Credibility can not be bought – it must be earned. When you’re building your startup or small business and trying to attract new clients, one of the ways people will judge your credibility is by looking at the customers you already have, writes PR expert and cofounder of Media-wize, Kathryn Van Kuyk.
This is why having happy customers is so important. Having customers that will advocate for you and be identified as your customer is one of the most valuable assets your business can have.
A happy customer is the best PR
Customers that allow themselves to be identified with your business give others confidence that you can deliver on your promises. From a PR perspective, there are several different ways you can leverage customers to assist in building your reputation and gaining media coverage.
Have a win? Let the world know
When you secure a high profile client, one that you think the market will take particular notice of, making an announcement about the customer win is a great way to highlight your success. The customer also benefits as they are mentioned and they share in the positive PR, across traditional and social media. Having a list of high-profile customers on your website and marketing collateral is immensely powerful.
For example, if you’re a software vendor and your client has been able to do things faster, easier, cheaper or better as a result of using your solutions, then talking about the benefits they’ve received boost your credibility. If you’re a services business and a customer has been able to leverage your expertise to do things they couldn’t before, then their success will be reflected on you.
How to leverage customer success stories
PR programs can leverage customers in a variety of ways, from just being able to name the customer, to win and momentum announcements and customer success stories.
Customer success stories – we used to call them case studies one upon a time ago – provide a more detailed account of what the customer has gained from their association with you. They can be used for your website and marketing collateral and, if the customer is willing to speak to a journalist, they can be pitched as a story idea. The focus here is on what the customer has achieved and highlighting key metrics. It is far more powerful to have a happy customer tell a journalist how you helped their business, compared to you saying how wonderful you are.
Getting a customer’s permission to mention them and use them in your own marketing and PR can be difficult. But you can incentivise your customers by highlighting the value to them that the story is about their success. It’s a chance for them to tell the market how they are doing things differently or innovatively.
Make it a partnership
One way you can incentivise customers is to include joint PR in your initial agreement. Perhaps offer a discount if they agree to be involved. This can emphasise that your work with them is a relationship rather than just a transaction.
Startups can fall into the trap of thinking they shouldn’t name their customers as they fear this will give competitors an advantage. This thinking is flawed, especially if you want to attract more customers and encourage journalists to write about your business. Journalists are looking for proof points and one crucial way they measure whether they should be interested in what you tout, is by being able to name customers in different market segments. Failure to do so can and does jeopardise coverage.
Startups hoping to grow fast, perhaps become the next unicorn or ASX listed company, need to build a comprehensive list of customers. If you take a look at any successful company, you’ll find extensive customer lists, stories, videos and case studies on their website, easily accessible that demonstrate their leading market presence and track record of successful work.
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