Everybody wants a success story. Including me. In fact, I love to win. And these are some of my favorite success stories:
Cliff’s Excellent Adventure
Sometimes, just being who you are is enough. You simply have to be willing to accept that AND have the guts to communicate it. That’s what happened with a software developer that was well entrenched in their market but had seen sales slip by about 30%.
There wasn’t much difference between their software in their competitors’ in terms of features. There never really is, to be honest, is there? But they had built a great business on word-of-mouth because their software was simple and easy to use. Then they added great customer service after competitors caught up with them and some even passed them, as least in terms of bells and whistles.
The story we uncovered was. . .them — who they are — a fun and often funny band of software geeks who really truly have your back when you buy their software.
We “unleashed onto the world” who they really are. You could see it in their website, where we invested a third of the home page to talk about “We understand what a burden going back to school can be”.
You could see it in their customer newsletters that, if we were a week late in sending one, we got emails from customers asking where it was. Seriously, a newsletter?? A frigging NEWSLETTER. I can barely utter the word. Except, come to think about it, we are responsible for some pretty good newsletters.
The identify of the newsletter author has been hidden to protect the brilliant mind behind the voice of their newsletter!! I can only take credit for getting them to COMMIT to it and build a broad customer engagement campaign around it.
And, customer engagement blossomed.
Our campaign goal: make customers smile at least once a month, and (small detail!!) to provide the finest customer service on the planet. They killed it on customer service. And we are pretty good at getting smiles, which turn into word of mouth. Which is important when your software product is sold in the classroom by students telling other students.
People, I’m telling you, story is powerful – – it’s badass!
A Patent’s Story
Jim was a newly minted Harvard MBA leading his second start up when he found himself in uncharted waters: sales had slowed. The company manufactured silicon wafer carriers and sold to process engineers inside the giant fabs that crank out chips. Their story: a patented manufacturing process that allows them to build short-runs of custom carriers at volume prices. And, while, as you know, price usually is not a very powerful component of any story, in this case, it was.
Their price story was buried in another five or six major benefits which, regrettably, had them sounding just like their competitors. This is one of the simplest, most straightforward success stories ever. The change: they started (AND finished!) every web page, brochure, sales conversation and email with “custom short run manufacturing at volume prices”. And sales resumed their steep climb.
Jim built custom handmade furniture in Santa Fe, New Mexico simply because he enjoyed making beautiful things. He was a true artist, craftsman and musician. However, his furniture was similar in style and quality to three better established, more visible furniture makers in the area.
His goal was to express harmony through his furniture, which started with where he put his workshop: about two miles outside of town on a beautiful bluff that looked out over the San de Christo Mountains and the largest stand of aspen trees in North America. It was truly a magnificent place to work, but not so convenient for your main customer base of tourists. If you’ve been to Santa Fe you know everything happens around The Plaza. Which, as you may have guessed, was also where his three competitors had their showrooms.
All the Santa Fe furniture makers had beautiful furniture. But we had Jim. Jim was the story. His furniture was a direct reflection of him.
So, that’s the story we told. With a single ad, and with his best/worst workshop location. Customers fell in love with Jim, and with his furniture as a result. And Jim and his merry band of craftsmen were able to build as much furniture as they could handle, and enjoy the view outside their workshop!
Jennifer started as a clerk in a hospital business office. She grew up frugal, so finding ways to save money and become more efficient came naturally. And promotions followed until she was the business office manager.
Along the way she identified one area that was costing the hospital a few hundred thousand dollars each year in uncollected out-of-state Medicaid claims. Not because they wouldn’t pay, but because the hospital wasn’t familiar with that particular states’ claims filing requirements. File the claim properly, get paid. Except every state’s requirements are different.
Jennifer went to hospital administration with a proposal to solve this and they said no. So she quit, learned all 50 states’ claim processing requirements and started offering a service to process these claims. They guaranteed their work and produced “found money” for hospitals at no risk or expense. Brilliant really.
Five years later she had over hundred client hospitals. Life was good, except she couldn’t grow faster than her word-of-mouth took them. That’s when she hired me.
We basically told the story I just told you to prospective business office managers across the country.
Before that it was charts and graphs and ROI and percentages of revenue and blah, blah, blah. After we started telling her story things happened quickly. In 24 months they brought on 400+ new client hospitals. The biggest thing that changed was her story. . .and their sales.