Proof Positive: A Good Story Can Be Telling
By Chip Eichelberger
today’s business world, boring facts and empty stats simply won’t
make the impression on customers that a story about someone “just
like them” will. True stories are much more compelling and
better-remembered than other information. So to get coveted
word-of-mouth advertising, start by telling your company or product
story. When you do, you’ll find that story-telling is a powerful
tool that differentiates you from your competition.
your way to greater profit is based on the idea of “social proof.”
When people are unsure what to do, they look at others’ behavior and
ask what others have done previously in the same situation. A behavior
seems more correct to the degree that we see others doing it, and the
more people doing it the better. Social proof comes into play in all
buying decisions, from the most basic to the most expensive. This
includes everything from what movie to see or restaurant to eat at, to
what car to buy or contractor to hire.
your industry, you can essentially get
your customers to write your best stories for you by documenting
your successes through testimonials and pictures. Do what your
competition fails to do effectively. To develop powerful stories that
sell your customers, follow these ten simple steps:
your positioning. If you don't position yourself
advantageously, your competition will position you and your
product in a way you do not want. What is your unique selling
proposition (USP)? What added value do you deliver that your
competition won’t? Get your customers say “wow!” Maybe
it’s your unique expertise, free installation, or free delivery.
Whatever you offer, it should be low-cost but have high perceived
your ideal customer. Contrary to popular belief, your customer
base isn’t “everybody.” While you may have customers across
all spectrums, who’s going to be the most
profitable customer for you, and how can you attract more of
those? You don’t want to be always selling to everybody. Be
proactive, and let your competition suffer the consequences of
giving their sales force too broad of a brush.
what’s different about you.
Different is good. Create a
point of differentiation between you and your competition with a
story. You may have noticed this recent trend at retail when
you’re looking for a BBQ sauce or a bottle of wine. To get
customers to pick their product off the shelf, companies use their
product packaging and web sites to tell an intriguing story.
them to you. If you’ve done the first three steps well, the
customers you want will be attracted to you. Rather than pursuing
customers, learn their key issues/pains/problems and how you can
solve them. For example, top mortgage brokers work to build a good
reputation and thereby attract a lot of the business. They don’t
have to go out and pursue clients; people come to them. Do the
little things that make for a great story so your customers will
sing your praises and bring the business to you. Ideally, you’ll
be able to choose your customers, instead of begging them to
choose you over your competition.
5) Show, don’t tell. One of the main principles of
story-telling is to show the
details of the story, and let those details speak for themselves.
is in the details, and the more
the better. Leaving out a minute detail, which you feel may not be
important, could turn out to be the deciding factor from the
customer’s point of view. Paint a picture with your words to
bring your story to life for the reader or listener. You don’t have
to be a master fiction writer to tell a powerful story. Set up a
problem, then work through and resolve it by offering specific
benefits to the customer.
6) Feel their pain.
You can use your stories to help overcome common objections you
receive, such as cost. You don’t want to compete on price but on
customer experience and your unique ability to solve customers’
problems. In life insurance and financial services, for example, many
people haven’t done what they should do in terms of planning. In
this case, smart advisors tell their customers, “Don’t feel bad.
Last week I met with someone
just like you who had that same problem. Here’s how we worked
together to solve it…”
7) Keep ‘em
coming. Dog-eared, over-copied success stories from seven years
ago won’t do the trick. Document everything and keep it current!
Develop a system to follow up with satisfied clients because you
can’t have too many stories at your disposal. Utilize the Web, phone
calls, letters, and e-mail to generate new stories, and then
put them on your website in the form of written, audio, and video
testimonials. Have them organized and ready to send out with e-mails
8) Use pictures. A
picture is worth a thousand more words. A testimonial with a photo
shows that there is a real person behind the name, enhancing your
credibility. Build your testimonials one at a time, asking clients,
“If I can exceed your expectations, get the work done in time and at
the budget we set, would you give me a testimonial so I can share your
success with other customers?” The majority of your customers will
happily say “Yes!” Then you can create a Raving Fan book that will
let you select the jobs you
want to do. Home improvement contractors, for example, can fill it
with before-and-after pictures plus testimonials saying that they
showed up on time, stayed within budget, etc. On future jobs, other
bidders will show up with no social proof—just a napkin with an
estimate on it—but the smart contractors will have ten success
stories, impressive photos, and raves from past customers. Even if
their price comes in 10 – 20% higher, if they’ve proven that they
can meet the customer’s needs, the customer is likely to pick the
professional who provided social proof!
9) Utilize product
reviews. Vendor ratings and product reviews such as you find on
eBay, Overstock.com, and Amazon.com can tell your story and offer
social proof even without personal contact. The combination of
customer rants and raves is highly believable.
10) Create a personal
marketing sheet. Tell a good story about who you are, especially
if you’re self-employed. It should feature a picture of you and your
product and tell who you are and what your USP is. On it, list some of
your customers and include the right quotes as well as detailing your
number of years’ experience, special training or certifications you
and your team have, and any community involvement.
Yourself a New Story About Stories:
people are hesitant to sell themselves and their product or service
with stories because they don’t want to feel “pushy,” as if
they’re forcing their clients to do their marketing for them. A
simple paradigm shift is all you need to see the benefits of this
practice, for you and for your customers. Consider this: you’re
cheating people if you don’t share what a great experience you offer
customers. They’ll go somewhere else and get an inferior product and
end, it’s simply a matter of utilizing the power of social proof:
Tell your story, attract customers to you, deliver what you do best,
and you won’t be able to stop them from talking about their “lucky
find,” sending others to you and coming back again and again.
Remember: A good story can change the way people think. A great story
can change the way people behave.
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