Client success stories: how to overcome your fear and start writing!
While businesses show a lot of love for their brand stories and testimonials, their client success stories are often neglected because of basic fears or misconceptions. These tips, tricks, hacks and shortcuts will help you stop making excuses, and start telling your stories!
Client success stories are powerful tools to establish trust and credibility in the marketplace. When prospects see real customers talking about the value and benefits of a product or service, it instils confidence and reinforces your brand’s credibility and authenticity.
Successful businesses are usually in the habit of collecting testimonials. But something holds them back from taking that next step and producing client stories. The objections I’ve heard from clients and colleagues in the past are varied: my business is too small (i.e. no marketing team to take ownership of them), I’m time-poor, I can’t write, I don’t know where to start, I’m worried my competitors will find out my secret sauce and start copying me…
All of these objections are valid concerns. But I’m not going to let you keep on using them. I want to empower you to get out there, talk to your clients, and collect the very best stories about your business and its impact.
Client stories and overcoming your self-doubt
Fear: I’m too embarrassed to ask people for a story
This fear is especially felt by small business owners. I’m addressing it first in this article because, personally, it’s my biggest block to writing client stories for myself (I write them all the time for clients - no problem!).
This is a confidence and self-perception issue. You feel a little insecure that your clients won’t have enough good things to say about you. That job you did was so small, right? Or you’re embarrassed to ask for positive praise because it’s not the socially acceptable thing to do - especially if you’re a woman.
But we need to make a start.
I’ve seen the impact client success stories have on my own clients when I write them for their business. Business owners suddenly see their brilliance reflected back at them and sometimes cry at the positivity expressed for them and their work. The people I write the stories about (aka my client’s clients) usually love the story so much they ask to share it or adapt it for their own marketing. You will not be disappointed if you seek out your own stories of success.
Unlike the following challenges and tips, I have no list of tricks for you to face this fear. I’m not a therapist. I just know that you must simply get out of your own way. Make a start and ask a trusted client first. Then extend the process of gathering and writing stories to more clients. The more good feedback you get, the more you’re going to revel in gathering these stories.
Client stories and overcoming writer’s block
Fear: I can’t write!
It’s important that client stories are professional, engaging and easy to read. So if you’re not a ‘natural writer’ you might feel reluctant to even start producing them. The pressure of getting it wrong, and not portraying your business or clients in their best possible light, might be holding you back. But you don’t need to be a gifted writer (or even a confident one) to produce engaging client stories. Follow these tips to get over your writer’s block and start producing stories that showcase your business brilliance:
- Learn from the best client success stories you can find online: Read and analyse great client stories from other businesses or industries. Take note of what makes those stories engaging and compelling. Is it the structure and style, the tone of voice, the storytelling techniques, or something else? Bookmark the examples you love, so you can return to them for inspiration and insight to improve your own writing.
- Use AI for content generation: Embrace the power of AI language models like ChatGPT to generate initial drafts, provide suggestions, and enhance the overall quality of your client stories. Experiment with prompts until you find ones that work for you.
- Practice, practice and practice more: Writing is a skill that can be developed and improved. Dedicate time to hone your writing abilities by regularly writing or taking a workshop.
- Keep it real: Remember that client stories are about genuine experiences and outcomes. Focus on authenticity and genuine storytelling rather than trying to sound overly polished or professional. Authenticity resonates with readers and makes your stories more relatable.
- Seek feedback and editing assistance: Don't be afraid to ask colleagues, mentors, or trusted friends for constructive criticism or suggestions for improvement. Incorporating their feedback can enhance the clarity, coherence, and overall effectiveness of your writing.
- If writing is just not your jam, find a format that feels more authentically aligned with your brand: If you’re a social media marketing business you could get clients to produce video testimonials. If you’re a thought leader, you can interview clients on LinkedIn Live so people can hear about your impact first-hand. Graphic designers could tell a story through imagery.
