In the high stakes world of B2B decision making, nothing helps to eliminate sales barriers and drive decision maker consensus quite like B2B customer success stories. Why? Customer success stories (aka customer testimonials) are the direct opposite of sales copy. Rather than tooting your own horn for the umpteenth time, a satisfied client is sharing their personal experience with your company.
Testimonials build trust and assuage buyer concerns. They’re verifiable proof that your product has an actual customer base and that your business delivers on its value claims. Most importantly, testimonials show your service is worth the investment. B2B decision makers need to prove the value in the partners and vendors they choose. Testimonials help these folks feel confident that they won’t be left hanging out to dry– persuading them to take a leap of faith and make that purchase after all.
Unlike a flashy advertisement, however, testimonials need substance. It’s not enough for a client to simply say, “I love this service!” or “John in sales is so helpful!” Those platitudes fall flat because they offer no real insight into why the client loves the service or why John is so helpful. Is is because he onboarded the client in record time? Did he solve a major problem for the client or help them cut costs by 15 percent? Without any key details, your audience is left guessing.
That’s where customer success stories come into play. If you want your testimonials to make a real impact, they need to tell a customer success story.
What Makes a Winning Customer Success Story?
Consider this digital marketing success story for one of our clients, Wiley Metal Fabricating. When the company started in 1982, a handshake sealed the first deal. Several decades later, the company needed to revamp its marketing efforts for the digital age while still preserving its core values of honesty, trustworthiness and integrity. The Wiley Metal team turned to 21 Handshake to craft a digital marketing strategy that honored the company’s hard-earned reputation while opening up new revenue opportunities through an enhanced digital presence. In less than 8 months, web traffic jumped 804 percent, leading to 12 solid business leads and $5 million in sales growth.
When it came time to tell our client’s story, we knew success metrics would be vital. But we also knew the client’s own words mattered, too. What did they think about working with us? Are they satisfied with the changes? Excited for the future? (Spoiler alert: they are!) By following a clear story structure, quantifying success and utilizing the customer’s own words to share their experience, we were able to create a compelling customer success story that’s played a vital role in our own marketing success.
3 Elements Every Customer Story Needs
Are your testimonials effectively highlighting your customer’s successes, or are you following back on generic platitudes? Here’s how to maximize the impact of customer success stories:
- Follow the “Challenge, Solution, Result” format.
Use this simple, fool-proof structure to frame your customer’s success story:
- Challenge: What was the customer’s problem or pain point?
- Solution: How did your company address this issue? What was the service experience like?
- Result: How did the customer quantify success (cost reductions, efficiency improvements, higher lead conversion rates, improved retention rates, etc.) Where is the customer today and where will the customer be in one year?
- Demonstrate expertise.
Focusing on the customer’s journey is important. Doing so shows that you understand the challenges and market conditions your prospects are facing. However, the customer journey is just half the picture: be sure that your success story highlights the unique value your business brought to solving the customer’s problem, too.
In the case of Wiley Metal Fabricating, our team focused on the strong personal relationship we formed with the company. This enabled us to fully understand their obstacles to digital success and craft a custom strategy that aligned sales with marketing– allowing Wiley to properly segment new business and create new revenue channels, bringing greater clarity to the company’s growth initiatives.
- Personal details, not reviews.
Looking for a restaurant, a mechanic or a new hair stylist? Review sites like Yelp are great: they quickly aggregate feedback from hundreds of customers into an easy-to-scan star rating system. Superficial reviews and platitudes won’t get you very far with B2B decision makers, however.
Decision makers are about to invest significant capital resources into a new business solution. Hearing that “John in sales is so helpful” won’t assuage their fears. A compelling narrative that details your products challenges, solutions and successes will. Let your story’s narrative do the talking. Even better, use your customer’s own words to relay their enthusiasm for your solution and excitement for future collaboration.