Customer success stories are the trophy case for your website: case studies that demonstrate how you solve real-world problems.
Don’t you want your other customers and prospects to know about the kind of success your happiest customers have had with your products and services? The best way to tell that story is with case studies, also called “customer success stories” and “customer case studies.”
“I feel a customer success story coming on…”
The idea for customer success stories usually originates in Sales.
Maybe Sheila, who runs your northwest region, barrels into your office one morning and says, “I made a site visit to Cathartic Telephony yesterday, and they’re turning cartwheels over the DX-500 we installed last month. They told me they’ve cut their power consumption in half and they’re saving almost 750 dollars a day.”
You, as marketing manager, instinctively know that “saving almost x dollars a day” is your cue to suggest a case study.
Or maybe Ralph, the customer service manager, sees you at lunch and says, “We had three calls from Consolidated Glitch last month, asking about the compression algorithm on our storage appliance. They’re using it for security, not for compression, and we never thought about that application when we designed it.”
Again, as marketing manager, you should be on the lookout for customers using your products in unexpected ways, and be prepared to turn those into case studies.
Guidelines for customer success stories
Be careful, though. It’s easy to dream up customer success stories, but not so easy to get them right. When your writer is unaccustomed to the case study format, you’re likely to end up with a worn, Problem-Solution-Result structure, which bores people, or a page and a half of chest-thumping, which turns people off.
Here are five guidelines for writers of customer success stories:
- Your case study should have technical depth. Your readers already know who you are and maybe what your products and services are. This story needs to tell future customers how you’re saving your current customers time and money.
- The piece should focus on your customer’s problems and how the customer solved them with your invention. This is not a brochure, so don’t emphasize your prowess and expertise. Try to describe everything from the customer’s perspective, because that’s the perspective of your readers.
- The better the interview, the better the source material for the story. If you can’t get enough from one interviewee, try for a second one. Good interviewees will tell you everything without your asking, but don’t depend on that. Come up with relevant questions to flesh out how they used your product or service and how much time/money/anguish it saved them.
- A good customer success story (for purposes of content marketing) fits into two pages. If your customer’s miracle takes more than that to describe, turn it into a technical brief.
- As always, it’s important to keep your ideal readers in view. What are they looking for when they download your story? What do they want to learn by reading it? If you respect their time and inform and educate them, you can be sure they’ll want more than just a story from you.
What to do with them
- Use them as sales collateral. Not only does Sales often suggest customer success stories, it loves to hand them out to prospects. Invest in a sharp template (with photographs) and quality printing so that your sales team can distribute them with a straight face and feel good about using them.
- Place them on your website. This is obvious, because that’s where your prospects will look for them. What may not be obvious, however, is that you should offer them freely, without registration. Better to have a prospect remember you for a good case study than for an annoying form-fill.
- Shop them to trade press. Trade magazines will take case studies for paid placement, so a two-page piece fits a two-page spread perfectly, especially as an ongoing series over a publication-year. Depending on the magazine’s calendar and content need, they may run it as editorial, so be sure it’s suitably written.
- Use them for social media. Case studies are solid stories unto themselves – unlike advertisements or press releases – and work well as blog posts, tweet links, and in other formats that help you build a following.
Customer success stories belong squarely in your marketing content. As you and your fellow marketing managers build out your content strategy, keep your eye out for ways in which your organization can use them effectively.
Photo credit: JC