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How to Tell Customer Stories That Sell: 5 Tips From Drew Meyer of Amazon Web Services

How to Tell Customer Stories That Sell: 5 Tips From Drew Meyer of Amazon Web Services
Drew Meyer of Amazon Web Services in Santa Cruz

By Molly Ressler

Generating excitement around a cloud storage service may sound like a mission impossible, but to Drew Meyer, the lead for Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud storage portfolio global product marketing team, it’s all in a day’s work. Meyer’s job is to break down, in his words, “extraordinarily geeky” concepts like block file and object storage into narratives that resonate with regular people. Unlike the product he sells, one of his most successful marketing strategies is surprisingly simple and applies to any type of business. The secret? Tell customer stories.  

With 20 years of product marketing under his belt, Meyer has learned that the best stories come not from your team, but from your customers. Below are five of his top tips for creating customer stories that establish trust with your audience, and ultimately, sell more products.

Tip #1: Talk to Your Angriest Customers

“Angry customers are a huge treasure trove,” says Meyer. Although it may be tempting to only reach out to your happiest customers, Meyer pushes his team to get on the phone with the people they least want to talk to. Comb your archives of customer grievances and start reaching out. You’ll not only find more interesting stories (the classic story arc starts with a conflict, after all) but you’ll also gain invaluable insight into how to improve your business.

“Ask sales or your support team who called in with a problem,” says Meyer. “Who’s really mad that you don’t want to talk to? Whether you publish the story or not, you’re going to learn something from it, and the customer’s going to come away thinking, ‘Oh wow. They actually care.’”

Tip #2: Honesty is the Best Policy

Most of us have come to distrust marketing because it has a track record of embellishment, empty promises, and glossing over anything that casts the company in an unflattering light. Meyer has helped excavate companies with poor track records that had them buried in customer complaints. Even when he was responsible for a product “that was going up in flames,” Meyer and his team were able to help turn the ship around thanks to honest marketing.  

Meyer explains, “The internet hated us visibly, loudly, and publicly. How do you turn that around? We adopted a strategy of the digital watercooler--where do these people that are our target audience hang out? I assigned a guy on our team to go to Reddit, check Twitter and find the really noisy ones and get in touch with them. Then we started blogging and telling the straight story to our customers: ‘We thought we had it right, we didn’t, here’s how we plan to fix it.’ You start to be authentic with them [your customers] and you convert some of the naysayers into passionate advocates.”

Whether your company is struggling to turn around a negative brand perception or simply combat our culture’s deep-seated mistrust of marketing, Meyer advises to stay honest and own your mistakes.

“Honesty is the best policy,” says Meyer. “Accept your mistakes. Own it. Be humble. People can accept that you made a mistake but they can’t accept when you lie about it.”  

Tip #3: You Don’t Need a $20,000 Video  

“You don’t need a $20,000 video to tell a good customer story,” assures Meyer. “Start small with a collection of quotes from happy customers and use them on your website and across social media.”

When you invest in a customer story, repurpose that story in as many ways as possible: as testimonials, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram stories, and newsletter content. You can do this with video or with a written story and images.

“The more powerful thing is the social media value of a written customer story,” says Meyer.  “You can pull out two or three sentences and a photo or a logo on your site with a quote. Then you start to get search engines optimizing on those quotes and the images for the logos and it all feeds into getting more visibility for your product.”

Tip #4: Tell Customer Stories Over Brand Stories

The number one mistake Meyer sees companies make with their marketing is forgetting the customer. “They start talking about how great their stuff is or how they have the most brilliant engineers ever and how their VC’s are the most well known in the Valley,” says Meyer. “None of that has anything to do with the success or failure of the product. The customer doesn't find any of that valuable or useful. “

When it comes to video content, Meyer strongly advises to always invest in a customer story over a brand story, if you’re working within a limited budget.

“Video is powerful but expensive. I reserve video for the most exciting and compelling [customer] statements,” says Meyer. “Spend the money on a customer story, not on an ‘About Me’ video: ‘We have 500 people; We’re located in beautiful downtown Santa Cruz; We have venture funding from X, Y, and Z …’ Nobody cares. I’m happy for you, but I, as a customer, don’t care.”  

Tip #5: Stay in Touch with Your Customers

Once you’ve compiled a series of compelling customer stories it’s easy to pat yourself on the back, congratulate your team on a job well done, and move onto cultivating relationships with your newest customers. The key, however, is to stay in touch with each and every featured customer to ensure they stay happy and remain reliable brand ambassadors.

“A good marketing team has a stable group of 4 or 5 customers that they’re constantly refreshing or adding to, Meyer explains. “These are known, safe positives that you can refer to in the moment. There’s a very significant risk that you talk with them, they’re really happy, then a month later they have a support issue. You think they’re still happy and you put them in touch with a writer and they’re in the midst of this horrible escalation. Always double check.”

The Bottom Line: Let Your Customers Speak For You    

Meyer believes that letting your customers speak for you, even if they share a mix of negative and positive experiences with your product, is more effective than only showcasing your company through rose colored glasses.

“We’ve been sold so many lines of baloney over the years that as a nation we’ve grown to mistrust advertising, marketing, and promoting,” says Meyer. “[At AWS], we’re really committed to authenticity, and in many cases that’s warts and all. Many times we find it’s as useful for a customer to talk about their problem as it is for them to talk about how great their life is now [with our product].”

Did you know? ... Amazon has an office right here in Downtown Santa Cruz that houses AWS and two other Amazon teams. The AWS cloud services platform stores and manages data for several Santa Cruz companies including Buoy, Joby Aviation, and the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute. They also partner with Looker and productOps to build better software for their customers. 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Molly Ressler is a writer and content strategist based in Santa Cruz. Find more of her work at mollyressler.com.