Gina Balarin is Founder and CEO of Verballistics, a boutique marketing agency specializing in corporate storytelling for software and services firms. In this article she explains how Verballistics got started and why telling powerful stories leads to more stories.
How did your company get started?
My career had reached a crossroads. I was working for a firm when I suddenly realized there was nothing more I could do for them until they improved their customer relationships or, at least, had a product that served their customers’ needs. The company asked for volunteers for redundancy and I took the opportunity because I realized it was time for me to go my own way.
Verballistics was born out of years of frustration working with companies who just didn’t get marketing, but also out of my family history. Both my parents worked for themselves and collectively we have a long history of seeing challenges and solving them in slightly different ways to the norm.
It’s second nature for me to ask, “how can I fix and change this now? And, like a lot of people who work for themselves, I like to challenge the status quo. While this may make us hard to employ, I’m very fortunate to be able to challenge the status quo with companies who appreciate that skill and work with me to help them do exactly that.
What does your firm do?
We help our clients connect genuinely with their customers through stories that delight and satisfy them. Sometimes you need to be outside of an organization to see the wood for the trees. That’s what Verballistics does.
The beautiful thing about having been a marketing leader myself, is that I can see and feel those frustrations. I say to my clients, “Don’t worry. Here’s something we can do to help” because I’ve been in their shoes. At Verballistics, not only are we the voice of their customer, we’re a voice for their leadership team when their ideas are too wrapped up in their own heads. Particularly when they don’t have the time or writing skill to create the thought leadership content they need.
What are your customer’s main challenges?
We work with anyone with a specific interest in serving their customers using software. Their main challenge is that their products are often not tangible. Remember back in the day when software was sold in packages? You could buy a box and install the software on your computer. You had something physical, something tangible. But today, you’re using it in the cloud.
The question is, what results is a customer going to get from buying something that is cloud-based and, hence, service-based? It’s hard to prove the value of SaaS without evidence – and the evidence is increasingly coming from customer quotes, case studies and other stories.
After all, people are buying a brand, not just a rational product. They need to be able to connect with the ethos and philosophy behind your brand. So the marketing that software companies use can’t just be about the product benefits: it also has to be about building that relationship and trust.
This must come through the people that either work for your company or sell your products. That’s why storytelling must be a key element of anything a marketer produces. Because that’s what makes you real.
Can you share a customer success story?
A customer of mine held an event to educate their audience on the benefits of their software. There were people in the audience (their customers) who had used their software and experienced the benefits but who weren’t speaking to the company or telling anyone else (that we knew of) about their experience. As a result, my client had no way of sharing the evidence of their success with the rest of the world.
This is where my ‘Stories as a Service’ concept comes in. I stood up on stage and I told the story of one of their customers who’d successfully used their product. This inspired some of their other customers to want to tell their story too. Right on the spot, we interviewed these customers and captured their stories while they were still excited by the presentation.
There were stories of bringing teams together, processing documents faster, saving time and money and much more. What was interesting was that these benefits had even helped one customer in particular make their offices more environmentally friendly. So while up on stage, I shared the story of their customer who celebrated the software’s rollout success with a St. Patrick’s Day party based on the idea of “going green.” They even gave the team green beer and green cake.
What were your customer’s results?
The results were that this inspiring presentation using a real-life customer story helped our client get 5 times more case studies. Because those customers in the audience were then inspired to tell their own story, my client was able to dramatically increase the number of customers they were able to interview on the day and secure a commitment for many future interviews. As a result they were able to add a lot more case studies to their website as well as an innovative ‘audio’ blog post featuring audio snippets.
Of course, it wouldn’t have happened if their customers weren’t delighted with their product to begin with. But the stories would never have been told if their customers weren’t excited to tell them: and the inspiring presentation helped put them in the right mindset.
That’s why corporate storytelling is such an essential tool for B2B marketing – and one that companies should use far more effectively. There are so many great stories living in our customers’ heads – but someone has to help extract them and turn them into content that others can read. That’s where Verballistics and Stories as a Service (StaaS) come in.