In today’s business world, boring facts and empty stats simply won’t make the impression on customers that a story about someone “just like them” will. True stories are much more compelling and better remembered than information.

This strategy is based on the idea of “social proof.” A behavior seems more correct when we see others doing it—and the more others the better.

Whatever your industry, you can get your customers to write your best stories for you by documenting your successes through testimonials and pictures. To develop powerful stories that sell your customers, follow these ten simple steps:

1. Identify Your Positioning

If you don’t position yourself advantageously, your competition will position you and your product in a way you don’t want. What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? What added value do you deliver that your competition won’t? Get your customers to say, “Wow!”

2. Define Your Ideal Customer

Contrary to popular belief, your customer base isn’t “everybody.” You may have customers across all spectrums, but who’s going to be the most profitable customer for you, and how can you attract more of those? Let your competition suffer the consequences of giving their sales force too broad a brush.

3. Identify What’s Different About You

Different is good. Create a point of differentiation between you and your competition with a story. You may have noticed this recent trend in retail: to get customers to pick their products off the retail shelf, companies use product packaging and web sites to tell an intriguing story. (For good examples, check out www.ilovestubbs.com and www.workinggirlwines.com.)

4. Draw Them to You

If you’ve done the first three steps well, the customers you want will be attracted to you. Learn their key issues/pains/

problems and how you can solve them. Top mortgage brokers work to build a good reputation and thereby attract a lot of the business. They don’t have to go out and pursue clients; people come to them. Do the little things that make for a great story so your customers will sing your praises and bring the business to you.

5. Show, Don’t Tell

One of the key principles of story-telling is to show the details of the story, and let those details speak for themselves. Effective story-telling is in the details, and the more the better. Paint a picture with your words to bring your story to life for the reader or listener. You don’t have to be a master writer to tell a powerful story.

6. Feel Their Pain

Use stories to help overcome common objections, such as cost. Rather than competing on price, compete on your unique ability to solve customers’ problems. In life insurance and financial services, customers often haven’t done the kind of planning they should. Smart advisors tell them, “Don’t feel bad—last week I met with someone just like you who had that same problem. Here’s how we worked together to solve it…”

7. Keep ’Em Coming

Dog-eared, over-copied success stories from seven years ago won’t do the trick. Document everything and keep it current! Develop a system to follow up with satisfied clients, because you can’t have too many stories at your disposal. Utilize the Web, phone calls, letters and email to generate new stories, then put them on your Web site as written, audio and video testimonials.

8. Use Pictures

One picture is worth a thousand words. A testimonial with a photo shows there is a real person behind the name. Build your testimonials one at a time, asking clients, “If I can exceed your expectations, get the work done in time and at the budget we set, would you give me a testimonial so I can share your success with other customers?” The majority of your customers will happily say “Yes!” Create a Raving Fan book that will let you select the jobs you want to do.

Home improvement contractors can fill a book with before-and-after pictures plus testimonials saying that they showed up on time, stayed within budget, etc. On future jobs, other bidders will show up with no social proof—just a napkin with an estimate on it—but the smart contractor will have ten success stories, impressive photos, and raves from past customers. Even if his price comes in 10 or 20 percent higher, if he’s proven that he can meet the customer’s needs, the customer is likely to pick the professional who provided social proof!

9. Utilize Product Reviews

Vendor ratings and product reviews, such as you find on eBay, Overstock.com, and Amazon.com, can tell your story and offer social proof even without personal contact. The combination of customer rants and raves is highly believable.

10. Create a Personal Marketing Sheet

Tell a good story about who you are, especially if you’re self-employed. Include a picture of you and your product; tell who you are and what your USP is. List some of your customers (and their endorsements). Detail your number of years’ experience, special training or certifications you and your team have, community involvement, etc.

Many people are hesitant to sell themselves and their product or service with stories because they don’t want to feel “pushy.” A simple paradigm shift is all you need to see the benefits of this practice—both for you and for your customers. Consider this: you’re cheating people if you don’t share what a great experience you offer customers. They’ll go somewhere else and get an inferior product and experience.

A good story can change the way people think. A great story can change the way people behave.



CHIP EICHELBERGER is a peak performance strategist
whose clients include Ernst & Young, Tommy Hilfiger,
Century 21 and Bank of America.
www.networkingtimes.com/link/chip