Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

I’m rediscovering the joys of collecting customer stories. It’s one of the easiest ways to break writers block.

We know that some of the best commercials are stories – about listeners. If a listener can visualize him or herself in a commercial story, then we’re on our way to success.

We can develop stories from lifestyle research on the demographic and psychographic groups we want to reach; we can pull stories from our clients or from our own lives, but there’s something fresh and unexpected about the stories that customers tell.

And I have to say that’s the source of some of our most effective commercials.

Every client has some happy customers. Just ask for the contact information for a few and call them.

Record your conversation. Be careful not to talk over their responses.

Transcribe the recording. You’ll find that you’ll have more than enough for a campaign.

Craft the commercials from the responses. Here are a few approaches:

• Use their voices – whether they were recorded in person or over the phone. With careful editing, you may be able to create the whole commercial with only their voice(s).

• Intersperse another voice (I hesitate to use the word announcer. It should be a conversation with the customer or a comment on the customer’s words), clarifying, asking questions, interacting, giving the call to action, allowing the customer to tell the story.

• Assemble comments from several customers into a commercial.

• Using the transcription as your template, rewrite the story and narrate it.

• Rewrite the story and cast new voices as the customer.

We’ve used each of those 5 approaches successfully.

The important thing is to get ‘em talking. Let them ramble. Make them feel comfortable. Encourage them to express their feelings, not “do a commercial.”

Sample questions:

How’d you find (advertiser)? Did you shop around, do research, hear about them from a friend, etc.?

(If applicable) What caused you to seek relief, a solution, a new___, another___, or a different___?

What’s the best benefit from (advertiser)? What’s the worst thing about (advertiser)? How do they compare to their competitors? Is there anything unusual, interesting or quirky about your visit, the buying process, your problem or your experience?

If someone asked you to recommend a (type of advertiser), what would you tell them? How would you describe your experience in one paragraph? In one sentence? In one word? What animal, cartoon character, celebrity is (advertiser) like?

If someone told you (advertiser) was too expensive, too far away, had limited selection, etc. (ask about all relevant objections) what would you tell them?

Follow the thread of conversation with each response. Go with the flow. It may lead you to something truly magical. Remember, you’re listening for stories – pain/ease, problem/solution, obstacle/goal achieved.

In 10-20 minutes you’ll get enough for a campaign. I might be the easiest campaign you never wrote.

© 1997-2008 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.


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