When a company tells you, “Our product is great!” you probably approach that statement with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Of course they’d say that, right? It’s their own product, and that’s exactly what they want you to think.

But when a customer says, “Hey, that product is great!” you’re much more likely to listen.

In fact, we’re drastically more likely to listen. 70% of us believe customer opinions posted online, and a whopping 92% of us put faith in recommendations from people we know, according to a Nielsen study.

How do customer stories create that kind of trust? They reassure customers that your product is a good fit. They demonstrate how your product works in a meaningful way. They’re proof that you deliver what you promise.

No wonder they’re ranked the second most popular kind of content and among the top three most effective kinds of content among marketers.

What does a good story look like?

The last thing you want is a vague statement like “This product really helped us achieve our goals.” It just doesn’t give you enough information, and honestly, it’s boring.

What you really want is an experience about what makes your product helpful, and how it helped a specific customer.

To get – and write – a great story, lean on a few tricks of the storytelling trade:

Nail down your objective

Think about the purpose of gathering customer stories, how you’ll use them, and the work you want them to do. What are you trying to prove? What’s the single most important message you want your prospects to walk away with? What results are you looking to gain?

Everything within the story, along with the format and length, should support those points.

Talk to the right people

Depending on your objective, you’ll want to balance a few factors when choosing your candidate:

  • Understanding of your product or service. A customer who knows what you do inside and out can help communicate the highlights to other customers.
  • Similarity to your prospects. If you sell to a lot of HR department heads, speak to someone in the same role.
  • Great results. An enthusiastic customer is the best person to convey that same sense of enthusiasm to your prospects.
  • Name recognition. If you have a customer from a well-known company (or who’s well known themselves) in your target market’s industry, you can benefit from their clout.

Ask the right questions

To tell a compelling, authentic, and engaging story, “yes” or “no” questions just won’t do. Fill out your story and make it come to life with a mix of:

  • Open-ended questions that allow your customer to elaborate on their thoughts (“Tell me about…”, “Can you describe…”)
  • Specific questions that add detail and quantify what your customer says (“Give me an example of…”, “How much did you…”)

As for topics, have your customer walk you through their challenges, their buying process, how they use your product or service, and what the results look like. And don’t be afraid to go off-script and ask follow-up questions if something interesting or unexpected pops up. Those often lead to the best nuggets.

Find the customer-centric narrative

It’s tempting to use a Problem > Solution > Results formula focused on your products and services as the hero. But is that what will resonate most with your prospects? Probably not.

When you focus on helping your customer achieve their own mission, you’re creating a story that puts that customer in the hero’s shoes, with your products and services playing a supporting role that made that mission possible. Now you’ve got someone your prospects can identify with.

Use their journey through their challenges, buying process, and results as your template – whatever that looked like for them.

(For a step-by-step guide about the specifics of planning, collecting, writing, and promoting customer stories, we recommend HubSpot’s Ultimate Guide to Creating Compelling Case Studies.)

You’ve got a great story. Now what?

Customer stories run the gamut from short testimonials to long-form case studies and videos. And don’t forget about the ones customers write for you. Mentions on Twitter or reviews shared online are effective ways to locate people to talk to for longer stories and gather additional material.

A great story is also versatile. You can share that great story via your blog, print pieces, email marketing, website, infographics, press releases, and social media posts.

After all, they’re more than standalone tools in your sales toolbox. In one example, a single customer interview for a single case study ended up fueling 38 separate pieces of content.

In the end, gaining the trust of your prospects isn’t about telling them why you’re excited about your products – it’s about showing them why others are excited about you.

Capture and deliver snack-sized customer stories

Kiite provides sales with customer-focused microcontent to enable conversations, and provides marketing with insight into useful customer stories and oversight into how customer brand assets are used.

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