Authentic customer content builds trust

One of the most difficult problems with today’s sophisticated cyber threats is that they are getting really good at mimicking the behavior of authentic users. Because of the sheer volume and velocity of such threats, enterprise defenders are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence technologies to ferret out malicious behavior. Their behavioral algorithms are fast, tireless, and increasingly accurate. But what still eludes them is something we all take for granted: intuition.

In the real human world, intuition tells us something is “off” in a person’s behavior, even if we can’t articulate exactly what that something is. Once we’re wary of someone, we disbelieve whatever they say. If that person is trying to sell us something, they’re going to have to work hard to overcome our distrust.

Trust is really important, and prospective customers (both B2C and B2B) have honed a keen Spidey-sense for BS. Which is why content marketing pundits have been talking a lot about authenticity in storytelling.

Are we storytelling or storyselling?

But how many content producers live up to the authenticity standard? It’s easy enough to steer away from gross hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims. But how many enthusiastic marketers can resist putting their messages into customers’ mouths?

When satisfied customers agree to participate in a testimonial video or case study, you’ve got a lot of goodwill on the line. Some customers understand they’re being roped into a thinly veiled sales pitch, and they play along. It’s good for the customer-vendor relationship; it might even be good for their careers.

Other customers take the term “case study” or “customer success story” more seriously. They want to share what they’ve done and why they chose the vendor. But asking them to parrot vendor product positioning statements or to project compelling ROI numbers as a result of a technology deployment can make them uncomfortable.

That doesn’t mean that a story without quantified benefits or one that doesn’t explicitly validate your marketing claims isn’t worth telling. In a recent blog post, Content Marketing Institute’s Stephanie Stahl relayed the advice of Vidyard’s Tyler Lessard to steer away from sales pitches when producing videos about customer successes. Lessard speaks of “unlocking the stories” of key customers and “how they’re seeing success.”

Defending authenticity in your customer stories may seem like an uphill battle, especially when the ROI on content is so tricky to measure. But because your content targets humans (SEO considerations notwithstanding), it stands to reason that building human trust should be its main objective. With deepfakes, bots, and algorithms delivering much of what passes for truth today, it’s the least we can do.

Author

Tami Demayo

Published

January 20, 2021
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