A potential prospect of ours recently mentioned during a sales conversation that creating content is not their “forte.” The company is a wire cable manufacturer, mostly made up of engineers and sales guys. Our contact said that he believes their website pages would work just fine with just a simple image and a few bullets.
Although to some extent we agree with his statement (it's critical to consider what your audience will respond to when writing your website content), a little creativity and storytelling can go a long way.
There are dozens and dozens of articles that support writing for your target buyer persona. What are the buyer’s pain points? What problem can you solve for them? What keywords are they using when searching on Google to find you and your solution?
And although a certain persona—such as engineers—may want to get their information as quickly and succinctly as possible (like he said, in bullets and numbers), don’t forget that engineers are also people with a beating heart. Their jobs have not yet been taken over by robots. Engineers spend their days looking at drawings and figures. So we say, mix it up!
Find a way to reach prospects on an emotional level. Who doesn’t love to read a good story? Even the Grinch can’t escape “feeling” something when approached on an emotional level.
Case Studies vs. Customer Stories
Case studies are awesome. They typically speak to a pain point, a challenge, a solution and the outcome. And they're usually formatted to be brief and to the point. Many times, this is what your buyer is looking for. That said, this type of content isn't always going to be so compelling when your buyer has reached the bottom of your funnel.
Why not create a customer story similar to a case study, but do so in a tone of voice that sounds a little less “business professional” and a little more “creative writer”. A piece that gives them a clearer picture of who you are.
Speak to why this engagement was started in the first place. What was the pain point? What was the solution? How did it make the customer feel? How did it make their customers feel? We're not recommending getting all sappy by any means. Emotional stories can surely emphasize all of the practical benefits and concrete wins you achieved with your clients. But the feeling of success and growth are universally sought by B2B and B2C business owners alike, and being able to convey those feelings effectively can really work to your advantage.
Follow a classic narrative arc (think back to your freshman year Expository English class). Tell the business story in a creative way. You may be surprised to see how the story affects your own heart!
The Classic Narrative Arc
Use the exposition to lay out the background information, provide a short industry overview. Also highlight something positive and unique about the client, and then explain their goal(s) and why they were seeking help.
- Who is the client?
- What is the client's value proposition?
- Where is the business within the industry?
- What is the client trying to accomplish?
The Rising Action component is where you showcase the plan your business created to tackle the client's problems. What tactics did you deploy in order to reach those goals mentioned in the exposition? We already know the problem at hand. Now discuss the solutions.
- Processes implemented
- Projects carried out
- Campaigns for additional exposure
- Practical usage of product features
Then explain your reasoning. Why did you select these solutions for them?
Now tell your audience how your solutions improved your client's situation. Present the achievements you’ve had over last month, quarter, year (however long you’ve been reporting data). In essence, what were the results?
- Did your client increase sales by a certain percentage?
- Were they able to start producing or launching a new product?
- Were any relationships with important industry influencers forged along the way?
- How has your product or service improved the professional or personal lives of your customers?
Have a candid conversation with your client about the results they're seeing now that they've been utilizing your product or services. The types of results you're going to ask for will depend on your industry, and whether or not you're selling a product or service, of course. But don't forget to ask for a testimonial from a happy client. Customer quotes serve as social proof on your website, and can only enhance your perceived value.
This section—an "Opportunities Moving Forward" section of sorts—is where you can highlight future plans for growth, or any surprising results that have spawned additional research or conversations. You can even talk about areas you may have missed, and how you're going to address this issue for the client (and others) down the road.
Now's the time to tie your story all together in a big red bow. You'll want to:
- Refer back to the client's original goals
- Reiterate those goals that were accomplished
- Touch on any goals that were not accomplished (yet!)
- And succinctly describe the next steps in the engagement.
Of course, end on a positive note! And use the resolution to further drive home the relationship aspect of the engagement. Most B2B buyers are looking for a longer-term solution or partnership, not just a vendor. So you want your partnership with the client to shine through.
Don't forget that no matter the job title: engineer, accountant, insurance agent, scientist, CEO, teacher, construction worker (I could go on and on!), one of the primary goals of marketing is to stand out. If you haven’t already, try storytelling with your audience. What have you got to lose—other than maybe a few smiles, tears and other heartwarming emotions just dying to break free!
Need a few more ideas? Check out our new customer stories here for inspiration.