Take almost any product, be it a B2B (business to business) product or a B2C (business to customer) one. Now imagine you are considering purchasing and weighing the pros and cons against a related competitor. Are you more likely to buy a certain product because they rave about their quality and benefits or because a friend or related consultant in a similar area endorses it from first hand experience? For the vast majority of comparable products, the decision boils down to a trust and confidence in the company’s quality, which can be strongly affected by what their customers say. As humans, we rely heavily on consumer reviews. Where should we eat? Check Yelp. What is fun to do in this place we are traveling to? Check TripAdvisor. Customer content and feedback is a strong tool for marketing and business and, in many cases, a highly underutilized one. For whatever reasons many corporations still haven’t realized that people are significantly more likely to make a buying decision if it has compelling, objective endorsements.
          Customer content and feedback is even more imperative for fledgling companies. Lets take both a B2B and B2C example. For B2B, lets imagine that a company is starting out and trying to sell a specific technical device. Companies are interested in its capacities but wary of the companies stability and customer support due to its size and are also cautious about whether your product can deliver on its claims. One strong aid to that company would be a compilation of case studies, generated from consumer feedback, that articulate how the product was used for them or vouch for the companies continually and direct support. These case studies could focus on differentiating factors between competitors or on potential weak points, like stability/customer support. With even 3 or 4 well crafted case studies, your customer content will be going a long way to driving sales. You could state on your website all you want that your customer service is top notch and direct and your small size is actually a strength. That will never be as compelling, however, as having a case study on your site wherein a consumer discusses your consistent and engaged support and rapid response time for their technical inquiries. The reality is customers trust customers. The B2C market is no different. Take a company selling trendy jackets, with a market focus on the teen and college demographics. Potential buyers are going to look into what other customers are saying. Is it durable? Is the fabric high quality? Although case studies are more fit for a B2B environment, posting customer stories or feedback can still be helpful. Understand of course that any quotes you put out in this environment will be subject to scrutiny for bias, and objective, outside reviews will always be the most influential in the B2C market. You can find ways to work around this, however, such as linking on your site to a neutral reviews site like Amazon.
         In some markets, customer proof can be almost essential. When I was starting out my eGuide, I sold almost no copies for two months. People likely saw the product and were interested in the content but they had no ability to verify whether my guide had real quality content, or was a scam. After I got my first two or three customers that took a chance with me and left me positive reviews, things took off. I increased my price from 99 cents to $15 and still sold roughly fifty guides that first month after the positive reviews started to pour in. I would argue that for individuals selling knowledge or instructive based content, customer proof is a must.
          The takeaway here is that, whether you are just starting out your own venture or you work in a established company, push for customer content. A case study about ROI or utilization of a feature successfully for an unorthodox application may make the difference on a high end technology sale. If you are new you absolutely must have this content to drive sales and if you are established and aren’t leveraging what your customers have to say… Start now.