If content is the fuel for inbound marketing then customer stories or insights are the active performance enhancing ingredients. Well-developed messages targeted to address key buyer questions are better understood when contextualized with customer stories. This is particularly important with innovative products that buyers don’t have any experience buying.
Capturing customer stories or insights can be a challenge for content marketers. Trying to find stories when you need them is not easy. Most marketers don’t have first-hand access to customers so they rely on subject matter experts to provide stories. Sometimes this works well. Just as often the stories are not compelling or inspiring. Alternatively, setting up time to talk directly to customers can be inconvenient and face internal organizational barriers. These stories can also end up being weak. It is better to have stories available to use when you need them.
A third approach to acquiring customer stories is to embrace the idea that companies should develop a process for Continuous Acquisition. Sales or customer service people engaging with customers are frequently in a position where a conversation leads to an interesting story. Most companies don’t have a process or discipline for capturing those stories when they occur. This third approach is fast, easy, and creates a steady stream of new insights and stories. Just as important, they are available when needed.
Enabling continuous acquisition can be as easy as having the sales or customer service person use a smart phone to create a voice memo that can be emailed to a designated person. Recording the voice memo should occur shortly after the customer conversation. This voice memo gets transcribed and tagged for themes and keywords. This makes searching the transcribed content easy for people creating content.
Acquire Language and Nuance
Using a voice memo rather than having the person write out an email serves two purposes. The first is that it takes very little effort and can be done quickly. The voice memo just has to get the idea across. It doesn’t have to be highly organized or very long. The second reason is that a voice memo is more likely to capture nuances or language used in the customer conversation. This is important to content developers trying to connect with buyers.
In most cases the identity of the customer would be disguised. Getting real quotes and permission is usually much more effort than it is worth. Plus, it can always be done later when developing the content if it significantly improves the story. This acquisition is just about capturing insights or ideas.
Acquire to a Plan
Getting the continuous customer story acquisition process setup is easy to do. Helping sales or customer service people know what types of stories are useful will make the process even better. Sharing typical buying questions that have to be answered across the buying cycle is one way to do this. These questions typically include: why change, what is different, how are other people solving this problem, what buying criteria should I care about, why you, and others. These questions should be documented by marketing in Customer & Content Frameworks that tie buyer information needs with messaging and content development plans. See the attached video on Customer & Content Frameworks to understand how they support customer story acquisition.
Acquire for Multiple Use Cases and Audiences
Continuous acquisition of customer insights and stories can be used to support content for a number of purposes. It is helpful for sales, customer service, or channel partner training. It increases the relevancy of content used in inbound marketing. It supports sales enablement content developed for late stage selling. The use of customer stories will also improve problem solving and messaging in customer service operations.
Create Content like a Publisher
Acquiring a continuous stream of customer stories and insights will help an organization keep its focus on its customers and understand what its customers care about. This is central to Creating Content like a Publisher. Continuous acquisition is also an operational philosophy used by publishers to scale the production process. Acquired stories or insights that can be used when needed allow publishers to streamline content creation. Content requires less research effort with more attention paid to telling compelling stories.
Checklist for Continuous Acquisition
Continuous acquisition allows every front line person to capture their best experiences to share and grow the business. This checklist summarizes the key elements of a continuous acquisition approach.
- Acquire to a plan of what you will need, (Documented in Customer and Content Frameworks)
- Have a well-defined story acquisition process that is easy to use, (Voice Memos)
- Have a well-defined preparation process, (Transcribing and Tagging)
- Acquire for multiple use cases or purposes, (Marketing, Sales, Training, Channel)
- Use acquired customer stories to streamline and scale content production