Leveraging the experiences of customers is already highly popular among marketing executives. The next 18 months will see brands put customer testimonials at the centre of internal and external messaging.

With four months left before the end of the year I am already sticking my neck out and predicting what will be the hottest trend in the B2B content marketing space during 2016.
While there is an array of new trends emerging, almost all brands I currently service are showcasing their capabilities through the trusted words of their customers. And from what they have told me, this tendency will grow further during the next 12 months and beyond.

Of course, running such campaigns is nothing new. However, as the content universe becomes increasingly cluttered with somewhat substandard copy, brands are waking up to the fact that voicing their capabilities in their own hand is not enough to fend off the competition, and that getting customers to testify their satisfaction with a particular product or service adds much credibility — providing the story is genuine.

Aspiration and success

Recently, I worked on a number of campaigns that exemplify the language and messaging required to make a client case study compelling. Each story told of how the aspirational customers of brands underwent challenging times — characterised by much personal sacrifice on the part of individual stakeholders — and how collectively all parties involved overcame severe challenges to scale once-unthinkable heights.  

While for some, this seems clichéd and somewhat Hollywoodesque, this approach nonetheless showcases suppliers as people that help realise the ambitions of customers — something all providers want to be seen as — and associates all entities with success and endeavour  — attributes that are important to all of us.

Too good to be true

Conversely, parading a testimonial that is unrealistic or overtly biased will be treated with much scepticism. For instance, several years ago I was invited to attend a mystery-shopper gathering where a group of fellow young professionals shared their views and experiences regarding credit cards. About an hour into the discussion — which was more negative than upbeat — and following several bottles of bad champagne served by eye-catching waitresses, it became clear that one of the participants was promoting a particular credit card brand while discarding the competition.

Had this person given a balanced argument as to why this merchant was better suited to our group, they might have convinced the rest of us. However, tales about the credit card company sending exuberant bouquets of flowers on their birthday, dispatching ‘free’ cash in the post with no strings attached, and complimentary business class airline tickets to exotic destinations several times a year were too good to be true. It also prompted a backlash in the group’s discussion, which was hastily ended by the event’s organisers.

Two months later, I received a phone call from the assignment’s moderator who was irate. Unsurprisingly, the session was sponsored by a global credit card brand that had planted one of their executives among the group. They went on to explain how the session cost the executive their job as they were targeted to convert all 20 of us, yet subsequently came back with no sales.

The moral of the story is therefore thus: client testimonials are a powerful tool that, when executed genuinely, can cut above most marketing content. But beware, rampant exaggeration can result in brand damage and has been known to cost marketers their jobs.

Long live honest marketing.

This blog was orginally posted on LinkedIn by Howard

The Top Content Trend of 2016

BY Howard James

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