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Marketing & Storytelling – Writing the Best Case Studies. Ever.

When she checked in at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, she couldn’t believe she had forgotten her shoes back home! The guest called the online shoe store where she had purchased them and her luck didn’t get better. The online retailer didn’t have the shoe in her size. The online retailer’s customer service team then did something amazing: A member of the team got in his car, went to the local mall and found and purchased the shoes for the customer. The retailer then shipped the shoes straight to the Mandalay Bay hotel – at no charge to the customer. How powerful is a story? There are hundreds of online shoe retailers, but I’ll bet you a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor high tops that you knew the retailer in this story could only be Zappos. If you didn’t know it was Zappos, what do you now know about Zappos from the story?
  • You know they’re an online shoe store that also accepts orders by phone.
  • You know they’ll deliver to you anywhere.
  • You know they’re fanatical about customer service, even when if it means the shirt off their backs –or a free pair of shoes from the local mall.
  • You know that if they had just posted those three statements in bold on an ad, nobody would be talking about it years later and few would have paid attention.
Stories not only pique our interest, they also sneak-in information. When we need to teach something that is important to us at our human core like morals, family, religion and kindness, we use stories. We use fables from children’s books and we use family histories that have been passed down from generations. When something is really important, PowerPoint bullets are the last thing you reach for. Your business is important. Your business is worth your sharing the stories that show its values, morals, commitments and ability to help your customers conquer mountains, slay dragons and increase sales by 600%. First, we’ll take the corporate storyteller’s oath: “I will always be truthful. I will never be bombastic. My customer is a hero I’m proud to have helped.” Four Steps NOT to Miss in your Case Study – Especially ‘That Thing’ You’re Trying to Avoid Whether it’s the story of a happy Zappos customer or the hottest summer blockbuster, great stories need a few basic elements to get an audience to the edge of their seats. The most impactful one, the one that will help you most, is the one you’ve been trying to hide since the day you’ve opened. Characters Usually this is your customer and you. Who plays the lead role? We gravitate to stories about people like us. Your potential customers are no different. You aren’t the star, the customer you helped is. Your product or service was just the tool they used to be victorious. Be the ‘got your back’ gadgetry of James Bond, the empowering suit of Iron Man or be the magical connector of mailbox in The Lake House. Be the legendary Excalibur! It’s OK to not be the hero when you’re the enabling force. You never see a villain going for Tony Stark’s tennis shoes, do you? Iron Man v. Dr. Used Shoe? Not a hit. Complication There are two levels of complication. There’s the reason for the story, and there’s the journey to conquering it. In business we tend to focus 99% of our energy on the high level. “Customer Co. needed to accomplish a 600% growth in widget sales, and we did. We’re awesome.” In focusing on the high level we lose our brands in this pared-down, ‘CliffsNotes,’ bullet-point version of our customer’s success. The story isn’t that we slayed a dragon, it’s how. If Superman kills General Zod in the first 10 minutes of the movie with a well-placed heat vision blast followed by the film credits rolling, you’d demand your money back. Resolution Process Zod was a pretty big deal, and so are your customers’ problems. You didn’t ‘get it’ on the first try, but that’s OK because neither did Superman, Iron Man, Hercules, Romeo, Dante, Cyrano, Mulan, Alladin and every single hero you can name from any story ever to have been shared and remembered. What makes Hercules mighty isn’t just the ‘glad’ in ‘gladiator,’ but that he conquered every adversity thrown at him. What made House M.D. such a great diagnostician to watch was that he always handled the curveball symptoms to eventually get the right diagnosis and treatment. What makes the Zappos story so great? They conquered the complication that they didn’t have an item in stock by thinking creatively. “Customer Co. needed to accomplish a 600% growth in widget sales. We began working with their advertising team on a new campaign when we discovered that there were some product features that didn’t work in a customer-friendly way.” To show that you can conquer adversity means acknowledging that you get thrown some curveballs, but it goes a long way in crafting a story that is as memorable as it is confidence building. Closure In closure, your ‘a-ha!’ moment finally saves the day. “We began working with the Customer Co. engineering teams to help make the product more customer-focused and sales increased by 600% that year.” The Compendium Everything and every brand have a story. Embracing the concept of storytelling can help make your past experience more engaging to share, but it can also transform your culture for future endeavors. You’re more than a team and more than a brand – you’re a well-defined character just as Zappos has become. I’ll bet a second pair of Converse Chuck Taylor high tops that the Zappos Customer Loyalty Team asks themselves ‘what would Zappos do?’ when helping customers. The response is loaded with amazing customer service stories, and the results constantly build on those successes right on up to this past December’s 10-hour-long Zappos customer service call. Let your brand’s stories inspire your potential customers as much as they’ll inspire you. Need help discovering your brand’s story? Give us a call and maybe we can help you start writing the next chapter.   Photo Credit: Aesops Fables from Liz West
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