Woo hoo! If there was any doubt about the necessity for crafting and promoting your customer's stories, then this quick post will dispell them all.
Customer case study specialist Casey Hibbard shares some research from Gartner about the impact of customer stories on sales, and then lists specifically how customer stories can lead to business growth.
As I'm rebuilding my website, I'm taking Casey's advice -- and hope you do too.
Oh -- but make sure you are actually writing customer stories to share and not testimonials. Testimonials are critical -- yet they are mostly valuable opinions from customers about their experience with you. That's part of your 'story' but they often are not really stories.
Soooo -- write mini-stories or storied case-studies about your work with customers to receive the full impact of your customer stories!
The objective during the buy-sell cycle is to help the buyer create a vision of a solution based on value. Don't just "show up and throw up", use the power of a visual story to help resonate with the buyer.
"I've found that the most effective presenters use the same techniques as great storytellers: By reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way, they set up a conflict that needs to be resolved."
"That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle's three-part story structure the beginning, middle, end, they create a message that's easy to digest, remember, and retell. - Nancy Duarte)
Review by Karen Dietz for her curated content on business storytelling:
Here is a quick and concise post on the essential elements of creating a presentation as a story from presentation master Nancy Duarte.
I love how she chunks the presentation down into manageable chunks and gives examples as we go along so we can really get it.
Now you have this template, there's no excuse for creating 'death by PowerPoint'!
This is the fourth post in Nancy Duarte's blog series on creating and delivering presentations, based on tips from her new book, the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. The other 3 articles are listed at the bottom of the 4th article link above.
If you prefer to watch the video by Nancy, go here:
"When ever I think of stories, I’m always reminded of one of the best movie lines of all time from a movie full of great ones."
--Trains, Planes and Automobiles--
"Steve Martin (Neal) has already had his fill of John Candy’s (Del) character and finally loses it after hearing another of Del’s stories:"
“And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea … have a POINT. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.”
The article explores "why" you need to start with "why". Bringing in information from Simon Sinek as well as examples of how to begin a conversation with a CEO. The example provided is if you are in sales, however, we are all in "sales" everytime we talk to an executive in our own company.
When you have a new idea to present, remember the "why" and incorporate a story. Don't jump to the 'how" or the "what" too quickly.
"There are three key touchpoints that, regardless of industry, reveal if a company is just talking the “customer-centric” talk or if they are walking the walk."
"As you design your customer experience strategy don’t miss these often overlooked touchpoints. Getting them right shows customers that you truly “walk the customer-centric walk” and guarantees that your customer experience will stand apart from that of your competitors."
1 - The point where you collect their money
2 - The company return policy
3 - The point the customer chooses to leave
Here is the test. One of the stories we need to be prepared to share in sales and marketing is "who do I represent". Using your own company beliefs and processes/methods around returns, try to weave together a few lines you "would use" in a company story.
If you find it hard to do, go back through history and find a situation where you and/or the company resolved a major issue for an existing customer which centers around how your company handles returns. The catch, if you can't come up with a situation you are willing to share with new customers, perhaps it is time to reconsider how you do handle returns today...
NOTE: The recommendation is not to build a company story around returns. It is to have a few lines you might add when the situation calls for it. This could be used when you meet a prospect who you know is upset with how your market place typically handles returns and/or warranty situations.
Read the article for ideas of how to improve these touch points with customers and think about those who do it right. Amazon always comes to mind for me while considering ideas around payment and returns. (Such as bar coded labels included for returns with each shipment.)
“Once upon a time…Those four little words, when combined, have an amazing allure, simply because we know that they signify that something special is about to happen…a story."
"Humanity has used stories from the beginning to bind communities, create movements, inspire religions, and promote patriotism. From cave drawings to campfire tales, from papyrus writings to the Gutenberg Bible, our species has always rallied around stories--narratives that had the ability to hit us where we live and take us to someplace new."
Read the article for ideas of how the power of story can help increase your brand, product and/or service awareness in the mind of your customers.
"Admit it – you’re sick to death of being forced to sit through boring Power Point pitches, given by drab salespeople in stifling conference rooms. The real problem is that it isn’t just you that feels this way!"
"Your prospective customers are just as burned out on these traditional marketing methods as you are – which means that you’ve got to bring something new to the table if you want to be an effective B2B salesperson."
