Yesterday morning a client asked for some advice about telling customer stories in her company’s new blog. Her plan was to write about how specific customers were benefitting her company’s services. She ran into a snag. Her boss didn’t want her to mention any customers in the company’s blog because he feared that competitors would try to steal them away.
While I understand the concern, customer testimonials and success stories are extremely valuable to gain trust, establish credibility, and illustrate how your offerings can help a prospective customer. In an earlier (career) life I’ve found that a relevant customer story engages your audience and generates leads. In this case, the customer was so happy with our products and services there was no way she would be swayed over to a competitor.
The Value of Customer Stories
Numerous studies support the value of telling your customer stories:
- 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know, and 70% trust opinions of unknown users. – Econsultancy
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. – BrightLocal
- 83% of consumers say online customer reviews influence their purchase decisions. – Opinion Research Corp.
- 90% of customers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. – Dimensional Reararch, 2013
Beyond the studies, if you want more information about why you should write about customers I suggest you read this article about using customer stories to build trust and conversions.
Going back to yesterday morning, the advice I provided my client included:
- There is little risk in a competitor stealing a client if you’re meeting their needs and are maintaining a good relationship. Highlighting a customer in your blog further strengthens the relationship.
- Write about good customers but not your most important customers.
- Write about customers but don’t put in specific information that allows the customer to be identified.
While I believe this is decent advice, it felt like something was missing.
Then I went to my local chapter of the American Marketing Association’s (AMA PDX) luncheon and saw a presentation titled Turning Exuberant Customers into Brand Advocates by Rob Fuggetta of Zuberance. Rob presented a simple way to find brand advocates for your company. Just ask them:
People that answer this question with 9 or 10 are great candidates to be an advocate for your company.
You can ask clients on the phone, in emails, or during a survey you’re doing for another purpose. You can also use Zuberance’s online service that allows your brand advocates to self identify and immediately share their opinion on social media sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google Local. I haven’t investigated the service but it looks like a great idea.
Sitting there watching Rob’s presentation I realized what was missing in my earlier advice. Once somebody has made up their mind to like you and announces it to friends or the world, they are not likely to change their mind
A brand advocate is not very likely to engage with a competitor, so you should have no worries about telling your advocates’ stories every chance you get.
Besides, your advocates are already tweeting about you, liking your Facebook page, or following you on LinkedIn. With a little time and effort your competitors can easily find your customers that are talking about you. Trying to sway them, however, is going to be a losing battle for them.
Increasing Customer Loyalty
Psychology is also working to your advantage. Studies have shown that once someone has made a decision and communicated it publicly, they are much less likely to change their mind. Robert B. Cialdini, PhD writes in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.” (I highly recommend this book, by the way.) By getting a client to go on record as supporting your brand they are much less likely to switch to a competitor.
Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.
Getting your customers to recommend you solidifies your relationship with them. The they talk, the more loyal they become.
Conclusion: Write About Your Customer Stories
Put a plan in place to identify your company’s advocates and tell their story as often as you can. Leverage you happy customers in your blog, social media, and print communications. Their quotes, stories, and endorsements will be more trusted than anything you can say yourself.
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