Five Best Practices for Effective Success Story Creation
There’s no doubt that customer
success stories and case studies have a powerful impact on your
marketing and sales efforts. Conveying how real people in a real
organization benefit from your solutions has a much more memorable and
powerful affect on potential clients than nearly any other marketing
tactic you can employ. Success stories give potential customers real
world insights into how your solutions add value and solve real
customer problems. Success stories provide an opportunity to promote
your brand in an authentic positive light, differentiate from the
competition and let your potential customers relate to your offerings
at a more personal level.
Unfortunately, not all success stories are created equal. Unless, you follow these five important best practices in the creation process for your success stories and case studies, your investment in these influential marketing efforts might never pay off:
- Screen the customer
- Wait for the best time
- Interview the right contact
- Ask the right questions
- Engage the right writer
Screen the Customer
Just because a customer jumps at
the chance to do a success story for a t-shirt, discount or some
freebie doesn’t mean they’re a good success story candidate. Every
potential success story candidate needs to be properly vetted. While
your contact might be happy to participate, the customer PR or legal
department might not be. You also want to make sure that the value your
customer sees in your solution aligns with the message you want to
convey to others. Failure to uncover these facts before the success
story is written can result in a waste of time for your customer and a
loss in your investment in the story’s creation process.
Wait for the Best Time
You have a new customer who is
ecstatic about your solution. They rave about how great it is and are
thrilled to do a success story. You can’t wait to get their story out.
Hold on. Waiting might be exactly what you need to do.
New customers are often excited about what the solution will be able to do for them in the future, but they haven’t cashed in on those “futures” yet. They can’t tell you what actual benefits the solution provides, only what they expect it to provide. They can’t tell you about ROI, percent increases in productivity, timesavings, cost savings, and increased revenue because they simply haven’t had the solution long enough to measure any of those quantifiable benefits. Even with long time customers, simply getting a customer to state quantifiable benefits provided by a solution can be a major challenge on its own. Don’t make getting quantifiable positives impossible by simply doing the story too soon.
Interview the Right Contact
Finding the right person to be
interviewed for a success story can make or break the story’s
effectiveness. For technology solutions, an IT manager or director is
often the main point of contact since they’re usually most
knowledgeable about the implementation or its day-to-day operations.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re the right contact for your success
Your interviewee needs to be someone who can convey the value and benefit that the solution brings to the business or the organization as a whole – not just IT. Sometimes the right person is actually multiple people. Much can be gained by getting insight from people on the technology side and the business side of their operations. But be careful. Having too many people on a phone interview to get background information for a success story can get unwieldy, sometimes preventing the interviewer from mining the most valuable nuggets of information.
Ask the Right Questions
Just because you know your
customer doesn’t necessarily mean you know the right questions to ask
for a success story. Of course, you’ll want to ask how your solution
addresses their challenges and pain points, the benefits it provides,
and the value it creates. However, that’s not enough.
You need to be able to get past the surface responses that so many customers give and dig down into the meaty details that can really make the story shine. The writer for your success story should have the experience and expertise to conduct these interviews and extract this level of detail in a positive manner. Bringing in an outside writer to conduct the interview and write the story also has the added bonus of giving your stories a fresher perspective than what in-house writers might produce.
Engage the Right Writer
If you’re a customer reference
manager, you might be faced with the challenge of generating a high
number of success stories within a quarter or year. To meet that quota
and keep costs down, you might decide to write the stories yourself.
Before you do, honestly ask yourself if you really have the time and
the writing expertise to create the best quality finished product?
Maybe you’re considering turning to a cut-rate writing mill that uses
crowd sourcing or low quality writers to churn out success stories in
assembly line fashion. Don’t skimp on the writing. Invest in a writer
that has the experience and expertise to create the best stories
possible. Your success stories represent you and your brand. Don’t
tarnish that brand with poorly written success stories.
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"Ken is an invaluable resource. I recommend his services for any sort of case study, technical paper or biographical project."
Debra Dombrowski - Emerson Network Power/Avocent Customer Programs Manager