A good portion of online marketing advice from "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website" focuses on taking advantage of newer tactics. But not all of it. Case it point: case studies or customer success stories. I've been creating them for 20 years or so. They're old school.
That said, from old school teachings, in marketing, or in any profession really, we are reminded of the importance of fundamentals. The case study or customer story is as old school as can be, but remains a fundamental component of the sales and marketing mix that has only grown more important and effective in this connected era where new media savvy companies publish a steady stream of content.
We'll have a look at why to publish them, do a quick study of how, and toss around some "how not" wisdom to help you successfully make this age-old content marketing strategy a part of your big picture.
Your customers can provide some of your most powerful content-if you let them.
Case studies have proven to be an effective conversion tool because they:
- Reinforce your core messaging and hammer home why customers like and trust your product
- Provide the ideal vehicle to showcase features and benefits
- Give prospects a tool to champion your company internally and decision makers a convincing reference
Case studies can also increase leads because they:
- Allow you to further optimize your website and build SEO authority
- Extend your content marketing strategy because they are easily repurposed in media such as newsletters, presentations for SlideShare, and much more (stay tuned)
- Can generate additional media coverage
My friend Deana Goldasich (Twitter handle), founder of Well Planned Web, a company that helps thought leaders find a voice, gave a killer presentation at Content Marketing World on this subject. She called it "Customer Stories: How to Unlock an Abundance of New Content." All credit goes to D, so I'm pleased to offer you this link to her presentation and summarize it here.
This is how customer stories are done.
A good portion of Deana's presentation focused on how it's done. Here's the skinny...
Deana did her homework. She studied at Content Marketing Institute, I think. I'm a student there. You should be too. She presented the research findings culled from a CMI and Marketing Profs study designed to determine who cares about content marketing and what is it they care about.
So she cites research providing evidence that (1) today's content marketers consider their biggest challenge is producing content that engages prospects, and (2) producing enough content is also atop the list of concerns.
Bring on the big reveal.
Deana quoted some seriously compelling numbers. I don't want to dig deep into them here, but I will share that the bottom line is just one customer story can provide the credible content you need to create numerous white papers, emails, case studies, blog posts, infographics, videos, and more. She made a point of demonstrating all this with a quick recap of a client of hers-MediaLab 3D Solutions-who benefited from all type of things and more based on a customer story project. This ain't merely theory, folks. Again, the evidence is presented here.
How to do customer stories. How not to.
You're not the hero. Your company has a pretty decent role, but it's not the hero either. Deana's lesson begins with a commonly misunderstood secret: these stories aren't about your company; they're about your customers. They play the hero role. They saved Gotham. They get the spotlight and glory.
Make them relatable. Perhaps we're getting into subtle stuff here, but the point is this: don't base your story on anonymous corporate execs who spew too-good-to-be-true corporate bullshit. Let them be human when you quote them, quote them.
Drop the pen. In the making of customer story, you're not to be a creative writer. It's non-fiction. You're a reporter. Gather the story and report it.
Who's interview worthy? The customer is. Don't allow your story to be told by front line sales and service peeps. Don't even let them conduct the interview. Get a seasoned storyteller (i.e. writer/journalist) to uncover the story.
Your job: shut up. Ask questions and and listen. Don't assume what the answers are or dictate how the story unfolds. Let it be real. Surprising as it may seem, it's bound to be an interesting and credible tale of someone who had a problem and found the solution. Deana claims your story will resonate with prospects if you as the creator reduce your role. Introduce your featured guest; shut up and stay out of the way. The customer will do just fine. Your job is to facilitate, listen, capture, and glean.
Telling customer stories on your website and in your content marketing programs is just one of the recommendations I offer in my free eBook, "21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website." Help yourself to the publication and feel free to contact me if you want to talk about how to sharpen your site.