We can learn a lot from stories.
From the books read to us by our parents, to the movies we watch today… stories have the power to teach us important lessons about the human condition.
Stories are also useful in marketing opportunities. Particularly our customers’ stories. The more we can learn about the journeys our customers are on, the better we can all do our jobs as building product marketers.
That’s why it’s important for marketers to harvest customer stories as often as possible. To learn about the experiences specific people have with products. How they use products and especially the journeys they go through to purchase them.
As marketers gather these stories, we find there are tremendous benefits that help us in a variety of ways:
Know where you fit into their lives
As much as we hate to admit it — deep down — every marketer knows that the products we represent are not at the center of people’s lives. No product is.
But products can make lives and jobs easier. They can help accomplish certain things that are critically important.
Having that contextual understanding allows marketers to assign the correct meaning to products, and position them more effectively.
Find stories you can use
One of the most coveted pieces of information for any building products marketer is the customer success story – or the case study.
These “project profile” narratives allow marketers to showcase building products in credible, realistic ways. They are also highly sought-after by trade journalists… who need to fill their pages.
Customer success stories also can be used in companies’ own channels, such as in blogs, social media and even ads. But it all starts with finding the authentic customer stories in the first place.
Gain alignment with sales
The stories a company’s customers tell and live represent what should be a shared-reality for marketing, sales… and just about anyone else in the organization.
Too often, however, that reality is not shared. Marketing understands the customer in one way, and sales another. One or the other might be accurate… but most likely, neither is.
Customer stories provide an avenue toward truly understanding the buyer’s journey. By observing and listening to customers, and making the effort to comprehend what they mean… marketing and sales can work together to be certain that collective efforts are working. And that the brand is solving customers’ problems.
Identify opportunities to improve
Finally, and perhaps most important, harvesting customer stories can provide clues for marketers on how the products and services we’re selling can be improved and best positioned.
As we collect and review narratives from customers about how they use the product or service — and how those brands fit into their daily lives — marketers are more likely to notice patterns beginning to emerge. These patterns may indicate deficiencies in service or opportunities for brand differentiation and product enhancement.
Stories allow marketers to keep a finger on our customers’ pulse. To better see what frustrates target audiences about desired products and services. And to take the first steps toward correcting those issues.
Where can you find these stories?
We’ve talked a lot about harvesting customer stories, but we haven’t addressed the biggest problem: how and where to get them at any kind of scale. Just about every company has a department that is a limitless resource of customer stories.
These are the people who deal with multiple customers, every day. They know the questions contractors and specifiers have and how they interact with the product and the brand. Complaints and frustrations. They also see what customers accomplish using the products and services the company sells.
Simply put — they are the voice of the customer — inside just about every organization.
So marketers must “build a bridge” between their department and customer service. Develop processes that allow customer service representatives to continually feed anecdotal customer data to the marketing department.
While ride-alongs are a great way for marketers to get to know target audiences first-hand from the field… it’s not practical to do that all the time. Customer service can be a constant supply of buyer journey stories that will help marketing departments in the ways mentioned above, and likely more.