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Will Customers Nominate Themselves as Stories?

Toyota Motor Sales gather owners' stories and gets usage permission through an online form

If asked, will customers submit themselves as possible case study or success story candidates? 

From consumer-products companies to B2B to nonprofit organizations, many now actively solicit stories with self-service “Share Your Story” links on their Web sites. Apple created a link for this soon after the release of its wildly popular iPhone. FileMaker software includes a link to “Tell us your story.”

Girl Scouts of the USA asks former members to share their experiences for its alumnae program. And Toyota Motor Sales gather owners' stories and gets usage permission through an online form. Does customer self-nomination actually work? Sometimes.

I know it's worked extremely well for Toyota, which has tons of customer experiences on its site. But some B2B companies have tried the approach with hardly any submissions to speak of. Are consumers willing to submit themselves more readily than business candidates? Perhaps. Fortunately, it's something that's pretty cheap to try for while, and pull if it doesn't generate any great story candidates. Self-Service Story Options.

You have a few different options for information that comes through “Share Your Story” links on your website: Collect names and customer interest, and then follow up to get the complete story. Create a web form that asks for more detail.

Then run stories as first-person customer accounts basically verbatim - like extended testimonials. Check for typos, etc. before publishing online. Create third-person, professionally written stories from answers that customers provide on a web form. Be sure to let customers know how stories will be used, and the positive benefits of being featured. If you choose to run stories based strictly on customer-submitted information, you'll need a way for customers to indicate their permission as they type in their experiences.

Toyota has a check box that handles this. You may also want a way for customers to upload a photo of themselves, if applicable. In general, but not always, first person (I, we) stories seem most appropriate for consumer companies while third person (he, she, they) works best for B2B. To decide the best approach for your company, consider your audience, and maintenance and cost considerations. Have you tried a web form? If so, share your experience in the comments. Want more tips for managing your case studies?

Join me Sept. 29 for the online course, The Customer Won’t Sign Off! and other Pitfalls: The Case Study Manager’s Crash Course.

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More Stories By Casey Hibbard

Casey Hibbard is the founder and president of Compelling Cases, Inc. and author of "Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset." She has helped dozens of companies create and manage nearly 500 customer case studies and success stories over the past decade. Casey is featured in numerous books, articles, and teleclasses. She consults with organizations one-on-one and conducts online customer-story classes.