July 22, 2019 / Esther Choy

turn customers into brand storytellers

Most companies have their best marketing tool right in front of them, but they don’t use it. When you give your most devoted customers a platform, you turn them into brand storytellers. In other words, you create an authentic marketing strategy that immediately builds trust with customers and potential customers.

1. Tap into the core emotion your customers feel.

On a recent flight, I met an executive whose brand of sewing machine has been affectionately nicknamed “the Rolls Royce of sewing machines.” Can you imagine how much money its customers pay for one of their products? And the quality of work that one of these sewing machines allows its customers to create? That work will have to have been made with love, pride and craftsmanship. Talk about a rich mine of stories! The company draws from this mine through customer videos.

In one of them, a customer talks about how, as a child, she would sneakily use her grandmother’s sewing machine when her grandmother was away. Having a longtime emotional connection with the product makes her an ideal brand storyteller!

We don’t have to invent the next Google to get people telling stories about our products. When you tap into the core emotion your customers feel when they have experienced the benefits of the products, it’s much easier for them to share their stories.Consider asking them the following questions:

  • What motivated/prompted you to use this service/product?
  • How does the service/produce make you feel when you use it?
  • What does the product/service mean to you?

2. Rethink the testimonial template.

Consider the standard testimonial. It usually sounds something like this one, which is a review for a Chicago-area auto shop:

“They are my favorite mechanics. They are so honest and their prices are lower than anywhere in the area. They provide outstanding customer service! I highly recommend them.” High praise indeed. Since all of their reviews are just as glowing, I would definitely take my car there. But most likely, when I visit another mechanic’s site, it will have very similar reviews because there’s verbiage most customers tend to rely on.

Since the customers’ experience with your product or service is the best marketing you can have, it makes sense to give your customers every chance to share their experience in a way that stands out from the norm. And that’s where storytelling comes in.

3. Set your customers up for successful storytelling.

Most of your customers will not be professional storytellers. However, if guided through the storytelling process, they can produce a story with an intriguing beginning, riveting middle, and satisfying end, and that is what matters most for holding an audience’s attention.For instance, a California-based health club group asks three questions:

  • What was your goal? (Beginning)
  • How did you get there? (Middle)
  • How do you feel today? (End)

4. Start with your target audience’s stories.

Begin by reaching out to the kinds of customers you would like to have more of. Ask them to share their stories first. Maybe they have already left you good reviews that they can shaped into stories. If you have designed your process effectively, they will inevitably form a community of enthusiasts who will spread the word to others who will also love your products or services.

Why take the time to ask for stories from this group? First, nobody likes to be the first to comment. If your comments section feels like an empty room, people will move on. Second, customers will likely refer to the example when creating their own story, so posting a good example increases the likelihood that you’ll get responses that are structured in the way you hope.

5. Reward spontaneous storytelling.

Spontaneous storytelling that flows from the customer’s enthusiasm is always best. Paying for customer stories means you’ll lose that spontaneity, and other customers will be able to sniff out the insincerity. If a customer’s story is perceived as being paid for, then it loses its influence and can even reflect poorly on the company.

That said, it is a good idea to reward your customers for their time. For many, simply having the satisfaction of seeing their stories shared with others is sufficient. For others, it may be that they want to see how their stories help others improve their lives, even in the smallest way.

It’s important to know your audience and what will matter to them.When we love something, we tell stories about it. The COO of Leadership Story Lab, for instance, has a gym she’s so happy with that over the past year, she has persuaded at least five people to become members of that same gym franchise—just by sharing stories about the impact it’s had on her life. What do you recommend without even thinking about it? Wouldn’t you love to be asked to share the stories of your experiences? Your target customers are waiting to be asked, and you can set them up for success.

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If you want to encourage your customers to become brand storytellers, contact us for a complimentary working session! Leadership Story Lab trains and coaches managers in storytelling techniques to help them become more engaging and persuasive communicators. Whether you would like to stand out in the interview process, add punch to a presentation, or make a compelling case for a new initiative, we can help. Schedule a complimentary session with us today!

Esther’s book, Let the Story Do the Work (published by HarperCollins Leadership), is now available!

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Esther Choy

Esther Choy founded Leadership Story Lab in 2010 to help others leverage the art of storytelling to create extraordinary opportunities.
Karla Trotman and Robert Pasin

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"This is an amazing and insightful post! I hadn’t thought of that so you broadened my perspective. I always appreciate your insight!" - Dan B.

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