What is a customer success story?

Customer success stories, also known as case studies, present your potential clients and customers with a user’s first-hand (successful) experience with your product, service, or offer.

It’s different from a testimonial in that detailed success stories validate and give credibility to your solution in a way that testimonials just can’t. And nothing can replace the power of evidence from a third-party.

A strong customer success story helps your prospects imagine themselves in that journey—from pains & problems, over humps and hurdles, all the way through to the desired outcome.

Success stories can be fabulous-ized by formatting with graphics and your branding to create a visually impressive document.

Why do customer success stories work?

Stories entertain us. They hold our interest longer, plus we feel a connection with the hero… we can picture ourselves in that situation and then feel the transformation your hero experienced.

Success stories educate your prospects in way that evokes emotion, empathy, and a connection to  your offer. Graphs and pie charts? Snore. The business owner telling us her product works? Not credible proof.

But when we hear about a real person, someone we can relate to, someone with a similar problem… and we go through their pain, obstacles and success with them, we become emotionally connected to your offer, at least at a subconscious level.

In Storytelling Made Easy, Michael Hauge writes, “They give listeners and readers the emotional experience of success.” And THAT is one heckuva powerful marketing tool!

Plus, who doesn’t love a good story? A short story that educates, inspires and demonstrates how we, the buyer, will use your offer, and experience success? That’s a power-tool no marketing plan should be without!

More on why success stories work

As Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, showed us, sticky ideas make an impression—it means “your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact—they change your audience’s opinions or behavior.”

A strong success story, by definition, is sticky!

And though we may not want to admit it, our buying decisions are often influenced by what others are doing and buying, especially when their experience is much like our own. According to Dr. Robert Cialdini (author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion), it’s how humans behave—we look to others to decide how we should act.

When stories sound like the situation your potential buyer is facing, the stories become that much more relatable, sticky, persuasive and inspiring.

Note—having a “general” success story in the hopes of appealing to more people will actually appeal to fewer people. As Joanne Wiebe of Copy Hackers has imprinted on my copywriter brain, “When you write to everyone, you write to no one.” Know the problem you solve and know who you solve it for—specificity is sticky. Generality is not.

How do you leverage success stories in your marketing plan?

Ahhhh… so glad you asked! There are all kinds of places to bring in customer success stories:

  • Sales pages
  • Email marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Landing pages
  • Your website
  • Social media
  • Proposals you send
  • A PDF download with its own opt-in form
  • Pitching to podcasts and other publicity forums
  • Webinars
  • Speaking engagements

I’ve focused my list here on how my clients tend to use them, but use your imagination.

Not nearly enough of us are putting the power of customer success stories to work for us. Influential, persuasive, and inspiring… what better way to spotlight the brilliance and power of your offer?

If you’re thinking, “Yah, this totally sounds cool – I want one (or more) for my business!” I invite you to set up an appointment with me. I love writing success stories for clients!

More coming in this series on Customer Success Stories — let me know if you’d like to be notified when the next post is up!