"One particular model to consider is the visual story. In this approach, marketing messages are conveyed in a way that is easiest for the brain to process. A voice narrates your message as the visual images supports it."
Read the full article on ideas of how to use visual story telling to help your sales and marketing personal connect and inspire your customers.
Customer experience is not about death by Power Point. Help them create a vision of a solution using your products and services based on value with visual stories.
"As focused as we all are on conversions and purchases, we are not all capitalizing on the opportunity to attract and engage with our customer at every point in the buying cycle, and as a result, customers can slip away."
I love the maps in this article!! They are very helpful to know and understand how the stories companies are creating and sharing need to play out across the sales cycle in order for businesses to grow.
The author A. Hall also makes the point to tell the story first, then choose your platforms. Too often we get caught up in the glamour of the technology instead of crafting a really good compelling story. But that is backwards.
Then the B2B Content Mapping diagram will help you sort out the next steps.
With business stories, it is sometimes hard to know, once you have your stories, how to proceed effectively to build fans, followers, and sales.
"As technology becomes more advanced and more accessible across multiple platforms, it’s only natural for consumers to expect increasingly higher standards of creativity and engagement from content creators. Experimentation is all well and good, but what do audiences actually want? To answer this question, research group Latitude has interviewed 158 early adopters and compiled a report that forms the first phase of its The Future of Storytelling project."
Karen Dietz: This article popped up today and I really like the 4 "I's" that it says the best business stories bring to the table: immersion, integration, interactivity, and impact. All stories, if told really well, do this. They immerse the audience and teller in the experience of the story, facilitate integration of messages, are co-created experiences that often generate story sharing back-and forth (interactivity), and have an impact on both the teller and the audience.
These 4 "I's" I really like -- they help capture the intent and purpose of our business storytelling. If your stories are not hitting all 4 dimensions, go fix them!
The author Martin Bryant is framing his points here in the world of transmedia storytelling -- where stories are told across multiple technology formats. The results of the study shared here contain no surprises if one is familiar with the dynamics of storytelling however.
For example: people influencing the media or producers in the creation of stories. Well, that's been happen for a hundreds of years now. Yet I do agree that the rate and amount of access has increased with technology, all of which is a good thing.
So what's the take-away here?
First -- focus on the 4 "I's" in any business storytelling you do in order to be successful. And expand your notions of what Interactivity, immersion, and integration can be. The info shared in the article might spark some ideas for you. If you are in business, are a blogger or content creator of any time, take these 4 "I's" to heart and do more of them.
Second -- stay tuned for the next part of this report that looks very promsing: "Latitude is currently working on phase two of its study, which it describes as “a large-scale international exploration focused on quantifying storytelling trends and opportunities, and understanding key audiences for multi-platform and transmedia experiences.”
This review was written by Karen Dietz for her curated content on business storytelling.
"How is it that we all missed the boat all these years on what’s important? Our most basic human need is to connect with each other; to connect with our ideas and beliefs. Isn’t that something that we, in the sales profession, should strive for?"
My personal story (John Burke, Oracle)
"I was never given permission to go there, to have my own identity as a sales professional, to let people into what makes me tick. No wonder I had trouble trying to get others to open up with me and share the things that make them tick. The companies I worked for hammered me with the company’s elevator pitch, the value prop, how to ROI someone to death; best case scenario was that stuff would result in a left-brain argument.
Changing the game
"What if, as John says in this video, we start with the important stuff? What if we help people rediscover the power of connecting with each other and what we believe in…the 90% of what it takes to make a sale? Set aside the sales-y part of this and hear the story of a seasoned veteran looking for a better way."
A great infographic about how to make your message stick. This is perfect for any budding social entrepreneurs trying to figure out how to convey their ideas to potential funders, partners, employees,...
LOVE this infographic! It's all about using storytelling and story elements to make your content stick. The infographic makes perfect sense, is easy to read and understand, and is right on!
Keep this one handy and refer to it often :)) I know I will be using it in my classes and workshops.
"So how can you communicate ideas that are memorable and shareable on a social web that has 550 million competing websites? Not many ideas stick. Here are 6 principles you can apply to make your ideas sticky and contagious to win on a crowded web."
