If content is the fuel for content marketing, sales and customer enablement, then customer stories or insights are the active performance enhancing ingredients.
Well-developed messages targeted to address key buyer questions are better understood when the right customer stories create context. This is particularly important with innovative products, where buyers lack prior purchase experience.
Capturing customer stories or insights can be a challenge for content marketers. Logistics and weak practices are both a factor. Trying to find stories when you need them is not easy. Setting up time to talk directly to customers can be inconvenient and face internal organizational barriers. Often marketers lack first-hand access to customers. They have to rely on intermediaries for access, or on subject matter experts to provide stories.
Sometimes this works well. Just as often the stories are not compelling or inspiring.
A better approach is to have a rich inventory of stories available to use when you need them.
A core practice of our content supply chain approach to content product is Continuous Acquisition.
Sales or customer service people who regularly engage customers often experience conversations that identify interesting stories. Most companies don’t have a simple process or execution discipline to capture those stories when they occur. We’ve discovered timing is crucial. Customer willingness, energy and clarity is highest immediately following a trigger event.
Establishing a practice to instantly capture and produce and a steady stream of new insights and stories when the opportunities arise is a mark of content operations professionalism.
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 can be transcribed and tagged for themes and keywords. This makes accessing the transcribed content easy for people who later will use those insights and stories to create new 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 some cases the identity of the customer might be disguised. Getting recorded and approved customer quotes can be a second step. Key here is to optimize and simplify insight identification and idea acquisition. real quotes and permission is usually much more effort than it is worth.
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.
Use your Ideal Customer Profile attributes. Share typical buying questions that have to be answered. Map them to key stages across the buying decision process. 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 attributes, questions and related elements should be documented by marketing in playbooks that tie buyer information needs with message and content development plans. See this 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 business, functional and communication purposes. It is helpful for sales, customer service, or channel partner training. It increases the relevancy of content used in content marketing. It supports sales enablement content — from on-boarding and orientation through late stage selling. The use of customer stories will also improve problem solving and message delivery in customer service operations.
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, (Transcribe, Tag and manage text-based assets)
- Acquire for multiple use cases or purposes, (Marketing, Sales, Training, Channel)
- Use acquired customer stories to streamline and scale content production
1 Minute Video Explanation and Content Source Example