I came across a great article recently by Martha Rzeppa of Velocity Partners detailing some companies that are using “hero” campaigns and letting their customers tell the brand story and some of the things that the companies are doing effectively. It’s an interesting read and the campaigns that are highlighted are definitely getting tucked away in my inspiration file in my brain (okay and probably on my computer, too), but I also kept thinking one step further as I read. Your customers telling your story is fantastic and definitely way more effective than just your words, but why shouldn’t all of our marketing efforts be focused on those stories, and the ones we can envision waiting to happen?

The core of why these kind of hero campaigns are effective is that it shifts the dialogue from all the nifty things that a company’s product or service can do to all the nifty things that a person can do using those products or services. Not to be the bearer of ego deflating news, but customers don’t actually care what your product is. They care what they can do with your product. They care what problem it’s going to solve or what opportunity it’s going to open up. They care how it’s going to make their life easier or more interesting or more fun or more successful. The benefits are what sells a product, it’s not the features. Stop telling customers about the super limited edition NASA designed carbon alloy wheels on the truck you’re trying to sell them, tell them that the wheels are stronger or more durable so that they’ll get more miles out of the truck or are easier to wash if they go off-roading. Stop telling customers how big the new hard drives in your company’s computers are, tell them how they can store all of their pictures and home movies and the entire Pink Floyd discography plus live recordings on it without worrying about running out of space. I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, and I know that, but the fact that customer focused campaigns are still noteworthy tells me that a lot of us are losing sight of this.

I think all of us at all points in the marketing workflow would be well served to think about our work more the way a teacher thinks about his or her students. Good teachers don’t sit in class and think about how they’re going to make the best PowerPoint presentation ever, or how they’ve really stepped up their chalk board drawing game lately. They think about how their students are making better art, writing better papers, understanding more complex ideas, generally learning awesome new things and getting excited because of what they’ve shown them. As a brand, you’rethe teacher. As marketers, we’re part teacher and part teacher’s aide. We should be thinking about how customers are able to use our software to make photo books for holiday gifts, or how they can spend more time with their families because our oven cooks faster and requires less cleaning, or how a company can now spend more time innovating because our scheduling system and inventory management saves them time and money. It’s not about you, it’s not about any of us, it’s about what is going to be created or made easier with your help.

You’ve got an amazing, innovative, interesting story of what a customer has accomplished with your help, right? Share it with us in the comments, and spend some time thinking about everything you enable your customers to do.