I have a relative who likes to tell the same story every time we see her. It’s a good story that makes people laugh, but it seems to be the only one she knows, and she tells it regardless of the situation or the audience. Sometimes it feels like she isn’t sure why she’s telling it – it’s simply become a reflex. Do you know someone like this? Are you someone like this? Everyone has “old standby” stories.
Perhaps you also know a business that has fallen into the same communication rut. Sales and marketing teams regularly tell the same one or two stories—and not much else. There’s nothing wrong with classic, bedrock stories, like the founder’s story, that epitomize the organization. However, having a wider repertoire of stories will make your communications and marketing much more versatile. For example, if your primary story is, “We’ve been steadfast in this business for 100 years,” that may not very useful when you need a story about a fresh, agile newcomer breaking the status quo.
Reflective, not Reflexive
Avoid the rut of using the same story over and over in your B2B marketing with a diversity of client case studies in your storybank. And to get more mileage out of each success story, consider the many lenses through which content like client success stories can be viewed. (Hint, it’s not all about your company or your products.) Listen closely to your clients and prospects and reflect on the ways that client organizations and key decision makers think of themselves and their situations.
Taking the broadest view possible increases the chances of finding points in common with your prospects. Yes, that healthcare CFO you’re trying to woo will be interested in your existing healthcare clients’ experiences. But that CFO may be equally interested in the innovative risk reduction work you’ve done with CFOs in other unrelated industries.
Here are just a few of the many ways to organize, tag, and view your client success story catalog. Notice that some of these lenses apply to the organization you’re marketing to, and some apply to the decision makers in those organizations. Big difference.
Lenses for Client Success Story Bank
Examples: Rural America, Downtown Toronto, Brazil.
Question answered: Have you worked with organizations in our part of the world?
Examples: IT security services, clean energy materials, gourmet pastries, jet engines, healthcare analytics.
Question answered:Do you really understand our specialized industry?
Examples: Small, medium, large, enormous
Question answered: Can you properly handle a business as big (or as small) as ours?
Examples: Business, Non-Profit, Government, Academia
Question answered: Do you really understand our culture and goals?
Adoption Curve / Sales Funnel / Client Status
Examples: Innovators, majority, laggards. Browsing, researching, ready to buy. Current clients, conversion clients, never-before clients. (These three are all somewhat different, but you get the idea.)
Question answered: Are you going to make this comfortable and appropriate for the stage we are in now?
Examples: Accelerating sales cycles, raising quality levels, reducing churn, improving morale.
Question answered: Can you show how your widget/technology/service will improve my actual business results?
Examples: CIO, ER Nurse, VP of Marketing, Solopreneur
Question answered: Do you really understand the nature of my job responsibilities?
Emotions & Values
Examples: Safety, Excitement, Convenience, Fairness, Social Responsibility, Innovation
Question answered: Are we aligned philosophically? Does this feel right?
Products & Services
Examples: Product 1, product 2, service A, service B
Yes, you’ll probably want to have examples for all your offerings, as appropriate, but I wrote this one last, since your prospects think about themselves and their needs before they consider product.
With these lenses above as a starting point, a case study for your West Coast biotech client will obviously fit those two specific geographic and industry categories. Don’t stop there. Look for multiple connection points, too. The more lenses you use, the more client-focused your marketing mindset will be. For example, themes like the speed at which you delivered results and the innovative solution your team co-developed with the biotech’s CIO might also resonate with organizations and decision makers outside West Coast and biotech.
A note of caution: Stories are not like Swiss army knives that you simply whip out to save the day. But having a broader selection and wider awareness of the facets of client success stories across your organization will increase the chances of having the right story at the right time when the right person is ready to engage.
Nobody wants to be a one-story wonder like my relative. Avoid the ruts in the road and try some new paths. Take a moment to catalog your existing client success stories, using this model as a rough guide. Writing it out as a mind map or grid format helps to visualize. Are there any gaps or opportunities? What are your strengths?
This blog post includes only a partial list of lenses and tags for client success stories. What have I left out? In what other ways does your organization categorize its case studies as marketing content?
Road rut photo courtesy of flickr photographer Debs (ò‿ó)♪, creative commons license.