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You’ve heard it before and we’ll say it again: It’s more cost-efficient to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new customers. This statement pops up during every conversation about customer retention for one simple reason— it’s true.

Every day, your customers are bombarded with corporate promotions and marketing messages, from both familiar and unfamiliar brands. It’s become increasingly difficult to retain customers when they have so many other available options at their fingertips.

Retaining customers takes more than just high-quality products and a smooth user experience. Customers buy — and continue to buy —  from brands they’re emotionally connected to. Consider these statistics:

  • 70% of emotionally engaged consumers spend up to two times more on brands they are loyal to (source).
  • Consumers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value, stay with a brand for an average of 5.1 years (compared to 3.4 years), and will recommend brands at a rate of 71% (source).
  • 86% of consumers with an emotional connection to a brand say they always think of that brand when they need something (source).

So the question is, how do brands create emotional connections with their customers? While there’s not one simple answer, there is one method that stands head and shoulders above the rest: storytelling. 

Perhaps you’re already well-versed in brand storytelling, or maybe you’re scratching your head and wondering how stories can help you retain customers. Either way, today’s blog post is for you. 

1. Tell your customer’s story.

Think about the stories you connect with on an emotional level, whether it’s a fictional novel or a documentary. It’s likely that you connect with the story because you relate to the characters — and the same concept applies to brand storytelling. Elicit an emotional response by making your customers the hero of your stories, or by giving them a hero they can relate to.

Start by considering your ideal customer’s needs and pain points. Why would they buy a product you sell? What problem do they need to solve? Then, create content that illustrates these needs and pain points through a narrative.

Example:

Pretend your company sells gym apparel— which means you have a lot of competitors. But, your brand alleviates major pain point shared by many fitness enthusiasts– big-name brand retailers sell the highest quality workout clothes, but they’re ridiculously overpriced.

You create a video advertisement featuring a man and woman shopping for workout clothes online. They each find the clothes they’re looking for, and then they both sigh in disappointment when they see the price tag. They buy some cheap alternatives at a department store instead, but the clothes fit awkwardly and tear at the seams. But, their frustration disappears when they discover your website, which offers high-quality workout clothes at affordable prices. This example works because most fitness junkies can relate to the woes faced by the main characters.

Now, let’s take this example one step further. You create the same video but slightly alter the storyline. Instead of both individuals discovering your high-quality, affordable apparel at exactly the same time, one of your characters asks the other about a flashy new jacket. The jacket owner then mentions your brand and your great prices to the excitement of his or her companion. 

This second storyline is more effective because your brand is no longer the hero of the tale, the customer is. Viewers will see the benefits of your brand as two-fold— the first being your affordable clothing and the second being the social status that comes with having and introducing a group to the next cool thing.

Yes, these kinds of stories will hopefully capture the attention of new customers. But they also show existing customers that your brand understands their problems. This comfort of feeling understood sticks with a customer, and it will drive elevated levels of brand loyalty causing customers to continue shopping with your company.

2. Create a happy ending to your stories.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Our previous point examined the “beginning” of your customer’s story — the problem or need that has driven them to buy something. But brands can also increase customer retention by enabling customers to visualize a satisfying conclusion.

Your customers know what your products do. They know what tangible objectives they can achieve by purchasing them. But, storytelling can portray a more personal, emotional resolution. And if this resolution aligns with what your customers want for themselves, they will be encouraged to buy from you again and again.

Let’s look at another example— this time, pretend you operate an online store that sells home improvement supplies. If you only focus on the tangible purposes and use cases of your products, your brand will be no different than all the other stores that sell tools and appliances.

But let’s say, instead, you use your website to tell a story. Customers visit your site and see images of people in the process of fixing up their homes. You complement these with images of happy families marveling at the finished products — the remodeled kitchens, the new floors, etc. You illustrate the ways in which these “new” homes have improved the lives of everyday people, and it’s all because of the tools you sell.

