10 Elements of aGreat Customer StoryEvery customer story is different, but the best ones have the same underlying ”magic.”...
1. INTERESTING STORYv               0197                                   0198                                           ...
2   INTERVIEWER    KNOWLEDGE     The catch has a lot to do with the quality of     the fisherman. By that same token,     i...
3.     STORY    CLARITY    Clarity is one of the things that makes your story    successful. The hardest thing is to make ...
4.                  QUANTIFIABLE RESULTS                  A CUSTOMER IS COMFORTABLE                  TALKING ABOUTProof. Y...
5. Substance vs. Aesthetics      There are two sides to quality. We’ve developed this simple      “story algebra” to balan...
v      6                             THOUGHT                             PROVOKING                             INSIGHT    ...
7            PREPRODUCTIONPreproduction makes everythingsmoother. Done right, it ensuresyoure getting the right people,loc...
8.EDITING 8.EA good story is told three times. Once in the          The most common editing mistakes that prohibit theprep...
We call supporting footage “B-roll.” B-roll helps illustrate the     customer’s personality and brand, then ties it to the...
STORY                                                                             ACTIVATIONActivation is what happens to ...
CONCLUSIONEvery company is different and so is every story. Once you have a system that allows your team to perfect eachel...
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Top 10 Elements of Great Customer Storytelling

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When customers tell a brand's story, prospects tend to lower their guard of skepticism. Why? They're typically more transparent and validate the brand's offering with evidence.

And every customer story is different. However, the best ones have the same underlying ”magic.” By balancing your focus and energy on the 10 strategic and functional elements, the stories you tell will truly change the way your prospects respond to the value you offer.

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Top 10 Elements of Great Customer Storytelling

