3 Ways Customer Stories Can Build Your Business

Marketers regularly discuss how customer stories are a fantastic resource for building your business, but they don't often talk about how to use them to your best advantage. These three methods for using customer stories will help your business rise to the top of the pack.

1. Reshare stories on social media
When customers tweet to your account with a positive story, retweet it with a comment. When you get a positive review, share it to your Facebook page. These examples are obvious. But what about when a customer contacts you privately, through email or Facebook message, for example, to tell you about their great experience?

It is fine to encourage customers to leave a review in a more public location. You may even set up your website for video testimonials of real life product use, or ask permission to quote part of what they've said on the review section of your website.

2. Internal education and rewarding

When was the last time you let your sales team know about the ways that customers praised them? When did you last sit your customer service team down and show them the difference that they make in customer retention? When did you last use these stories as evidence of the team's excellent functioning to higher level decision makers?

It can sometimes be difficult to show higher level executives how very crucial certain sales people or customer service staff are to a business's bottom line. Having clear and well-documented evidence of the times when service has fixed issues, retained customers, and improved processes in other areas of the company can be helpful if someone decides to tighten ship by eliminating or reducing service staff.

3. Invite customers to leave reviews
Online reviews are important for businesses than ever before, since today's consumers are shopping for products and services online. A recent trend among third parties using Amazon's marketplace is to send a follow-up email a few days after a product should have been received. When done properly, this email includes a thank-you to the customer for their purchase, good contact information for the customer to reach out with any concerns or problems they've uncovered, and an invitation to leave a review for future shoppers.

To be successful, this invitation must:
  • Be an invitation, not a harassment. Focus on how reviews influence other shoppers, instead of talking about "favored customers" leave reviews.
  • Be received after sufficient time has passed for the customer to reasonably have a chance of using the product. If they get it before they get the item, they're more likely to leave a negative review, if they do anything at all.

Why does all of this work?
As the Internet has become available to more people and become more ubiquitous, marketing has changed at a rapid pace. The goals of marketing, however, are the same as they have always been. Word of mouth buzz is still the beginning, middle, and end of a successful marketing campaign. By driving interest in products, businesses are able to broaden their reach and acquire more sales.

Word of mouth buzz used to carry from person to person over the water cooler or over backyard fences. While this is still true, social media has replaced the backyard fence for many people. Instead of connecting with our neighbors, we connect with our friends and family over longer distances and more time zones.

The most powerful method of showcasing a product is reviews from satisfied customers. While professional reviewers are still in play for certain entertainment products - books, movies, music - for many products and services, the Internet has given companies the ability to advertise customer satisfaction for the first time.

To make good use of customer satisfaction, businesses need to remember:

• Positive reviews alone do not make a successful social media feed. While they can certainly be some of your generated content, don't forget your evergreen pieces, creative how-to lists, state of the industry pieces, and all the other content that is needed.

• To avoid guiding customers in reviewing. Products used to be sent out to reviewers with brief sheets that would suggest certain phrases that could be used in reviews. While this worked for a while, companies like Amazon are working to flag "inauthentic" reviews, and customers who read many reviews before purchase will realize the similarities, and it will cause you to lose reputation in their eyes.

The best customer reviews will be generated by your customers and highlighted by you. Invite your customers to participate, and then share what they generate according to your internal protocols.

How do you use customer stories to expand your business?