Foodservice operator stories are becoming more important

An amazing statistic came through my email as I was packing up recently to go video a customer story for one of my clients.

Sixty-five percent of an audience remembers a story during a presentation… and only about five percent remember facts.

Which brings me back to customer stories.   Restaurant owners, kitchen managers and school foodservice directors love to hear stories about their peers.  Who doesn’t?  Odds are good you’ll remember a good story about a marketing peer even if they manage a different product category.

Yet, I bet you haven’t posted many stories on how customers are using your products!  But you probably have posted a lot of facts (re-read statistic above).

Customer stories are golden for your sales reps.  They provide insight on how an operator struggled to make desserts stay fresh-looking when using aerosol whipped topping (other operators relate to triumph-over-obstacle stories).  Or how a school foodservice director succeeded in swapping out pre-cooked, highly processed nuggets with fresh chicken to meet nutrition goals.  Or the buffet manager who increased sales by adding sweet potato fries to the fish fry promotion.

Tag along for a day with a sales superstar and you’ll see she pulls out a great anecdote about how another operator is using your products at each sales stop along the way.  Stories are the secret weapon of sales.

Why?  A good story brings instant credibility.  Stories bring context to relatively meaningless facts and figures.

I submit customer stories are becoming more important in foodservice than ever before:

  • You are the publisher. The trade press has historically been a good source for customer stories.  But pubs are drying up faster than a California desert.  And most social platforms rely on user-generated content which often appears more like infomercials that operators will ignore.  You’ll be a leader if you create inspiring, educational stories that go heavy on the operator’s narrative with just a sprinkle of product messages.
  • In their words. Let an operator speak in his own words.  Most are humble yet proud to tell how they’ve been able to use your product to help build business.  But don’t over-direct them into force-fitting a product message… the good words will tumble out in their natural way and your brand will still shine.
  • Ask “why” and “how.” Operators will be reminded of inspiring examples if you ask them why or how your product made the difference.  How and why questions are natural prompts to extract those ah-hahs that other operators will love to hear.