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9 storytelling tips to become part of your customer’s inner circle

Does your company have a story? A story of client success, I mean. Every company does, but only a handful know how to strategize, capture, promote, and celebrate their story.

Stories come in many forms, from written case studies and use cases to video testimonials and written kudos to customer references. Each one offers value. Each one is part of a bigger whole = your story.

Strategic storytelling is about listening to the client and making them the story's hero. Your story isn't just about you. It's about your customer's success with you by their side. By them telling their story, you become credible, relatable. Their success becomes your success.

Storytelling isn't a one-off effort. It's more than just writing case studies or doing a video here and there. Storytelling is about understanding where you fit in the market and how you fit into your buyer's world – and wrapping real-life experiences and successes around it.

I've been helping companies become successful storytellers for years, including offering a Storytelling Framework to help pave a smooth path forward. So, I wanted to share some down-and-dirty tips as you embark on your storytelling journey.

Tip 1: Before you jump in and ask Sales or anyone else for customers you can get stories from, define what you want your story to be.

The Story Strategy Map is the foundation all customer stories should align to. Your go-get stories should support your business model - what are you looking to sell, to whom, how much, and in what way. Knowing this information helps define the type of stories you need, what format you need them in, and when you need them. Revisiting your strategy every quarter will keep you on the right path.

Tip 2: Don't assume that Sales is the only team with stories in their back pocket.

Anyone that has a connection with customers can have success stories. Don't pass over other people or teams when looking to add more stories to your story library.

Tip 3: Marketing should lead storytelling.

There, I said it. If you leave the "ask" to Sales or others, you will be waiting for a while before that story gets off the ground, if it ever does. Those outside of Marketing have their day job. They focus on revenue generation and view asking a customer for a story as more of a favor to Marketing than a must-do for generating revenue – unless they have KPIs attached to storytelling. Plus, having Marketing make the ask helps to bring the customer deeper into the fold of your organization beyond just Sales. It makes the customer feel more valued and listened to. Making the ask requires a defined process and a human touch. Ask me about the "ask" process and supporting templates if interested.

Tip 4: Define and document your storytelling process.

Doing so is very important. Working with a customer on helping them tell their story is part of the customer's experience with your brand. Because of that, you need to make sure every moment is worth their time and that they feel appreciated. They are the hero of the story. Don't forget to train various internal folks on the process as well, including your outside marketing partners, depending on their role.

Tip 5: Understand what type of story you want to tell.

Do you want to tout the overarching experience your customer has had with your organization? Do you want to dive into the solution you delivered for the customer and how that has impacted their users and/or customers? Or perhaps you want to narrow in on a specific business outcome they were aiming to achieve and how you helped them do so. Stories can take many forms. Define what you want to focus on before extending the ask to the customer. Note: this is part of your Story Strategy Map.

Tip 6: Assign an owner to storytelling.

Most marketing budgets don't have a line item for a storyteller. To me, that's a missed opportunity. Instead, getting stories are added to the to-do list of the content strategist or writer. Storytelling has value beyond just marketing collateral. Brands that tell their buyers a good, meaningful story are understood and valued on a higher level than those that fall flat at storytelling. Buyers need something to anchor to, relate to, and feel connected to. A good storyteller can connect the dots for the buyer, helping them to experience the value that you deliver before they ever work with you. Finally, the storyteller should be the go-to "hub" for any story requests or needs because they own the strategy and have a standardized process to execute it. Interested in a storyteller job description or story tracking templates and request forms? Ask me.

Tip 7: Telling a good story also involves having a story presented well.

This is where design comes in. You want the story to shine, to be center stage. It's not about designing for design's sake. It's about putting the spotlight on the story in a way that is easy to understand and digest. Don't force your buyer to work too hard to figure out what the story is about and the value the customer received from working with you. And, whatever you do, avoid the urge to load up your design with stock images of "model-type" businesspeople.

Tip 8: Don't limit your storytelling to your customers and potential buyers.

Share your stories with your business partners. They are another channel for Sales. Stories help them better understand what you do, how you do it, and for whom. In turn, they will have an easier time identifying possible opportunities to pass your way.

Tip 9: Don't forget to say "thank you" and celebrate the story.

Your customer took time to work with you – offering their story version, including interviews, reviews, and edits. Have your CEO or other C-level executive say thank you. Doing so helps to celebrate the relationship/project once again and makes the customer know their business is important to the leadership. Plus, they experience their success with you all over again – this is priceless and powerful. Again, this puts the value of your customer relationship at a whole new level beyond just a sales transaction.

A Storytelling Framework addresses these tips and many others. My framework provides a proven approach and structure to strategize, capture, promote, and celebrate stories in a way that helps to elevate the customer experience and turn employees into confident storytellers.

If you'd like to learn more about my Storytelling Framework, reach out to me.

I hope that this article provided some helpful guidance as you embark on your storytelling journey. If so, please consider sharing it on your social network or with fellow colleagues.


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