How to Build an Effective Customer Spotlight Story
Customer case studies can be difficult to get right. Here's our guide to building a collaborative process that helps you build a compelling narrative.
Want to get new customers more easily? Then you need to lean on the ones you already have.
Building customer spotlights empowers you to shine a light on the great work you’ve done in the past, helping you more easily convince new potential customers of your brand’s unique value.
Social proof is a powerful element for attracting new customers: 86% of businesses consider verified testimonials to be critical to their purchasing decisions. And while external reviews sites may be a key part of your strategy, it’s equally important to build out your own customer spotlights in-house, where you can combine your customers’ and brand’s unique perspectives to develop an impactful customer story.
At Eucalypt, we’ve worked on both sides of this fence: We’ve built our own customer case studies and leveraged external testimonials sites to validate our brand’s work, and we’ve also developed hundreds of customer stories in collaboration with our clients, helping them create powerful narratives around their solutions.
If your brand is new to creating customer spotlights, or you want to improve the ones you already have, here are some of our key tips.
Get customer buy-in
While your brand may work with many customers, not all of them are going to be the best case for a customer spotlight — even if their KPIs are through the roof.
Find a brand advocate Before requesting a customer spotlight, make sure that you’ve taken the time to build a relationship with your key contacts first. Even if you’re seeing great metrics from your work together, it’s important that your customer spokesperson is an advocate for your brand and understands your value in the process. You might start by requesting an external testimonial, and encouraging the customers with the most glowing reviews to participate in a customer spotlight for your own branded properties.
Make sure there’s a story there Beyond brand advocacy, it’s also important that your customer stories have a clear narrative. While a new customer might be wowed by your solution, they probably haven’t worked with it long enough to get a sense of how it impacts their business. When possible, choose customers with a longer working history with your brand, so that you can provide a clear before-and-after story that showcases your impact.
Get ahead of potential objections Your customer’s internal politics can also come into play when developing customer spotlights. When conducting preliminary research, make sure that you know if there are any touchy or confidential topics that they don’t want to discuss for a public audience. It’s also important to know who ultimately will have sign-off over the piece, and make sure to include them in the initial process as well so there are fewer opportunities to go off-course in final reviews.
In some cases, NDA requests may mean that specific metrics can’t be discussed, or may even prevent you from naming the brand, so it’s a good idea to get ahead of potential complications. (On the upside, if you must create an anonymous customer story, you are free to develop the narrative without running it by their team.)
Create a compelling narrative
First, decide what kind of customer spotlight you want to showcase: Video, written, or both?
If your customer’s spokespeople are all comfortable on-camera and you have budget and resources to produce video, starting with a video testimonial is a great way to go, as you can repurpose the content into a written profile as well. If video testimonials aren’t a viable option right now, conducting a phone interview, which you can later transcribe and turn into a written case study, will also result in a powerful customer spotlight.
In either case:
Build the right team To make sure you’re getting the right context when conducting an interview, it can be helpful to both include the internal account representative who works closely with the customer, and the internal or agency marketing team member who’ll be creating the customer spotlight. By ensuring that you’re bringing in both subject-matter expertise and marketing expertise, you’ll be able to get to the heart of the conversation more easily.
Find a key focus Strong narratives are built around problem-solution stories. Ask your customer about what problem they were trying to solve by partnering with your company, and what results they’ve seen. If your customer has the data to back up the outcome, even better — but your brand can still showcase success even without hard metrics. Not all solutions are responsible for direct revenue growth; some may result in improved workflows and efficiencies that free up staff time to focus on other initiatives. Wherever your solution’s strengths lie, make sure you ask questions that result in effective quotes that showcase your core strengths.
Include visuals Video testimonials are highly influential for prospective customers, realizing an ROI of 50 to 500% — but customer stories without video can also gain impact by adding key visuals, including high-definition photos of the customer spokesperson and images of your brand’s solution in action. Use pull quotes to spotlight the most impactful parts of your customer’s testimonial.
Break it down Whether producing video or editorial content, make sure that your customer spotlight is broken down into key sections, such as Problem, Solution, and Impact. Your potential customers don’t have the patience to read a long story — they want to understand the how and why, quickly. You can, however, consider creating both short-form and long-form versions of your case study, providing additional context for those that want to learn more. As you start creating more customer spotlights, you can use the first one as a template that ensures you’re hitting on each of the key elements at the right point in the narrative.
Present it properly
Once your customer story is complete, it’s time to get it out there and ensure that your potential customers see it.
Create a Customer Spotlight section on your website Make sure that you have a prominent section of your website where you can display your customer stories, whether video or editorial. They shouldn’t be lumped in with your blog or product marketing resources — it’s important to create an archive where your prospects can dig in to learn how real brands have engaged with your product or solution.
Repurpose your Customer Stories on social media One great thing about conducting customer interviews is that the material can be endlessly repurposed (with permission, of course). You can pull out customer quotes from the interview — even if they didn’t make it into the final case study — to promote your brand on LinkedIn and other social media sites, or develop short-form video snippets from a longer interview. Use these snippets to engage with your audience and encourage them to watch or read the full Customer Spotlight on your website.
Encourage your customer to co-promote the Customer Story When you’re developing content marketing assets about your brands’ mutual success, it’s only natural that your customer should also be invested in promoting the Customer Spotlight to showcase their great metrics and increase awareness of their brand. If possible, work with a member of your customer’s marketing team to come up with co-promotion opportunities, such as promoting the customer story on their social media feeds or email newsletter.
Getting it right
While they may seem simple, Customer Spotlights are more difficult to execute than you may realize.
It’s important to build a compelling narrative that showcases both brands — customer and supplier — and how they collaborated effectively to accomplish an end goal. Your audience doesn’t want to watch or read a sales promotion for either brand; they simply want to understand how your brand solved your customer’s problem.
Rather than rely on your internal marketing team to develop case studies, it can often be helpful to get outside perspective from a content marketing agency or consultant. Teams that frequently partner with clients to develop customer stories have taken the time to hone effective workflows, understand how to build powerful narratives, and can recommend templates that your brand can customize to your needs. Customer spokespeople may also be more candid when conversing with an external partner, enabling you to get off-the-cuff quotes that add more color to help you create a great customer story.
As your business grows, you can use Customer Spotlights to showcase your happy customers and convert new ones effortlessly. Social proof is key to building a strong reputation in your industry — so give your customers the chance to champion your brand.
By building comprehensive marketing campaigns that are as robust and data-driven as any ecommerce company’s, you’ll be able to go beyond pulling on heartstrings, and focus on the science of an effective fundraising strategy.