Client stories confidence hack
Still not confident enough to write your own client stories? Try this hack:
Use multiple tech tools that demand minimal writing input from you. Conduct interviews over Zoom and use a transcription tool that produces a text script afterwards. You’ll have a wealth of precise quotes and feel confident that you can accurately represent your client’s experience. In my business, I use Zoom, Fathom and ChatGPT.
ChatGPT prompt for client stories
Next, use the following ChatGPT prompt:
You are a business owner with a business in the [X] industry, who wants to use a case study with [name of client] to showcase your services of [service name], [service name], and [service name]. Write a 300-500 word case study based on the following interview transcript, showcasing how your business used your services and ethos to help this client achieve their own business goals. Use headings and subheadings and write in a professional but relaxed tone of voice. [paste full transcript here]
With the current operating ability of AI, you’re going to be delivered something very basic but passable. Finesse it if you feel confident, or keep it simple and upload. Done is better than none!
Client stories and overcoming time constraints
Fear: I’ll never have enough time to produce client stories!
Creating client stories requires time, effort, and resources to conduct interviews, write content, and source visuals. If you run a small business or are busy on key projects, you may find it hard to allocate resources to client stories. Consider if you can afford not to do client stories. Assess their value and potential impact on your business goals. Prioritise client stories as part of your marketing strategy and allocate resources accordingly. Remove your time and resource barriers with the following activities:
- Start small and scale: Can you carve out an extra hour in your fortnight? You can start small and test the waters. Begin by focusing on a few select client stories that align with your marketing objectives. As you gain experience and refine your process, gradually scale up your efforts.
- Streamline the process: How can you set up systems and processes to make crafting client stories a breeze? Develop standardised templates, interview questionnaires, and content frameworks to save time and effort. Automate certain aspects, such as data gathering, drafting or refining, to improve productivity.
- Leverage existing content and testimonials: Instead of starting from scratch, repurpose existing content and testimonials. Gather feedback and testimonials from clients through surveys or post-engagement evaluations. Use these as the basis for client stories, expanding on them with additional details and outcomes.
- Collaborate with clients: Engage clients as partners in the creation of client stories. Ask them to write their own story (you may need to offer future discounts on services or a sweetener like a meal voucher to a nice restaurant). Alternatively, create a Q&A template and produce the story in an ‘interview’ format. You can even interview them over Zoom and use the film recording, audio or transcript across multiple platforms.
- Engage with internal teams: Enlist the support of internal teams, such as marketing, sales, or customer success, to assist in gathering client stories. These teams can help identify suitable clients, conduct interviews, or provide relevant data and metrics. When I worked on Pitcher Partners' brand refresh, the marketing and internal comms teams worked together to produce a storytelling campaign around 'Making Careers Personal'. We each used the content on different channels, for different purposes. Not only was it a time-saver, but the Pitcher Partners' brand ethos felt aligned internally and externally because of our collaboration!
- Outsource or collaborate with content creators: If internal resources are limited, consider outsourcing content creation or collaborating with freelance writers, designers, or videographers. Leverage their expertise to create high-quality client stories while reducing the burden on your internal team. To create my own client stories film, I was lucky enough to secure help from a comms intern at Monash Uni. If you don't have a big budget, get creative to produce your client success stories!
Client stories and overcoming confidentiality concerns
Fear: I might reveal too much!
In certain industries or situations, you may have strict confidentiality agreements with your clients, preventing you from sharing specific details or success stories. It makes sense that you might be cautious about revealing sensitive information that could compromise your clients' privacy and consequently, your reputation as a trusted partner. Law firms and health providers are all too familiar with this! You may also be concerned about sharing too much information with competitors about your unique strategies or processes. Overcome confidentiality concerns with the following strategies:
- Build strong relationships with clients: By fostering trust and open communication, you may find that clients are more willing to participate in client stories, having confidence that their interests and confidentiality will be respected.
