A quick search on Google provided just the ammo I needed for this blog.
Selecting five tech companies at random, I pinched (and anonymised) a few ‘case study’ headlines from each. Here goes…
XXX Chooses XXX Partner for Long-Term Technology Relationship
Major Retailer Trusts XXX Networks for Scalable Unified Communications
XXX Provides Flexible Media Infrastructure for XXX University
XXX Rolls New Automation Platform with XXX Solution
XXX College Builds a Mobile Learning Platform using XXX Solution.
Five headlines. One question…. SO WHAT?
Come on people! Your prospects (and advocacy content consumers) are REAL PEOPLE with REAL CHALLENGES to solve and REAL BUSINESS VALUE to deliver. And just like your marketing campaign materials, you’ve got a couple of seconds to grab their attention right?
For those of you who wouldn’t dream of signing these sorts of story off – sincere apologies and a huge egg-sucking alert. But if you want to give your success stories a kick up the proverbial, then these top ten tips are for you.
Before you engage your writers or video crews to interview the IT guy at your customer, get your detective hat on. Speak to everyone from your side who was involved with the customer – services, pre-sales consultants, partners etc. Build up a picture. Ask them about the ‘value-promise’ (not tech promise) that you made - and they made to their own people - to justify getting the PO signed off. Read the RFP and customer presentations. Therein often lies the humble beginnings of a cracking story.
Colourful, rich customer success stories should include (wherever feasible) different perspectives of your customers’ various influencers, buyers and stakeholders involved. Diverse personas have differing motivators – so during your homework phase explore, for example, if you can include the specific difference your business made to the Sales Director… the CMO… the CFO…. Users… EVEN include your customer’s customer. Be creative. A multi-faceted story will provide you with a matrix of rich content you can segment and deliver with relevance to a targeted audience.
All too often the hidden gems of a story remain that way. But if your pre-pen sleuthing efforts pay off, you should already have the start of a great story with insight into the value you want to capture and from whose perspective. Use this due-diligence to create a strong brief for your content creators. Or if they did the fact finding, still ask for a documented brief to help them stay on track and probe for evidence of the real value you want to uncover.
Soooo tempting isn’t it… but give it a go. The best stories don’t mention technology at all. Consumers of your advocacy content want to hear WHY ‘people like them’ trusted you and WHAT difference you made for THEIR business and own customers. Not HOW you did it (unless they’re a techie, and that’s a different avenue of advocacy content altogether).
When your agency is interviewing your customer contacts, suggest they ask some ‘off the wall’ questions. What was keeping the customer awake at night before you came along? Capture what went wrong, not just what went right, and how you helped. People are interested in people, even when they make mistakes, and the human factor wins every time. This ‘naked truth’ approach will demand curiosity and off-the script probing from your advocacy creators.
It’s so frustrating to read customer success stories that dive straight in and talk about ‘tech challenges’. Start with the big picture that the content consumer will relate to. What were the external business challenges facing this customer? How are their own customers changing and how are they adapting as a business to address this. ONLY THEN should your story start talking about they have transformed to support that change.
So you kick off with business goals and business challenges, awesome. But don’t forget to make sure your success stories tie the ‘benefits’ back to that big picture. Tech is no longer a bubble working in isolation. IT has shifted to become a service provider to its business stakeholders and your stories should always come full circle back to your customers’ ultimate need to do things better for their own customers in some shape or form.
It’s the holy grail of storytelling – how to quantify the business value your customer has delivered. It’s not as difficult as you might think. Go back to your research, and try to uncover how they justified the expenditure in the first place? You might need to make the calculation yourself, based on a consultants notes maybe, but a quick before and after benchmark comparison often yields a valuable statistic. And your sales people and prospects just love memorable stats around business value.
Your customers don’t stand still, and neither should their stories. Capture the before and after through strong evidence of change, incorporating where they are now and where they want to be, and always include the consequences of not changing. Right there is the difference you made, with often quantifiable value. Transform your stories into a moving snapshot of real people with real business lives that your prospects can relate to – and update your stories dynamically as your customers transform.
A 1,000 word case studies that sits on your website is ‘so’ last decade. Move away from formulaic storytelling, and create advocacy content that can be curated and shared internally and externally as part of your content marketing strategy, accelerating the sales cycle for different personas at every stage. Dynamic content that will thrive on multi-media platforms in multiple formats - just like great marketing campaign content should - something to think about when asking for sign off.
Sound easy? No, sadly there’s no silver bullet to tell the perfect story. But if you’re prepared to relax in your slacks about ‘case study’ quotas, and start to focus on liquid, dynamic and segmented advocacy content that features the true difference you made for the REAL people behind the customer name, then without doubt more smiley customers will be heading your way.