In sales and marketing the curse of knowledge is one of those things which grows stronger every day. Keeping it at bay is what "sticky" is all about.
The article provides a concise overview of the 6 principles of "sticky ideas", from the book, "Made to Stick".
“Saying something short is not the mission—sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.”
Last but definetly not the least.
Principle 6: Stories
”How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Firefighters naturally swap stories after every fire, and by doing so they multiply their experience”.
"Sticky Customer Success Stories" are the life blood of a sales and marketing team who are bonded together. Every one can tell stories where the customer is the hero and they all understand who were the "villians" and the "turning point" which allowed the customer to succeed.
These are the stories when a new prospect across the table sets down their pen, leans in to listen, and starts asking questions. Help create more of these moments, both on line as well as face-to-face.
What's your top 3 customer stories for your highest selling product or service? Next question, can your sales and marketing team all tell the stories off the top of their head? Final question, can your customers even find them on your web site...
A fact wrapped in a story is 22 times more memorable than the mere pronouncement of that fact, according to cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, as cited in an Insight Demand presentation.
To help your content linger in the minds of readers—who are your potential prospects, remember the following six elements of a good story:
1 - Purpose
2 - Setting
3 - Complication
4 - Villain
5 - Turning Point
6 - Resolution
From a sales and marketing perspective, the one thing many of us get wrong, including myself. The hero of the story is "not" our company, it is the customer you have helped in the past. The villain of the story are the "issues" which were stopping them from achieving thier needs.
The year is 2008 and you are in the Financial Services Business.
"How do you turn a quiet, sales-driven organization into a B2B marketing powerhouse?"
"Consider the story of Lincoln Financial Group, a traditionally sales-centric organization... The 106-year-old financial services, insurance, and annuities company..."
"Lincoln Financial had previously conducted research showing that the more people take charge of their lives, including their finances, the better they feel about the direction of their lives."
"We sometimes think that because we're talking to the business or consumer community, our advertising doesn’t need to be emotionally driven," said DePeau. "You need to do that plus help educate the consumer, as opposed to just talking to them."
"While others in the category seemed to be drawn to using fear in their advertising, we felt the time was right to try a new, more optimistic approach."
"...the campaign showcased a video of women of all ages showing how they take charge of their lives and provided educational content to help women do just that. The PR focused on the research results. The Chief Life Officer ads continued the "take charge, optimistic theme," which was reinforced in social media.
"If you've really done your homework then you should know to avoid jargon that the C-level executive may not know."
"Consultants are always trying to "assist us in managing our third-party spend," whatever that means. It must be something important, because I get two or three calls a week to help me with this problem."
"Maybe if they positioned it from my point of view and used language that I use they would get further in their call." Mike Parrot, VP,Costco
Read the last sentence again and notice two main issues.
1 - Use the customers language
2 - Use their point of view.
Early in the buy-sell cycle, the customer is looking for the "why" I should consider anything new. Sound bites of, "this is what my product can achieve will also not go very far".
Consider this: If you wrap a previous customer success within a story framework that matches the customers marketplace, you can cover both points Parrot desires, language and point of view.
A note of caution, stories need to resonate and be worded to match the title of the person you are calling on, not just the industry/market.
A phrase by Nancy Duarte is important while building stories:
"By reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way, you set up a conflict that needs to be resolved." http://youtu.be/UfQF3DXG-S4
A good story does not start with success or sound bites or symptoms, it starts with a business challenge. In the above example by Parrot, third part spend is a symptom. He wants to know the business challenge a product or service can help him resolve based on his position.
I'm still waiting for the company who will crack the code of storytelling — just like Vladimir Propp did for fairy tales — and get it right every time, with every product launch. (Image credits: Mario Lapid, Wikimedia Commons) ...
LOL -- this article heated up the Twittersphere last night, and with good cause. It's message is simple and clear: if you want lots of sales when you introduce a new product or service, you must tell a story!
For most of us, we've already figured that out. What I like about this article is that the author, Romain Dillet shares his experiences of new technology product launches from Apple, Samsung & Microsoft at recent conferences.
His conclusion?Apple definitely fell of the wagon and did not proivde a story. Microsoft definitely did not tell a story -- both of these companies defaulted to promoting product features. Boring -- as the author says!! He points out that being able to hold the new iPad in one hand is a 'use case' (how someone would use the product) and not a story.
