does, to what it can do for you, to what you get.”
LivePerson is one company whose case studies offer a good example. LivePerson sells live chat software for customer service agents. In one set of stories, the company interviewed agents about how they see being a live chat agent as a career track and how live chat provides opportunities for professional development and advancement.
The company also created case studies that talked about how the agents were able to engage with customers in meaningful ways via live chat, thereby improving customer-service reputation of the companies they worked for. One story talked about how an agent for a national domestic violence hotline was able to help a victim who called in with her iPad while in a closet hiding from her abuser.
Because technology is an idea and a service, not a thing you can hold in your hand, technology marketing can be very abstract. And if you’re not already in the know, abstract concepts can be difficult to understand. The way around that is to give a concrete example that people can easily visualize.
Customer stories perform that function for your brand. They show step-by-step how real people are solving real business problems that the reader can relate to.
The trick, say marketers, is to bring out the intersection between your brand and the customer’s brand. Citrix does a great job of this with its customer videos. For example, this video about Miami Children’s Hospital shows exactly how a pediatric physician relies on Citrix solutions to make sure he has the right information at his fingertips so he can better serve his patients—and still have a family life.
“We focus on how we can get the customers to exemplify the overall Citrix vision,” explained Pascale Royal, Senior Program Manager, Strategic Customers at Citrix. “Our founding vision was to find the best ways to allow people to work on their terms. And that remains true to this day.”
Todd Craig, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant and Oracle Modern Market Leader finalist, also uses the customer story to tell his company’s own brand story. In Craig’s view, “We, as the vendor, are promise keepers. In B2B marketing, your customers’ brand makes many promises and they rely on many systems to keep those promises. For example, when you go to an online eCommerce site, that site relies on the supply chain to deliver the goods that customers order. If your company is part of that supply chain, that’s the story you’ve got to tell. When you work with customers, help them tell their story so you can tell yours.”
Because companies are typically no longer in personal contact with customers until late in the buying process, they need some way to forge a personal connection. The right customer story has the potential to create an emotional bond.
“We look at the human side of things,” said Royal of Citrix. “We can’t forget that everyone we interact with is a human being. We want to make sure that angle comes across. It’s all about working better and living better.” The Citrix video I cited earlier creates an emotional connection with its throat-lump inducing tale of saving babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
One of the most moving customer success stories I’ve seen from a technology company is this story from Airbnb. This short animated film tells the true story of a man who once guarded one side of the Berlin wall. For years, the man stood toe-to-toe with a man who guarded the wall for the other side. Eventually, the wall was torn down. One day, the first man went on vacation to the other side of the city and set up his accommodations through Airbnb. When he knocked on the door, who should answer, but the guard for the other side of the wall. Now instead or keeping people apart, the two men could come together with the help of Airbnb.
It’s even possible to find a human angle and make an emotional connection with most technical of products. For example, Bentley Systems makes products for architects. Said DiLeva, “With architecture, you can look at the iconic forms of infrastructure—spectacular buildings or bridges. We talk about how the design may not have been possible or impractical years ago without these new technologies.”
Today’s customer success stories are clearly not a rose by another name. They’re a beefed up hybrid that makes your brand smell sweeter by helping customers understand the business benefits of your solution, embodying your brand story and enabling you to forge strong bonds with your customers.