  1. 1. 10 Elements of aGreat Customer StoryEvery customer story is different, but the best ones have the same underlying ”magic.” By balancing your focusand energy on the 10 strategic and functional elements, the stories you tell will truly change the way yourprospects respond to the value you offer. They are:Strategic Functional1. Interesting story 7. Preproduction2. Interviewer knowledge 8. Editing3. Story clarity 9. Supporting footage4. Quantifiable results customer is 10. Story activation comfortable talking about5. Substance vs. Aesthetics6. Thought-provoking insights ...... The interviewee’s position within their company should relate directly 1 to the primary audience you wish to reach. Interview your client’s CEO if that is the role you wish to reach next.
  2. 2. 1. INTERESTING STORYv 0197 0198 0199 Your stories need to hold the audience’s interest, but what’s interesting to you may not be for those buying your solutions. It’s what they see that is important. Depending on the goal of your story, you may need to adjust accordingly, but for most intents and purposes, you really have to empathize with your audience. Here’s a trick: look at “interesting” from five different perspectives: 1) What’s interesting to you and your brand? 2) What’s interesting to your prospect? 3) What’s interesting to your prospect’s customers? 4) What’s interesting to independent analysts researching your offering and that of your nearest direct competitor? 5) What do these perspectives have in common? What are the most significant findings? Can these perspectives help you craft an interesting story? ...... In the delivery of the story, passion and personality are 2 just as important as the story itself when the goal is motivating a potential customer to take action.
  3. 3. 2 INTERVIEWER KNOWLEDGE The catch has a lot to do with the quality of the fisherman. By that same token, interviewers play a critical role in creating your best stories. They know how to create the best possible conditions to extract the optimal narrative. And it’s not just about the story. It’s just as much about the storyteller. A great interviewer knows the story intimately and knows how to bring it to the surface. He or she knows how to shape the narrative, how to comfort the storytellers, and how to listen and bring out the best. A good interviewer knows how to balance objectivity with the benefits of your offering in an environment of authenticity, and does so with experience. If the story isn’t coming to the surface, good interviewers know how to find it through the voice and character of the storyteller. ......3 Location-based interviews tend to be more compelling, as interviewees are typically more relaxed in a familiar environment.
  4. 4. 3. STORY CLARITY Clarity is one of the things that makes your story successful. The hardest thing is to make a unique insight understandable, relevant and persuasive. Clarity is what makes your story successful. Here is a valuable exercise: with existing stories in mind, ask yourself the following questions about their clarity: 1) Can you distill the story down into 10 words? 2) Can you find the sharable insight? 3) If you swap your name out with a competitor’s, does the story still make perfect sense? If so, you need to modify. 4) Does the story compel people to think clearly about how you solve problems? 5) Are your stories focusing on the customer more than your offering? 6) Does your story draw a line between what is and what can be? 7) Does the story build? Does it motivate listeners to want more? 8) Is there any doubt that your customer benefited from your involvement? ......4 At the current rate of growth, video will overtake written content in terms of use within most buying processes.
  5. 5. 4. QUANTIFIABLE RESULTS A CUSTOMER IS COMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUTProof. Your customer stories should be centered In order to get your customer to state that,around evidence and validation. Is there clear, because of your offering, they had a 45% increaseirrefutable evidence that your solution helped in overall revenue over a 12 month period, oryour customer solve a problem worth solving? And something to that effect, you have to make sureto what degree? Capturing that “essence” they are comfortable saying so. They have to ownauthentically is a silver bullet. that statement.Think about the stories you want to tell and how The key to this is your customer’s ability to ownyou want them to be heard. You want the stories their result. Sometimes the outcomes are softeryou tell to tactfully and powerfully compel and less quantifiable. Stating they had a happierpeople to take a step closer to considering your company culture as a result is easy to say becauseoffering. You want your prospects to hear the story it’s not quantifiable. Leaving this up to audienceand feel an increased confidence in your interpretation devalues the storys intent.solutions. Having one customer share theirexperience with your prospects does this.Sharing concrete results makes that storystronger. ...... 5 In the medium of video, it’s best to draw out the story through its main points: the inspiring points that viewers can relate to.
  6. 6. 5. Substance vs. Aesthetics There are two sides to quality. We’ve developed this simple “story algebra” to balance cinematography and shot composition with story substance and clarity: People who create customer reference assets (stories) struggle with this balance everyday. They wonder how much (very finite) energy they should devote to writing or shaping a story vs. how much they should spend on the aesthetics and in post production. While mileage may vary, there is always a good balance to be struck between the aesthetic and the story’s substance. You know you are balancing the equation when your outcomes are successful and you’re staying on budget. ...... 6 You want to get viewers to see themselves in the same situation, empathize with their hardships, be inspired by their journey and moved to action.
  7. 7. v 6 THOUGHT PROVOKING INSIGHT A thought-provoking and relevant insight is one of the best ways to validate your offering. Without insight, your customer’s story is just marketing. Example for Technology X Company: With insight, you will create meaning. “I knew the only way I was going to be able to solve the mayor’s problem was to Think about it this way: Your prospect has seen your customer reference video on your website. outsmart our city’s crime with newer and They are interested but not yet ready to buy from more agile views into bigger data. you. What are the things you want your prospects Technology X Company had the platform to take away if they aren’t immediately persuaded to buy your offering? Answer: You want them to and ideas that could help me reduce come away from the story with a strong, crime by 20% in 9 months, and they memorable feeling that your company “gets” worked through my unique situation with them. You want to diminish doubt and skepticism me.” that your company understands customers, is adaptive and competent. And you want all this essence to come from your customer’s story. The overall insight above is using bigger We believe your stories should deliver unique and data as a crime-fighting tool. The subject is meaningful insight into “why you?” And with that, about fighting the mayor’s crime problem. the story should heighten the customer’s The object is newer and more agile views into confidence in your ability to address their unique bigger data. The supporting role was played by challenge. In the example on the right, we Technology X Company. It’s more about the insight illustrate a complex story with a hierarchy and less about the company. of insights. 7