- Seek client consent and establish clear agreements: Before featuring a client in a story, obtain their explicit consent and clearly define the scope and extent of information that will be shared. Establish a formal agreement or release that outlines how their confidentiality will be protected and what aspects of their experience will be discussed.
- Focus on anonymised or generalised stories: Remove any identifying information or sensitive details that could compromise confidentiality while still highlighting the key benefits or outcomes achieved.
- Seek shorter insights such as testimonials: Instead of detailed client stories, you can seek testimonials or endorsements that highlight the positive experiences of your clients. Ensure compliance with legal regulations and guidelines when using client endorsements, and make sure they accurately represent the client's opinion and experience.
- Consider using case studies from public sources: In some cases, you might find publicly available information about your clients' successes that can be used as case studies. By relying on information already in the public domain, you can mitigate confidentiality concerns.
- Emphasise the positive outcomes, achievements, and impact of working with the client without disclosing proprietary information: Focus on broader metrics, such as percentage improvements, increased efficiency, or customer satisfaction, rather than revealing specific tactics or trade secrets.
Confidentiality hack for client stories
Still not convinced you'll protect your IP and client confidentiality? Try this alternative to client stories:
Highlight client logos: If detailed stories cannot be shared, you may still be able to link your business to clients or partners by using their logos. This can help build credibility and trust among potential customers without violating confidentiality agreements. Just make sure you seek approval before uploading the logos to your website or social channels.
Client stories and overcoming objectionable reviews
Fear: I’m worried someone might say something bad about our business!
Not all client experiences are positive. If you’ve had negative encounters or unsatisfied clients you may be reluctant to start digging up client stories in case something less than glowing emerges. You don’t want to harm your reputation or put off potential customers. But while it's essential to address negative experiences, focusing on positive client stories can help build trust, showcase your expertise, and increase your confidence about the great work you do. To find your very best client success stories:
- Select clients strategically: Choose clients who have had positive experiences and achieved successful outcomes with your products or services. Conduct a thorough assessment of the client's satisfaction and success before considering them for a client story.
- Conduct thorough interviews and evaluations: Conduct in-depth interviews or evaluations to gauge each client’s satisfaction level. Understand their pain points, challenges, and how your business helped them overcome those obstacles. By carefully evaluating clients' experiences, you can filter out those with potentially negative stories.
- Focus on problem-solving and solutions: Frame client stories around the solutions your business provided rather than dwelling on negative experiences. Highlight how your products or services addressed specific challenges, improved processes, or helped achieve desired outcomes.
- Request client input and approval: Involve clients in the creation process of their stories. Share drafts with them and seek their feedback and approval. This ensures that the final story accurately represents their positive experiences and perspectives.
- Showcase a variety of experiences: Instead of relying solely on individual client stories, consider presenting a range of client experiences. Highlight success stories from different industries, sizes of businesses, or use cases. This approach demonstrates that your products or services have a broader positive impact.
Hack to deal with possible objections in client stories
Still nervous about what might be dug up through a client story process? Here's an alternative approach:
Use testimonials instead of stories: If client stories are not feasible because of past negative experiences for your business, use testimonials or endorsements from satisfied clients instead. Short quotes or snippets that highlight positive feedback can still be valuable in building credibility and trust with potential customers.
A final word on facing your client story fears
Your clients and their stories are your unique resource for differentiating yourself from competitors. The tips shared here not only address common barriers to getting started (or staying consistent) with client stories, but represent best practice for every business whatever their stage.
I like to think of good client stories as a vibrant neon sign illuminating your brand values, attracting attention and leaving a lasting impression. Don’t let fears or misconceptions hold you back. Once you have your systems and processes set up, all you need to do is press the on-switch and watch as the goodwill about your business lights up future clients and customers!
Still not sure about client stories? I’m happy to write them for you, or take you and your team through a half-day coaching call that will equip you to write them yourself.