Keep in mind: when you tell stories for the purpose of retaining customers, don’t mislead or over-exaggerate. Don’t give your stories a fairytale ending that customers will never actually reach. Instead, use storytelling to add an emotional flourish to the realistic outcomes customers can achieve with your products.

3. Humanize your brand.

With so many options available to modern customers, brands often blend together and become indistinguishable from the competition— so, customers have no reason to remain loyal to one brand over another. 

Of course, no two brands are the same. Each company is a unique collection of real human beings. Through storytelling, you can help your customers understand more than just what they’re buying, but also who they’re buying from.

We recommend placing an emphasis on your actual staff in your branding materials. Feature your employees on your social media profiles, highlight their accomplishments, even celebrate their birthdays and personal milestones. Launching a new product? Instead of a generic announcement, tell the story of your employees who came up with the idea and turned it into a finished product. 

The more you humanize your brand, the more you’ll stand out from all the other businesses your customers can buy from online. 

Example:

One example leveraged by companies all over the world is using storytelling techniques within advertising and marketing content to depict the story of your company— how it started as a small team of individuals and grew into what it is today. Although this example has clearly been done before, everyone’s origin story is different. Telling your own story will set you apart from similar companies and humanize your brand in a way that other marketing tactics can’t.         

4. Show your company’s values.

Studies show that only 13% of consumers cited frequent interactions as a reason they have a relationship with a specific brand. Although this statistic may come as a relief to marketers who are frankly tired of the fight to get in front of consumers, it also poses more questions than answers. If interaction doesn’t contribute to customer relationships, what does? According to 64% of consumers, that answer is simple: shared values (source).  

The most natural way to showcase your company’s values is to tell the story of your brand. Whether through videos or a written narrative, explain how your company transformed from an idea to a functioning business. Most importantly, discuss the values that drive your brand. Beyond selling products, what does your company stand for? What positive change do you want to make for your customers, and for the world at large?

With that being said, resist the urge to manufacture values for the purpose of increasing customer retention. Brands often latch on to trending social issues and hot-button topics not because of strong values, but because they want to cash in on some favorable attention. Your customers know the difference between genuine virtues and virtue-signaling, so make sure the brand stories you tell are honest and authentic.

Example:

Pulling a real-world example from recent headlines, a major retail giant gave brands a masterclass on how not to use manufactured values to sell products. Without using the company’s name, the retailer who’d previously made offensive and controversial statements about members of the LGBTQ+ community, went on to promote diversity and inclusion during Pride month. This move didn’t go unnoticed by consumers who were quick to point out the hypocrisy behind the offending social media posts.

5. Promote user-generated stories.

Customer retention hinges on two factors above all else: trust and authenticity. And, customers trust user-generated content much more than traditional marketing content. In fact, 92% of consumers trust other customers more than they trust advertising from brands (source).

Earn loyalty and boost customer retention by encouraging your existing customer  advocates to tell their stories. While this might seem like a difficult task, there are plenty of ways to involve your customers beyond simply asking them to talk about you. For example, you might interview a lifelong customer about their experiences with your brand. Then, turn the interview into a narrative-driven customer testimonial. 

The best part about user-generated content is that your customers are probably already creating it— search social media for your brand name, hashtags associated with campaigns, or posts your company is tagged in. You’ll be surprised by how many customers are already telling their own stories about their experiences with your brand!

Final Thoughts on Customer Retention and Storytelling

It goes without saying: you’ll only drive customer retention if your customers truly love your products. The best branding in the world won’t win back consumers who weren’t satisfied with their purchase or experience. But, it’s also important to build meaningful connections with your customers, especially given how crowded the B2B space has become. And as history has shown, nothing builds connections like a good story.

For more help building your B2B brand, contact ZoomInfo today. We’re a leading B2B contact database and we have the tools you need to scale your marketing efforts and grow your business.

About the author

Sam Holzman

Sam Holzman was the Content Marketing Manager at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact database and sales intelligence solution.

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