In this post, I’ll give you the tools to write customer success stories that generate local government leads and accelerate deals. Done well, success stories are a great way of building awareness and interest in your solutions while educating prospects. Done poorly, they’re long-winded self promotions.
Make Customers the Heroes
Many companies put their product or service in the spotlight. This is a mistake. Prospects identify with your customer who is overcoming obstacles and ultimately achieving successes. They’ll run toward the promise of transformation and run away from feature lists and puffery. Make the customer the hero of their story and position yourself as their experienced, indispensable guide. Think Luke Skywalker and Yoda.
Take Prospects on a Three Act Journey
Adopt a three act structure to tell your customer’s story. This technique is useful for any kind of writing and was described by playwright William Goldman as “the fundamental building block of Western literature.” The three-act structure splits up a story into a beginning , a middle, and an end. If you look at any successful story, the three act structure is easy to spot.
Act One: Set the Scene
Act one sets the scene and introduces your audience to the cast of characters. This act teaches us about the hero’s motivations so we can understand what makes them tick by showing how they react in certain situations.
Act Two: Create Conflict
Act two pits the hero against an obstacle that leads to conflict. We’re then taken on a journey as the hero strives over and over again to prevail.
Act Three: Overcome Adversity
Finally in act three, we see how your customer either succeeds in their quest, the part your company played, and what lessons were learned along the way. The story ends with a moral that should be both timeless and universal so anyone can relate to its message.
Develop a Repeatable Process
Customer success stories were essential to my lead generation efforts at SeeClickFix, CivicPlus, and Comcate. So much so, that I developed the following process to make them easier and faster to write while still being effective.
- Find the customer successes
- Develop an interview guide
- Conduct the interview
- Edit and publish the story
- Identify Target Accounts and Prospects
- Personalize Your Messaging
1. Find the Customer Successes
The first set of customer success candidates comes from new customer launches. I would keep track of go-live dates and set reminders for myself to check-in with the assigned customer success representatives 6-9 months post-launch. If things were going well, I’d schedule an interview with our customer cheerleader.
The second set of candidates came from customer success reps who come across extraordinary and innovative use cases in their everyday dealings with customers. I relied on launches and hoped for the rest.
2. Develop an Interview Guide
The following set of questions are formulated to set the stage, present the goals and barriers to success, and show how the customer ultimately prevailed using my solution.
*Substitute “Acme” for your company’s name
- What’s your community’s claim to fame?
- What problem was your agency trying to solve when it came to Acme?
- What did you try in the past to solve this problem?
- What worked? What didn’t? And why?
- What prompted your agency to act NOW?
- What was your selection process like?
- What other solutions did you consider?
- How did you hear about Acme?
- Who else was a part of your selection committee?
- What did the individual stakeholders care about?
- Why was Acme chosen?
- How did the organization budget for Acme?
- How will you measure success? What are your key performance indicators?
- In a year’s time, what will need to be true for you to renew your Acme contract?
- How did your implementation / onboarding go?
- What difference has Acme made for your agency? For staff? For residents?
- What advice do you have for others?
- What didn’t I ask that I should have?
3. Conduct the Interview
I allotted one hour for interviews and regularly wrapped up within 30 minutes. I used the online scheduling tool calendly.com to make it easier for interviewees to book a time that’s convenient for them while eliminating the back and forth often associated with meeting scheduling.
I conducted all meetings via a recorded Zoom session. Each time I make it clear to the interviewee that the recording was for reference purposes only and added that the video would not be released. I asked their permission to record and everyone agreed. I also made a special effort not to talk over interviewees. It made the interview easier to transcribe and it’s just good manners 😉.
4. Edit and Publish the Story
Once the interview was done, I uploaded the audio file to Temi, an affordable automated speech to text service. From there, I cleaned up the transcription removing filler “umms” while being careful to retain the interviewee’s voice.
Next, I wrote an introduction to set the stage and hook the reader. The hook is the first sentence of an article that grabs the reader’s attention and sparks their interest in reading more. I always included language that made it clear what was in it for the reader and why they should care.
The balance of the piece took on a Q&A format that kept to the three act structure. I was out to make the local government shine while getting across my company’s supporting role. I also edited out any gripes or frustrations that the interviewee shared about their organization. These were shared in confidence and should not be included.
5. Identify Target Accounts and Prospects
Local government decision-makers care most about what their neighbors are doing. Once I was ready to promote the success story, I’d perform a 25 mile radius search around the community to identify target accounts. Tools like ezlocal.com and Power Almanac make this a snap. Power Almanac goes one step further by providing categories of key decision-makers along with their contact information.
In this example, I was promoting Code Enforcement software, and because local gov procurement is a team sport, I chose the following roles: Head of Economic Development, Head of IT, Head Clerk, Police Chief/Sheriff, Head Building Official, Top Appointed Executive, Top Elected Official, and Governing Board Members.
This “local” search returned 12 local governments and 82 decision-makers with email addresses. When I reset the search and went nationwide for the same set of roles, the system returned 21,474 local governments and 161,665 decision-makers. 11 powerful filters allowed me to home in on my target audience.
6. Personalize Your Messaging
Marketing and Sales automation tools make it easy to merge contact information into your email messages. Not only does it make your prospect feel like you’re speaking directly to them it also helps to keep you out of spam filters because no two emails are exactly alike. Pro tip: I send two versions of the email. One for the 25 mile radius prospects and another to the nationwide audience. The “local” email capitalizes on the customer’s name to grab the reader’s attention while the nationwide email leads with the problem being solved. Learn more here: Your CRM is Costing You Local Gov Leads – Here’s How to Fix It.
Write Customer Success Stories that Convert
As you can see, customer success stories are a powerful tool for selling to local governments. They help generate leads and present proof that your solution does what it claims to do. The key is to make your customers the hero of their stories. And remember, local gov decision-makers care most about how their neighboring communities solve problems. Tap into that and you’ll grab their attention.