Samsung got closer. The author included a link to a Samsung commercial that was a story -- about the phones features, LOL -- I watched it and it sounds like an interesting 'use case' to me! The Samsung commercial is a fun poke at Apple, but the story line is all about the bigger screen and weight. That .is OK but it doesn't get the story job done.
OK -- so where does that leave us?
To avoid defaulting to product features or use cases, for starters make sure your storyhas a problem and resolution. A challenge to overcome. Something meaningful to happen.
So who does tell great product stories? Nike and Lego come to mind. If I had more coffee this morning I'm sure I'd think of others.
In addition, the author cites someone near and dear to my heart -- Vladimir Propp from the Russian School of Folklore who published The Morphology of the Folktale in the 1920s. Propp was the first to diagram the common structure of fairy tales which Joseph Campbell,Chris Voglerand others have used ever since. Anyone who cites Propp in an article gets a gold star from me!
Overall, even though the examples Dillet gives don't quite hold up 100%, there are still lots of good insights here that make this worth reading.
And yes, every successful product lauch does need a good story!
Do you have a good example to product launch + story to share?
"A good story helps a prospect envision how they could utilize your services. Sometimes it is hard for a client to imagine how they could utilize your solution within their firm and a well-articulated story or two can help with that."
"This as you can imagine is not “once upon a time”, it is rather a way to convey to your prospect how you and your company are helping others and the value they are receiving based on a real-life example."
"If you are a start-up and don’t have many clients that can be utilized in such a manner, then you may have to build a theoretical story, but be sure to keep it as realistic as possible and be clear with the client that it is theoretical."
"Having a strong base value proposition is always a necessity but then being able to help articulate how someone benefited from the key points in the value proposition solidifies how real it is. For more information on building a strong value proposition see our blog post on building an elevator pitch."
Read the article for help around structuring your customer stories from beginning to the end.
The CEO Scenario: Your company is launching a new product or service and trains the entire sales organization in a day long meeting. (The next week your salespeople start calling on buyers and customers.)
Assume you video tape three different sales people attempting to sell your new offering to the same title within the same vertical channel.
If you were to review the tapes, would you be able to determine:
1. If the same product/service was being sold?
2. If the salespeople even worked for the same company?
The presentation explores how the best of breed are aligning their sales and marketing methods to create the best buying experience, which begins with a common language. Part of the common language for sales and marketing personnel are their stories which need to include:
*Who I Represent
*The Customer Stories and How We Help
*Who I Am
One of the better ways to avoid the CEO scenario referenced above is to arm sales and marketing on new product and service launches with "how we help" stories.
Customers are not focused on features and benefits in the beginning of the buyers journey. Help them create a vision of a solution based on value to satisfy their particular needs. This is built on "how" your product and/or service helps them satisfy their needs encapsulated within a story which resonates with the title and vertical industry being called on.
"Although the value of your offering is overwhelming, customers resist. Why? More important, how will you get past this irrational wall of resistance, and make the sale?"
"Here's a quick article from Michael Harris that makes a powerful point: if you want to increase your sales, engage prospects in buying simulations (a special type of story) that do your selling for you. - Karen Dietz"
I like the SlideShare piece that comes along with this, and the free downloadable guide.
Master buildling and sharing these scenarios and see your sales rise. Now that's a good thing!
"I love this article and am using its tips and outline this week for several presentations I am doing. While it is focused on sales, this post follows the same pattern I use when teaching my MBA students on business communication and influential presentations. - Karen Dietz"
Keep this article/outline handy because it works!!
The next best method on "how to sell", is all about "how to sell". It is curious the "buyers journey" is not part of the sales method.
From the article: "Ask any sales leader how selling has changed in the past decade, and you'll hear a lot of answers but only one recurring theme: It's a lot harder. Yet even in these difficult times, every sales organization has a few stellar performers. Who are these people? How can we bottle their magic?"
"To understand what sets apart this special group of sales reps, the Sales Executive Council launched a global study of sales rep productivity three years ago involving more than 6,000 reps across nearly 100 companies in multiple industries."
The article explains the study and begins to define the current top sales performers, who are called "The Challenger". Yet an interesting point, the buyers journey is not part of the study.
