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Letting Your Customers Tell Your Story

by Hank Barnes  |  September 26, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

Last year, I shared an example from HPE, where they had turned to their advocates to develop content reflecting best practices in ITSM.   I loved the concept as it reflected actual practitioners discussing best practices rather than a vendor.  When vendors tout best practices, many view them with skepticism, feeling these might be best practices in the context of their solutions, but may not apply broadly.

In a similar vein, I’ve just seen another great example of advocates telling a vendor’s story for them.   Mimecast, one of the leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving, recently shared some new material they put together.  It is a collection of stories, written by their customers, about their experience in working with Mimecast products and the company.   Another great example of the power of Advocacy Marketing.

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There is a lot of content there, but all of it comes directly from their customers.  The mix of roles and companies is quite varied–it is likely that a reader will find someone they can relate to. Many of the stories reflect examples of outstanding proactive service–both in terms of addressing issues but also coming up with solutions to specific problem scenarios.

This is important.   For a vendor, saying “we pride ourselves on our customer service,” is very different than having several customers talk about their service experience.   The former feels like rhetoric–what vendor would not say that (could you imagine a vendor every saying, “When you have a problem, you’ll start with our first level support that can only handle the basic issues.  You’ll experience delays if they can’t solve your issue.  If you get escalated, engineers will get involved–when they have time.  Our service is not the reason to buy our products.”).

But, when validation of service comes from your customers, it is immediately more credible.   The volume of stories in the Mimecast piece is impressive.  They had many many customers who were willing to invest their time to create stories about their experience.  And the only thing Mimecast had to do was basic editing and layout.

I’d like to say that I expect to see more and more of this type of content from all vendors in the future, but I’m skeptical (maybe the right thing to say is that I “hope” to see more of this type of content).   There are a few reasons:

  1. It’s not always easy to find customers to provide this level of support (although I think you might be surprised how many happy customers would do things like this if you just asked).
  2. Vendors are conditioned to think of customer related content very formally–case studies.   But there are many other forms of customer validation–from quotes, to anecdotes, to best practice ideas–that  can be useful.
  3. Vendors often think of customer validation in isolation.   They create case studies about customers, but their other materials–presentations, data sheets, brochures, web copy–usually don’t have any customer quotes or anecdotes in them (or if they do exist, they are at the bottom of the page where they are likely to be ignored).

Bringing your customer stories into everything you do—intertwining them throughout the narrative–can make a big difference building trust.   Having those stories created by your customers themselves takes it to the next level.

If you have materials created by your customer advocates, like the examples from HPE and Mimecast, I’d love to see them.

 

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: advocacy-marketing  case-studies  customer-experience  customer-service  customer-validation  hpe  mimecast  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
4+ years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio




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