Thanks to the widespread use of the Internet across the world, even the smallest businesses have the opportunity to operate globally. However, an online business doesn’t have the benefit of interacting with customers in person, so it can be more challenging to build relationships. Fortunately, the tools of the social web have broken down this barrier and put small, online businesses in direct competition with the largest companies in the world.
Using tools like blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and so on, you can connect with people, converse with them, answer questions, share information, solve problems, and build relationships with little or no monetary investment. These conversations and activities give you access to customer stories that support your brand promise, indirectly promote your brand to wider audiences, and prove your authenticity and trustworthiness.
As long as you’re consistently, transparently, and honestly representing your brand on the social web, customer stories will develop and spread organically. You can supplement those online conversations with customer success stories that you gather offline as well. For example, if you write a blog for your business, you could create a bi-weekly customer success story series where you interview a satisfied customer, share a story about a customer who you helped with a problem, or describe another feel good story. You could include customer logo designs in your blogs to add a little visual flair to your blog and make it look more professional. You could share these stories on your Facebook page, and across your social web profiles. As you spend time building your online connections, many of the people with whom you’ve built relationships will share your stories with their own audiences. That means free word-of-mouth marketing for your brand! Don’t forget having a great company logo design can’t hurt when trying to establish a professional image. Make sure your logo design is on your Facebook page, twitter page, linked in and other social media platforms so your customers will easily recognize its you.
The trick is to gather and talk about the customer stories that add the most value to your brand promise. These are the stories that people can relate to and are likely to believe and want to talk about. Remember, even a story that starts off negatively could be wrapped up to sound positive. For example, if you find a customer complaint online, jump into the conversation and offer to solve that problem. Show the audience that you’re listening and willing to go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. Those efforts don’t go unnoticed and can turn what may have been negative publicity into a feel-good story.
People emotionally connect to stories that they can relate to, so it’s extremely important that you integrate them into your online business marketing and branding activities to add a human element to your brand. Doing so can actually set you apart from your online competitors.
As you work customer stories into your online activities, make sure you act responsibly. Don’t share customer names unless you have permission or unless that customer is conversing with you online and already opened the story up to the public. Not everyone is comfortable being the center of attention and there is still a percentage of the online population that has deep concerns about privacy. On the flip side, customer stories are far more effective when they are not anonymous. Therefore, try to obtain permission to use customer names in as many customer stories as possible. Adding a real name (and picture) to a story makes it more credible and personable.
There is no better time than the present to start using customer stories in your marketing and branding activities, so get on the social web and start talking to people. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to share their stories!