Customer Interviews in the Content Buffet

This post was written by John White on Fri, 31 Jul 2009 12:01:28 +0000
Posted Under: case studies,interviewing customers,review loop,social media

applause_31ff14329cDo you know how powerful customer interviews can be to your content buffet? Have you spent time collecting testimonials and endorsements from your clients?

In its report, “Social Media 10 x 10,” Beeline Labs calls these “the one social strategy with 10x the value of any other social media tactic.”

  • An eVoc Insights study found that 48% of consumers need to read reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • Neilsen’s research has found that consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising among 78% of study participants.
  • Embedded customer reviews are the best social media investment for realizing strong ROI.

The most valuable and under-used social media strategy is embedding customer reviews in your Web site. Not blogs, Twitter, communities or tagging.

Short Form: Customer Feedback Forums

There’s a lot of value in these forums, as noted in “Managing an Online Reputation,” by Kermit Pattison:

Study local search sites like Yelp, Citysearch and Yahoo! Local. Forums for customer feedback have sprung up everywhere — Google Maps, Amazon, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Epinions and a myriad of online communities and niche sites.

Prospects speed-surfing for your products get a lot of mileage out of these reviews, especially since they tend to have a snowballing effect and they are highly organic.

But not every business gets reviewed. The reviews are valuable, but they skew to gregarious customers. There’s also the fact that the reviewers get credibility points in many of these forums to encourage participation, so they’re not 100% grass-roots reviews. Finally, while nobody would look the gift horse of unsolicited, positive feedback in the mouth, a business owner could look at a year’s worth of reviews and say, “Nobody talked about the strawberry rhubarb flavor we worked so hard to launch,” or “How can we get people to talk about our signal-to-noise ratio? It’s our biggest differentiator.”

For these comments, you need to create your own content with targeted customer interviews.

Customer Interviews and How to Write Them

It’s not hard to get this kind of content onto your buffet line. Set yourself the goal of generating 4-6 case studies or customer success stories over the next 12 months.

Your sales team can help you identify customers with interesting uses of your products. Keep in mind that generally, the larger the customer, the longer each success story will take, because of the approval hoops your content will have to jump through. You’ll probably find as much enthusiasm – maybe more –  with smaller customers, and the resulting text rarely has to get through a phalanx of lawyers before you can use it. (See David Meerman Scott on this topic.)

Hire a marketing writer with at least some experience in your industry to conduct and record the customer interview, which should touch on:

  • the customer’s business
  • why they need your products
  • how they use them
  • how your products save them time and money, and how much
  • an anecdote or two about their experience with your company and your products

The interview should take 30-45 minutes. It’s important to make it clear to the customer that you want to use her name in the success story, and that she will have the opportunity to review and edit the piece before you publish it.

Using the Customer Success Story

Do you see how the resulting 500- to 1000-word piece has more and longer lives than a Yelp review or an isolated tweet? You can re-use the text from the story at multiple points along your content buffet: callout boxes in other content, sidebars on your Web pages, blog posts, tweets, brochures, e-mail marketing, press releases…

These stories reinforce your relationship with your customers, too. If I told you how much I like your products, and you used my quote on your Website, don’t you think I’d be gratified to see my name in lights?

No wonder customer interviews and the resulting endorsements are so powerful.

photo credit: Garry Knight

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