A sales person with the Challenger profile, (there are 5 profiles in total):
1 - Teaches
2 - Tailors their customer messages
3 - "Takes control" of the sale
To me, "take control" is an inside out view. Another way to say this from a customer’s perspective is to help a buyer make an appropriate buying decision. Especially if the customer is buying a product or service which is difficult to understand. Helping to manage the buying process, without over managing. If this is considered "take control", then I agree.
There is one large piece missing from the study which all of us in sales struggles with, which is how to "connect" with the customer.
Here is a video of John Burke of Oracle describing how he views connection and it's importance in the buyers journey.
Sales methods continue to progress from the old days when it was all about "what you sell", (feature/benefit), to it is all about "how you sell", (such as SPIN, Consultative Selling, Solution Selling, and now the Challenger method).
The next leg of the journey which is showing up more and more, the buyers journey, also called the buy-sell cycle.
Which is leading is up to: It is not about "how you sell", it is all about "how your customers buy your products and services." With the objective being to help customers have a "Vision of a Solution Based on Value". The power of story, watching the video of John Burke of Oracle above will likely be part of the next evolution in sales.
"I recently had an interesting conversation with John Burke, who is Oracle's group vice president for global sales support and new product introductions. He has about 125 people reporting to him, many of whom have been recently trained by Mike Bosworth and Ben Zoldan on using storytelling as a sales technique. Here are some highlights from that interview. - Geoffrey James"
Geoffrey James: What challenges does a company like Oracle face in sales situations?"
John Burke: Large companies are often very adept at explaining what their products do, but not as adept at explaining how and why their customers use their products. Most companies, Oracle included, have made a great effort to become more customer-focused, and there have been a lot of sales training programs put into place to accomplish that. However, I've observed over the years that many of those programs don't seem to help much, because salespeople don't often know the real stories behind why their customers bought and how their customers actually use their products.
GJ: And that's what led you to start working with Mike and Ben?
Read on to hear if Oracle has changed how they sell and also about using humility in a story.
"As part of my research, I wanted to know how other professions understood influence and persuasion. I didn’t believe that we in Corporate America, especially in mainstream corporate training departments, had cracked the code on how the most persuasive people influence outcomes."
"So, I spent time in professions outside my own: politics, journalism, and legal (what are trial attorneys doing to influence the outcomes with jurors?). And what are the neuroscientists saying about all this?"
"It’s all a form of persuasion. What are the characteristics of the most persuasive people? In the legal profession, lives hang in the balance as lawyers attempt to influence jurors to believe what they need them to believe. Consider the infamous O.J. Simpson trial. In 1995, Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran’s legal defense team stunned the world by convincing a jury that O.J. Simpson was not guilty."
"Admit it – you’re sick to death of being forced to sit through boring Power Point pitches, given by drab salespeople in stifling conference rooms. The real problem is that it isn’t just you that feels this way! Your prospective customers are just as burned out on these traditional marketing methods as you are – which means that you’ve got to bring something new to the table if you want to be an effective B2B salesperson."
"One particular model to consider is the visual story. In this approach, marketing messages are conveyed in a way that is easiest for the brain to process. A voice narrates your message as the visual images supports it."
"At TruScribe, we leverage storytelling through the use whiteboard scribe videos, though there are plenty of other visual storytelling techniques that can be used as part of an effective sales process."
Read on to learn more why story telling works so well in B2B marketing:
1. Visual Storytelling is Engaging
2. Visual Storytelling is Disarming
3. Visual Storytelling is Effective
With increasing retention rates, it’s easy to see why visual storytelling makes such an effective B2B marketing tool.
When is the last time you read a really great, enthralling story that went like this: Boy meets girl; they fall in love; they get married; the end.
Are these the kinds of stories marketers should be pursuing. The answer is probably not.
Then why is it company stories go like this:
We have an amazing product. Here is a customer who says it is amazing. You should buy it. You’ll think it is amazing, too.
Perhaps sales and marketing should use the "anatomy of a story", to tell "their stories" around companies they have helped.
2) A PROTAGONIST
3) AN ANTAGONIST
4) THE REVELATION
5) THE TRANSFORMATION
Read on to understand more how to use the anatomy of a "good" story in sales and marketing. To be able to tell your company stories around how you have helped customers satisfy their needs in an engaging way.