How to Use Customer Stories to Grow Your Startup

Customer stories are powerful. Startups are smart to take advantage of their ability to create the truly inspiring customer experiences that are the foundation of persuasive case studies.

April 26th, 2018   |    By: Keith Shields    |    Tags: Customers, Experience

As startups — unless you’re VC-funded — we don’t usually have the big marketing budgets that established companies have. We may not be able to drop thousands on a single ad campaign. But the good news is that we don’t have to. We have strengths we can tap into that can power our marketing and help us land customers.

One of those strengths is our ability to wow customers in ways that the big guys — with their bloated infrastructure and slow-moving cogs — just can’t.

Startups can use customer stories to illustrate how their products and services solve problems and make life wonderful, motivating potential customers to move forward in the buying journey.

Customer Reviews

How Customers Stories Boost Marketing

Customer stories, or case studies, can be used throughout the marketing and sales funnels. And they’re valuable not just because of their flexibility. They also accomplish three key tasks.

1. They Build Credibility

If you haven’t been in business long, you need to convince potential customers that you’re credible. When you show that other people trust and like your company, you make it a lot easier for prospects to say yes.

2. They Provide a Concrete Example of How Your Product or Service Works

It’s hard for people to visualize how a product or service will function when it’s presented in the abstract.

A case study that shares the story of how you’ve helped a similar customer helps prospects to picture exactly how they’ll benefit from working with you.

3. They Help You Up-sell and Cross-sell Existing Customers

When you create a case study, you’re asking a customer to share the details of how they’ve grown, how they’ve saved time, how they’ve generated higher profits, etc. as a result of your help.

When a customer pauses to reflect on the benefits they’ve experienced, they’re more likely to want additional products or services from you.

How to Create Customer Stories That Convince

While effective case studies can take many formats, including written stories, videos, and audio recordings, the ones that persuade all have a few things in common.

  • They Dig Into the Pain of the Problem — Prospects want to know if you have experience solving the types of problems they’re dealing with. Especially if you have competition, you’ll need to clearly communicate that you understand both the problems and the pain that they cause. And the more you can quantify the impact of the pain, the easier it will be to justify your price to solve it.
  • They Explain the Cost of the Status Quo — The status quo is one of your biggest competitors. People are wired to avoid loss. They often avoid making a buying decision because it involves risk and the potential for loss. To help them overcome this aversion, you need to show the consequences of maintaining the status quo.
  • They Clearly Describe the Solution You Provided — When you describe the specifics of how you solved the problem, you give your prospects a way to picture the solution in their minds. They can see how your product or service works. The more they understand, the more confidence they’ll have investing in the solution.
  • They Share Precisely How the Customer Benefitted — Exactly how much revenue did your product or service generate? How much money did it save? How much time did it save? How many new customers did the client onboard as a result of using your product or service? The more precisely you can detail the benefits, the easier it will be for the buyer to see the value of what you’re offering.
  • They Include Quotes — Quotes help show that your story is real. And they also allow the customer to communicate the impact of your solution in their own words, which will resonate with others in the same industry or situation.
  • They Use Real Names, With Pictures — People are naturally skeptical, so if you create a glowing case study that doesn’t name the company or your contact who provided the quotes, they’ll doubt your story. Not every customer will be comfortable sharing details about themselves, so be sure to ask up front if the client is willing to participate. Many customers will be enthusiastic, because working with your company shows that they’re committed to excellence and to growth.

How to Promote Your Customer Stories

Once you have a convincing customer story, how are you going to get it in front of your prospects? Here are a few ideas.

1. Publish It on Your Website

Create a ‘Client Stories’ page and feature your case studies there.

As you collect them over time, it’s smart to make them sortable by industry, pain point, and other factors so people can find the ones that apply to them.

2. Publish a Blog Article

Share the story on your blog and encourage readers to download the full case study with all the details.

3. Share It on Social Media

Once you’ve got the case study up on your blog, share a link to it on social media with a teaser that calls out the benefits your customer experienced.

4. Add It to Your Presentations

When you’re invited to speak to a group, work case studies into your presentations.

Sharing concrete examples will not only make your talks more interesting, it will likely convert some of your prospects who are in the audience!

Have your salespeople share it. Salespeople are always looking for interesting and relevant content to include in follow-up emails.

Case studies are ideal to share because they offer real value to prospects, giving them ideas on how they can solve problems and describing exactly what someone else has done.

Salespeople can also include the latest case study in their email signatures and in other communications.

5. Ask Your Customer to Share It With Their Contacts

If the case study presents your client as the hero, they’ll want to share it. Communicate how the customer is leading their industry or using your product or service to make a real impact.

When the customer feels proud to be featured, they’ll often be happy to post it on their social media channels or even share it in a blog post on their website.

6. Turn It into a Press Release

If your product or service has enabled your customer to do something newsworthy, write up a press release and/or pitch the media with your story.

While you won’t be able to use the customer story in the format of a case study, you can pitch an angle of the story to various news outlets.

Customer stories are powerful. Startups are smart to take advantage of their ability to create the truly inspiring customer experiences that are the foundation of persuasive case studies.


Also worth a read:

  1. Customer Understanding and Customer Development: Master classes on better customer targeting by legendary entrepreneur Steve Blank
  2. The Secret to Defining Your Target Market
  3. How To Reach Your Target Customer: Getting Up Close and Personal

About the Author

Keith Shields

Keith Shields is the Co-Founder and CEO of software development company Designli. Designli maintains a focus on building beautiful, transformative digital products for startups and enterprise clients.

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