You’ve heard so much about inbound marketing and the need to produce content that I’m guessing you’re probably blogging, curating, aggregating, and filtering all manner of content. But there’s one type of content that you may not be focused on, and I happen to think it’s some of the most potent to be had -- and that’s community-generated content.
Your customers, partners, vendors, advisers, and suppliers -- you know, the people that already know, like and trust you -- are more equipped to tell the real story of your business than an army of writers in any marketing department. So why not engage them to do just that?
Imagine taking your best, most loyal, most vocal community members with you on your next sales call and asking them to simply explain the real benefits they’ve realized because of the work you’ve done with them. That’s the power of customer-generated content when done right, and that’s why you need to routinely find ways to acquire it.
But how do you actually do it? Below are five ideas to help you get your customers to tell and share incredible stories that will help to fuel your user-generated content engine.
1) Create a One-Question Testimonial
Create a survey that asks every customer just one question -- "On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that you would refer us?"
Now, set the survey up so that if the answer is 1-4, the survey-taker is redirected to a page that apologizes and sets the expectation that they will hear from someone immediately to find out what went wrong. If it’s a 5-7, send the customer to a page that says, you’re not happy until they're happier, and ask them to suggest how you could have done better. For the 8-10 answers, redirect them to a form that allows them to submit a testimonial and ask them to check a box if they would agree to be interviewed for a case study.
This is a great way to automate testimonial generation and keep a real-time pulse on how you’re doing. I use Wufoo forms to run this process, but I’ve heard good things about Formstack as well.
2) Host a Video Appreciation Party
This is such a great way to get lots of great video content.
Once a year or so, hold a client appreciation event to say thanks and create a networking event for your clients and prospects. Hire a video crew for the event and ask some of your clients to talk about their experience with your business on camera. For some people, you might want to wait until a few bottles of wine have been emptied, too ;-) Then let them record a five-minute commercial for their own use, too.
This is a great way to get lots of testimonials and case studies in one day, and your clients will get very engaged in swapping stories and selling each other on the benefits of working with you.
3) Ask Customers to Tell Their Story
Getting your customers to share their experience is a very powerful form of content. You can sit across the desk and interview your customers in order to extract this kind of content, or you can employ a handful of tools that make it very easy to capture these stories.
For audio-only content, a testimonial recording line from AudioAcrobat is a great way to go. You simply provide your customer with a phone number that they can call and record their story. The service then produces an MP3 and code to embed on your site for people to play the recordings.
You can also use a tool like MailVu that allows you send a link with a video capture tool so your clients with a web cam can record a video testimonial or story and submit it with little work on your part.
4) Establish a Community Knowledge Base
What if you could find a way to get your best customers to willingly shoulder creating answers to questions and best practices? Tools like ZenDesk and GetSatisfaction make it easy for you to enable community members to provide help and archived advice to other customers and prospects.
Robin Robins, founder of Marketing Technology Toolkit in Nashville, TN, involves her customer community in an incredible way. She has created a membership program that allows her mostly IT business customers to receive ongoing business-building support through coaching, training, and tools she provides.
She has created what she calls “accountability groups” in the membership program, and customers head up these groups and do a great deal of work keeping participants engaged and on track. Heading up these groups is not a paid position; loyal and committed customers that want to play a bigger role in the community do it.
5) Help Your Peers
Using a tool like Google+ Hangouts, Skype Video Conference, or GoToMeeting Video Conference, you can easily host and facilitate a group video conference where your customers and their peers can discuss important industry and business challenges and trends. You can record and archive the event and create some very useful and engaging content.
This is not a sales event, but by virtue of the fact that you have included customers in the conversation, there will be the inevitable discussions about what you’ve done to help them address a challenge. Record it all and you’ve got some powerful content.
Creating opportunities to capture the stories your clients and other community members have to tell is an important piece in any fully developed content strategy.
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author. The ideas in this post are drawn from his most recent work -- The Commitment Engine – Making Work Worth It. Find more information at www.makingworkworthit.com.