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

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 story.

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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Marketing Communications for Technology Solutions

"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