How to Write a Perfect Customer Success Story

by Katy French

In case you haven’t heard, Best Story Wins is the new Column Five podcast for marketing and branding professionals looking to unlock their growth potential. Each episode features a conversation with industry leaders about how they win the hearts and minds of their customers and build world-class brands. For our premiere episode, we chatted with Bryan Saftler, Director of Product Marketing – Communications, Media & Entertainment Industries at Databricks. As a marketer, he uses the power of story to connect with his audience. But in our conversation he reminded us of the one key mistake marketers often make: They forget that the customer is the hero. Saftler’s advice? Instead of telling stories centered on your brand, tell customer success stories—and weave your brand into them. 

“In a B2B business, the most important thing you can have is customer stories. Because I could tell you six ways from Sunday how my product is better. The first thing someone’s going to ask you is, ‘Who’s doing it?”
—Bryan Saftler, Databricks Director of Product Marketing – Communications, Media & Entertainment Industries

Of course, there is an art to creating a good customer success story (aka case study), and there’s a reason some are more effective than others. Today we’re breaking down Saftler’s tips to make sure your customer stories tell are interesting and engaging. 

4 Steps to Tell a Great Customer Success Story

You don’t simply want to recite what you did for a customer; you want to shape the information into an interesting narrative with a compelling payoff. (This is what hooks your audience and gives them the hope that you can do the same thing for them.) To do this effectively, here are the four key elements you need to nail. 

1) Identify the customer’s problem.

The first step in writing a great customer success story is to identify the customer’s problem. You need to address the challenges they were facing before they discovered your product or service. What was the pain point that led them to search for a solution? What were they struggling with? What had they tried? How was this challenge impacting their business?

Remember: You are setting the stage for a transformative before and after in your customer success story. You want your audience to understand what they were going through and even empathize with the customer (as your audience is likely facing a similar problem).

Example: When the Dropbox team struggled to attract passionate and creative engineers (thanks to a competitive hiring market), they knew they needed the right strategy to find the perfect candidates. Hence, they reached out to Column Five to help them stand out in their field.  

2) Explain why the customer chose you.

There’s a reason you are the brand to work with. It’s likely that your customer did their research and weighed their options but decided to go with your product or service for a specific reason. What made you stand out from your competitors? What features or benefits did they find most appealing? What made them think you were the right choice? 

You may not always know this backstory. If so, ask the customer about their decision-making process. What factors did they consider when evaluating different options? What were their priorities and criteria for selecting a solution? What made you memorable? 

Example: Dropbox knew they needed to stand out in the marketplace. They reached out to us to create a compelling recruiting video because they knew we were expert visual storytellers with a proven track record of helping B2B (specifically SaaS) brands tell their stories across channels. 

3) Share what you did to solve the problem.

This is the meat and potatoes of your customer success story. How did you save the day? What steps did you take? What creative approach did you use? What strategic thinking went into the solution? 

Remember to emphasize the problem they were originally facing so that your solution appears that much stronger. You should also reference those selling points that made your customer choose you in the first place. Explain the specific features and functionalities of your product or service. Describe any customization or modifications you made to ensure the solution was tailored to their specific needs. Share the strategy behind your approach.

Make sure to highlight any challenges or obstacles you faced during the process (and how you overcame them). This will emphasize your expertise, problem-solving skills, and ability to collaborate—something everyone wants in a brand partner.

Example: To generate a sense of excitement, we wanted to tell the real story of what Dropbox does. It’s not just a place where engineers work on a file-sharing platform; it’s a place where they can turn their ideas into reality, make an impact, and build future-focused products that help people around the world. To tell this story through motion, we used colorful animation, upbeat music, and an energizing script. This made the video stand out, particularly compared to the more boring brands in the B2B space. The result was a recruiting piece that was more than a message; it was a true invitation to join this exciting work.

4) Highlight the impact on the business.

This is the final step of a great customer success story. It is the most powerful part—and can also be the most challenging. If you can clearly highlight the impact your solution had on the customer’s business, you’ll nail the landing with your audience. 

Ideally, you want to quantify your results and demonstrate the value of your product or service. What outcomes did they experience? What metrics did they use to measure success? How did their business performance improve as a result of your solution? Use hard numbers wherever possible to support your claims.

We know firsthand that this can be challenging, as customers go dark or you sometimes need more time to gather meaningful data. But supporting data is always worth the wait.

Remember: The more evidence you present, the stronger your story will be. 

Example: We’re happy to say the recruiting video we produced for Dropbox was a great success, helping them hit—and exceed—their core goals, including 275,000+ video views (0:20 or longer), 3,449,022 ad impressions ($8.63 CPM), and a 20.48% average view-through rate. Even better, although Dropbox initially contracted us to produce a single video for recruiting engineers, they were so impressed with the end result that they decided to turn this theme into a year-long campaign to support their overarching recruitment strategy.

How to Ensure You Always Have Stories to Tell

No matter your brand, industry, or audience, coming up with a steady stream of compelling marketing stories is always a challenge. If you need more inspiration to keep your feed fresh…

And, most importantly, find the right support to help you bring your marketing strategy to life. If you’re on the hunt for a strong partner, see our tips to choose the right agency, take a look at our FAQs to find out what it’s like to work with us, or reach out directly. We’d love to make you our next customer success story. 

Want more great tips? Watch Bryan’s full episode of Best Story Wins on YouTube.

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