  8. 8. 7 PREPRODUCTIONPreproduction makes everythingsmoother. Done right, it ensuresyoure getting the right people,locations, shots, and ultimately,story. Having time to research — to talk with subject experts, clients, sales reps, business partners, and the customer — improves the storys quality and relevance. Good planning is never evident in a well-told story; unfortunately, bad planning is. Through effective preproduction you are able to scout and select the best location, interview and select the most appropriate contacts, and set up the right conditions to capture quality supporting footage (B-roll.) These may seem like “nice-to-haves” but are always the difference between a good story and a successful story. ...... 8 Think about where within the buying process your viewers are: (Influencer early on, purchaser later on?) How does this affect the stories you want to create?
  9. 9. 8.EDITING 8.EA good story is told three times. Once in the The most common editing mistakes that prohibit thepreparation, once in the shoot and then again in success of good stories are:the edit suite. 1) Edit is too tightly packed—intervieweesYou can interview for hours, find a powerful storypacked full of insights and validation... and have seem like they’re speed-talking.it fall flat because of a poor edit. Imbalancebetween story substance and post-production canmean the difference between a very successful 2) There are too many details drowningreference and a waste of time, energy and money. out the insights.Good editing is about drawing out the personality ofthe customer in a way that feels natural, authentic 3) There is no sense of gravity that tiesand integrated. This is a delicate sensibility, the importance of the story to theand not a one-size-fits-all. The director needs tocommunicate to the editor how to best portray the audience.client’s brand. 4) The keystone resolution to the problem isn’t clear. 5) You settle on too much company (you), and too little customer (them). The speaker/customer is providing their story as a reference for ...... you, their story contains the benefits provided by your products or services, so it should be about their story and not the story (messaging, product name drops) you want them to tell.
  10. 10. We call supporting footage “B-roll.” B-roll helps illustrate the customer’s personality and brand, then ties it to the larger story. It provides the backdrop, helps carry the weight of context (of the solution and the speaker), and can help set the tone of your entire story. It’s difficult to plan sometimes, but knowing in advance where you can film good environment, tone and setting shots will pay off in huge dividends. Your editors will certainly agree. Directing the photographer/cameraman and associated team to capture B-roll appropriate to the customer brand leads to a much more interesting and cohesive story. Always grab as much as you can. Many companies have excellent B-roll all ready to go. Don’t forget to consider the work that those before you may have done. SUPPORTING FOOTAGE Videos are accessed most by INFLUENCERS early in the purchasing process – and they are most often found off the corporate website. Videos are accessed more by DECISION-MAKERS later in the process10 ...... – and they are most often viewed on the corporate website. Take this into consideration in how you package and proliferate your references.
  11. 11. STORY ACTIVATIONActivation is what happens to the story once it’s Also, when you have a platform view of your storycompleted and “out there.” Activation is how you assets, you’ll gain an advantage by seeing theamp up your assets to work harder for you. additional pieces of your story broken up into smaller, more digestible parts. This will help you seeWhile “put it on YouTube” isn’t a strategy or a mea- how great assets can be repurposed or applied tosure of success, it’s a smart tactic for many reasons. other sales and marketing efforts. (Don’t forget toOne in particular is the Search Engine Optimization look on the cutting room floor.)(SEO) value you derive. YouTube, Vimeo and othervideo posting sites are indexed for search better than Your videos can also have a life beyond the web. Getthe video embedded on your site. Posting your video them on the desktops of your sales team through theon those sites with strategically chosen tags and use of a desktop widget, mobile application, featuredescription, will make your story more “findable”. them in an email campaign and use them at tradeAnother activation strategy is to break up the full shows and other events.customer reference story into smaller or individualsoundbites that can be used in blog posts, banner In all cases, they’re compelling pieces that directads, on video posting sites, and other search-engine people to you.friendly places around the web. You will beamplifying the message, pollinating links back toyour website where your customers may spend time.In addition, your smaller snippets can also be wellleveraged by sales reps in meetings and events, etc. ...... Escaping the noise with your customer references takes both quality CONTENT and CONTEXT. This will help you create a signal that your target audience can separate from the noise.
  12. 12. CONCLUSIONEvery company is different and so is every story. Once you have a system that allows your team to perfect eachelement of a great story (plan, shoot, produce, activate and warehouse), the sky is the limit for the types of salesand outreach your company can perform.To us, storytelling for sales and marketing and employee engagement is about setting exciting new benchmarksaround quality, creativity, results and access. For 15 years we have been using ideas, technology and hard work tocreate a storytelling platform for one of the world’s largest and oldest companies. This has given us the opportunityto blast through the obstacles and help people use better assets to work smarter with less energy.Centerline Digital is a group of Raleigh, NC-based producers, writers, web/mobile/social creatives, animatorsand editors. The stories we help our clients tell have to yield results, so we call ourselves accountable storytellers.If you would like to learn more about the subject of this eBook, ask questions or learn moreabout our capabilities and experience, please contact us at 919.821.2921 or at the emailaddresses below.John LaneVice President of Strategy and Creativejohn@centerline.nettwitter: johnvlaneErin CraftAccount Executiveerin@centerline.nettwitter: erincraft 12

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