With today’s environment of social media and ongoing communication between consumers and brands, our entire buying process has evolved dramatically. It's normal practice for people to research both their challenges and potential solutions before even beginning to engage with a company or a salesperson. This trend has been further supported by extensive content marketing carried out by brands and marketers alike; leading to more and more content about their solutions - and the situations that may necessitate them.
Keep reading to find out why businesses need to adjust their marketing to get the most from the trend that is here to stay: customer evidence.
Forrester interviewed dozens of marketing professionals from leading technology companies, concluding that today's customers are not waiting for you (or your sales reps) to give them the data they need. The buyer's journey has changed, and consumers are now conducting their own extensive research and reading more content to support their purchases. But it goes beyond that. They consume content from peers and colleagues, they discuss their needs over social media, ask questions on discussion boards. That's why it's key to make your successful customers and partners talk about you.
Start with customer stories
One format that this evidence can be most effective in is that of customer reviews and case studies. This is because buyers can get the perspective of someone trusted, outside of the brand, that has also experienced (and overcome) the same challenges. Their opinions and experiences can help potential buyers to better decide whether or not the product or service is the one that will fulfill their needs or if they should continue searching for other alternatives.
And it’s not just anecdotes we’re talking from, there’s been extensive science and research conducted on the matter. One such study was completed by Podium and showed that 93% of people have been influenced in their decision to buy a product or service based on what a review online had said. This demonstrates that not only are people in search of others opinions, but they’re also open to being influenced by it. So, as smart marketers what are we to do with this information? Build an incredible customer advocacy program that can not only demonstrate the impact of our solution, but also does so in a manner that is authentic and is also a positive and valuable asset for the company featured.
To aid you in your efforts, we’re going to look in detail at the 5 biggest reasons why having great customer stories could prove to be the most effective weapon in your content marketing arsenal.
1. The evidence tells the story for you
Who is a potential buyer more likely to believe? You, telling them about how your solution could positively impact their business, or another customer who has experienced the aforementioned impact? Of course, the latter. So rather than having to tell the story in your own words from your own (inherently a little bit biased) perspective, let your customers be the advocates for you. In doing so, their success is the evidence for the claim that your business is making - and you don’t even have to shout it out.
2. Clients build your reputation
By demonstrating the success of your service and featuring your clients in that demonstration, you give your clients a chance to be showcased too. This can encourage their active communication amongst their own networks by providing a document that, in addition to clearly outlining the success of your business, also outlines theirs. This demonstrates their expertise in their field, while you increase the chances that they’ll share the piece within their network - ultimately getting your content in front of similar buyers at the word of someone within their industry. This can have something of a ‘ripple effect’ for your business, whereby if your customer shares their story with their network, they may reach 30 people, but someone in their extended network may see and share the content, multiplying its effect far beyond the original audience.
3. More and better leads
When a prospect follows up with you because of something they read in your customer story, they are doing so from a place of openness and receptivity. They’ve already acknowledged that they have an interest in your brand and its solution in particular, so your sales team knows from the start that they are worth prioritizing immediately - rather than spending time on cool leads. These are some of the most qualified leads for your business, because the fact that they are already viewing solutions to their problems means that they are at a later stage in the buying cycle - and subsequently are that much closer to making a decision.
4. Relationship building
If you want to improve communication and relationships between many different departments and stakeholders, create a piece of content that requires all of their participation. Not only does this encourage congruence between differing groups, but it also helps your customer see you as a more than just a vendor and instead as a trusted partner that can provide valuable resources and insights. Internally, having more and better assets that your marketing and sales team can both benefit from also improves their coherence and encourages a more open and collaborative environment.
5. SEO benefits
Quality content supported with the right SEO strategy can amplify the results of your efforts. With the right and properly used keywords, long-tails, a certain word count, and also backlinking from legitimate domains, your efforts are multiplied. Customer evidence pieces can be great ‘evergreen’ assets not only for closing the deals and convincing your potential customers but also for collecting qualified leads – as with proper SEO strategy your content can be searchable by people experiencing similar challenges to ones that your successful customer already overcame with your solutions.
Customer stories can be highly effective in driving traffic, improving conversions, enhancing SEO and other advantages that any enthusiastic marketer is always in search of. They can have great benefits for the internal and external relationships that are so important for the overall success of your business - and all in a way that is clear, concise, and encourages communication. Building an effective customer evidence program is something that once it has launched within your business, you’ll wonder how your content marketing did so well without it before.
From these 5 reasons it is clear - if you don’t have a customer evidence program, you’re missing out on opportunities to benefit far beyond marketing. But not to fear, it’s never too late to get started.