In 2009, I was a year past the end of my short marriage, working several part-time jobs and struggling to find purpose. The woman I was dating wanted me to help her parents with their online business, maybe even take one or more over at some point. But they were floundering. I shouldn’t get too deep into details, but they had shifted the model from a previously successful business to one where it just didn’t work.
They had started as idea people supplying a unique product. But their business partners, who sold to consumers, decided to change the game. They discovered they could undercut their pricing by using a cheaper supplier. And suddenly the original company found itself with an excess of stock, trying to transform into a consumer seller, in competition with people who had essentially stolen their idea and doing it for much cheaper.
They were in serious trouble. And they had no clear plan to get out of the situation or even recoup a fraction of their investment. I knew they needed a solid strategy.
Enter David G. Johnson, then known as Epiphany Marketing. I had met David a few years earlier at a day-long Christians-in-business seminar, representing a time-management solution. By the luck of the draw, I ended up assigned to be his partner when I signed up for their services.
By now, David had split off on his own, but I was still on his mailing list. And here was the solution to my needs. David was teaching a strategic approach to business marketing. As far as I could tell, it worked on the consumer level, and I could go through the training and then use the knowledge to save my girlfriend’s parents’ company. And that’s exactly what I did.
Hanging On a Moment
That was a significantly condensed version of the story of why I bought in to Epiphany Marketing, now Grow The Dream’s, approach. There are some details I skipped over and the 300 words above represent about three years, significant mental and emotional anguish, and while I did manage to help my girlfriend’s parents’ business, our relationship didn’t continue. And her parents proceeded to invest in another business, tried the same model, and then broke even.
But I came away with a knowledge of how to create and utilize a strategic approach to business marketing. I used those principles to survive the market downturns of 2010 and 2012. They were invaluable building my acting and writing profiles once I moved to Los Angeles. I am about to use them to launch another business initiative here.
Every week, I use them in this content blog, teaching the timeless principles I’ve learned. And, of course, I use them to assist our clients with their strategic marketing approach.
I use story as one of my tools. I’ve mentioned it in several articles in the past, and I am developing a course on using story to market your business.
What I haven’t really gone into depth on is how to use your customer’s stories to market your business. Until today.
Tell Me a Story
Let’s start with the basics – you don’t need 300 words from your customers, or have to rely on them being effective storytellers. Customer stories can be testimonials, reviews (like on Yelp), guest blogs, social posts, and more. In this instance, a customer story can be any relevant statement, discussion or opinion about you or your business.
Customer stories provide the ever precious and sometimes seeming unobtainable social proof that helps your business build credibility. A statement from a satisfied customer is about 1000x more effective than what you say about your business. (Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration.) But customer stories are very effective tools to expand your credibility – even establishing you as a leader in your field.
Stories from customers can reassure potential customers. They can also be a point of connection between existing customers, reassuring them that they made the right decision. I’ve talked before about how engaged customers lead them to even create buzz for your business, because they’re so happy. Telling their stories and seeing you use them may grow a grassroots effort or even spark an evangelist.
Another advantage to asking for stories is the opportunity to reconnect with former clients. Just like my story with David, they might not remember, or be aware of something you offer that they need. If you’re like me and personally struggle with the need to remind people that you’re here, available and can offer them a solution, this is an easy excuse to reopen that door. Plus, having them retell their story, answer a survey, or take the time to review reinforces their decision and the positive outcome. That can lead to more sales as well.
And the fact that you care about what they think can build even stronger brand loyalty.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
We often have blind spots, that, by their very nature, are holes in our business approach, our marketing and customer interaction.
There may be some feature or service you provide that your customers place a high value on that you haven’t been promoting, because you didn’t think about it – or consider it standard practice. The reason they decide to choose your company over a competitor’s may be something you aren’t actively telling people about. Getting your customers’ stories – in their own voices – may reveal what you’ve missed.
By the same token, the stories they share may highlight something you can improve upon. Even the most glowing review can have elements that point to a better way to approach a situation. When you engage with customers’ stories, your audience of potential clients stays centered on what really matters to your brand and why you should be trusted.
Of course, none of this works if you don’t have customers with stories to share. If you’d like help identifying and targeting your ideal customer, or creating content that brings qualified customers to your website, please reach out. We’ve built our business helping other small businesses succeed. Just like that story at the beginning. 😉
Let’s Grow the Dream together!