Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Ed Featherston, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Agile Computing, CRM

Agile Computing: Blog Feed Post

Stories that Sell - An Interview with Casey Hibbard

I've long been a proponent of storytelling for marketing and sales

As most of you know, I've long been a proponent of storytelling for marketing and sales. Customer stories are one of the most valuable ways B2B companies can share their compelling value. They have the ability to simplify the complexity of considered purchases, validate that what you promise is true, and mitigate risk by proving the business case.

StoriesThatSell Casey Hibbard, and her book Stories that Sell, provides a wealth of information about how to plan for, research and create customer success stories that help you sell more—and do so with ease. And, she ought to know. She's written over 450 of them over the last 10 years for companies such as, Macrovision, Jobfox, USA.NET, IHS, and Vocus.

In the interview below, Casey shares the answers to 7 questions to show you just how valuable your customers stories can be for validating your company's compelling value:

1. What’s the biggest mistake you see B2B marketers make when developing customer success stories?

Marketers are simply not using their customer success stories enough. A story documenting a specific customer’s success with your product or service is one of the most powerful pieces of marketing and sales content you can have. Too often, companies just throw that story up on their web sites and don’t take it further than that.

I’ve seen companies make customer stories the very center of all their communications efforts and it really paying off. That means telling that story every chance that you get – in webinars for lead-gen, at events, live sales conversations, on your blog, on Twitter, in pitches to key media, in training your sales team and all new employees, in awards submissions, in white papers, and the list goes on. If you’re going to invest in capturing a story, tell it every chance you get.

2. Can you share some factors that motivate a prospect to seek out a customer success story?

As marketers, we make a lot of promises. Buyers are wary of solutions that haven’t performed as promised. If someone is going to invest in a product or service – especially a big, high-risk investment – they have to have confidence that it will pay off.

In the age of authenticity, with eBay feedback and Amazon reviews, there’s nothing like a happy customer vouching for you. Customer success stories and case studies document the success of a specific customer, giving buyers the details and evidence they need to justify a purchase.

3. In the book you present the concept of a story needs assessment. Can you talk about why this is important and the types of things companies can learn when they assess their story needs?

So many B2B marketers don’t approach success stories with a plan or vision. So often it’s a matter of, “We have a happy customer, so let’s do a story.” That success story or case study may or may not support your current sales and marketing efforts.

Effective customer stories are very closely tied to your targets. You need to identify your key targets and create a success story wish list from there. What industries are they in? What’s their size? What’s their geographic location? What are their current challenges? What position is the reader in – technical or business? Then decide what stories you need so that, no matter what type of prospect is evaluating your solutions, you have a success story to match.

4. You share a number of ways in which customer success stories can be used in the book. Can you highlight some differences in how success stories are best used in marketing versus sales activities?

Traditionally, there’s been a misconception that customer stories, in the form of case studies, were really only valuable in the latter stages of the sales cycle, when prospects are validating a solution. But many organizations have found customer stories to be equally important throughout the complete customer lifecycle, from lead generation to sales to selling more to existing customers.

The differences between usage in marketing and sales are usually in the amount of information you give people. You offer more details as prospects get further into the sales cycle. In marketing, you might have a summary of a customer’s story or a video story/testimonial on your web site or on your blog. Or, you might feature a customer on a free webinar that folks sign up for. You get someone interested enough to learn more about your solution.

At some point they have the option to read, hear or view a more complete customer case study, or a sales rep walks them through that. The really detailed customer stories, case studies with return on investment data, are most valuable for closing sales. At that point, people want more than a general overview. They want numbers.

5. Testimonials have long been attributed to increased credibility but, at the same time, we all know a company isn’t going to publish anything that doesn’t make them—or their customers—look good.

Have you seen a shift in what constitutes a believable testimonial in a customer success story—especially given the rise in social media? And, is there a tip you can share with us about eliciting effective testimonials?

My #1 tip: always get testimonials from the actual customer! People are definitely skeptical of the “PR” testimonial, a glowing statement that sounds like it’s been written by a PR person (and probably has). If we want to keep testimonials believable, then they need to be from customers. The customer will  always give you a more authentic-sounding quote, with more personality. That’s not to say that you can’t do a little smoothing out, in collaboration with the customer, but try to maintain as much character and authenticity as you can.

The best testimonials emerge when you can really get a customer talking, and usually on the phone. Gathering testimonials by email doesn’t allow you to dig for more detail and elaboration. You start with open-ended questions and keep asking until you get your answer – or before you start annoying the customer.

6. Your book showcases 7 story formats. Which one is your favorite to write, and why?

Good question. My favorite is the feature-story format with call-out sections.  I enjoy storytelling and this format provides the best opportunity to tell an engaging story. It also seems to be the way that case studies and success stories are headed. You have the chance to really kick off with an interesting lead paragraph, punctuate the story with powerful quotes and use descriptive subheads. It’s interesting to those who read the body of the story but also to those who skim only. If you’re pitching your story to editors, they tend to prefer this type of presentation as well.

7. What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you as a result of writing Stories that Sell?

The amazing connections I’ve made. I’ve met and collaborated with some really interesting thought leaders on blogs, articles and webinars. I sought out these types of experts while researching and writing the book but it took the book’s release before our paths crossed. It would have been better to know them during the book process, and integrate some of their input in Stories that Sell. Instead, I’m using more dynamic venues like my blog, teleclasses and webinars to share new information on my topic.

Now, do yourself a favor and go buy the book. It's truly a hands-on guide for creating Stories that Sell. Plus, you get two free bonuses. Go check it out!

If you're not reading her blog already, Casey continues to share tips and insights that expand what you'll learn in her book.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.

@ThingsExpo Stories
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
The Founder of NostaLab and a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, John is a unique combination of strategic thinker, marketer and entrepreneur. His career was built on the "science of advertising" combining strategy, creativity and marketing for industry-leading results. Combined with his ability to communicate complicated scientific concepts in a way that consumers and scientists alike can appreciate, John is a sought-after speaker for conferences on the forefront of healthcare science,...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Archi...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settl...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.