Following my last post introducing the 6 "Rights" of Case Studies that Compel & Sell, let’s dive deeper into right #1.
In a nutshell, the customers that you choose to feature in case studies should mirror the types of customers you want more of. Ideally, your prospects should see themselves – and their challenges solved – in the customer success stories that you share with them.
This falls in line with the concept coined by Dr. Robert Cialdini of "social proof," which says people perceive less risk by following the behavior someone like them successfully follows ( i.e. someone else has already blazed the trail).
Here’s how you to go about matching customer to prospect:
Define targets – Who are your current targets by size, and across your different products and services, industries, and geographies? What customer stories do you still need?
Match the organization type – First, match the organization featured with the prospective customer’s organization in some way. It doesn’t have to be an exact fit, but the prospect should recognize something of themselves in the story.
If it’s not the same industry, then maybe it’s the same type of business challenge solved.
Match the individual – What type of person(s) will be reading or viewing your customer story? What are their business titles?
People trust their peers. Try to interview and quote someone in a similar position in your customer story. If different types will be your audience, such as a business person and an IT person, then quote two different people in the story.
By featuring the right customers in your case studies, you ensure that you have a perfect story to pull out for any sales opportunity.
The question often comes up...
What makes a customer case study or success story compelling to audiences?
The key word in that question - to audiences. Like every marketing communications piece, the case study is only effective when created with the specific audience in mind.
Considering that, I boiled the elements of compelling case studies into six "rights." Here are the six at a glance. We'll get deeper into each one here over the next two weeks.
1. Right customer - A prospective customer wants to know how others like them have solved similar challenges. Match the type of customer featured in your story with the audience on various levels. Not only should the company be similar to your prospect (i.e. size, industry, challenges, location), but the individual quoted should be similar to your target.
2. Right time - When you gather a customer's story is key. Too early and there's not enough detail yet. Too late, and the individuals you interview may not recall some of the critical details that make the story interesting, such as the challenges faced previously and why they chose your product or service.
3. Right questions - Question design makes all the difference in the information you gather. Determine the top messages and results that need to be in the customer story, and map your interview questions to those goals specifically.
4. Right angle - There are multiple angles in any case study or success story. Before creating the story, determine which angle will best maximize your sales and marketing efforts and focus on that as the emphasis.
5. Right results - Measurable results are the Holy Grail of any customer success story. Just make sure those results are the ones that matter to prospects, and are in terms that impress them.
6. Right presentation/format - Who's your audience and how do they want your information? Some learn best by reading, others by hearing, and others by watching. To that end, should you create written, audio or video case studies, or multiple formats? Whatever formats you choose, understand the customer's time restraints and give them flexibility in how they absorb the information.
Great news as we head into the holiday weekend...
I'm excited to report that Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales and Marketing Asset was a finalist in the 2009 Indie Book Awards - Business Category.
The Indie Book Awards was established to recognize the most exceptional independently published books in 60 different categories, for the year.
Thanks to all those who contributed to the book!
At an event yesterday, I talked with a marketer who mentioned a case study challenge. Seems his firm has a big-name client that is willing to go on record publicly, but the company won't release many details about the work or results.
I've certainly seen this one before.
A big-name is a big deal, but how do you leverage that without the ability to talk about much?
We discussed a couple of possible options:
- Use the big name but create a shorter story that simply talks about the strenth of the relationship and perhaps hints at some business benefits, but doesn't reveal more than the customer wants.
If you really can't say much, then perhaps just testimonials are the answer.
- Create a story detailing powerful results but do not name the customer. Use general terms to describe the company without identifying information.
Sales reps might still mention the name in one-on-one opportunities, but that information is never public.
Ultimately, you have to decide which option will be better for your sales and marketing needs at the time?
Name-dropping might be powerful in getting in the door with a prospect, but measurable results are what close deals.
What choice would you make, or are there alternatives?
A customer success story or case study is one of the most powerful pieces of marketing and sales collateral you can have - proof that your solution delivers what you promise.
So, why do most businesses just post them on their web sites and leave it at that?
In fact, there are at least 25 different ways, maybe more, to leverage a customer's story.
Check out an article on MarketingProfs.com, 25 Ways to Build Trust (and Sales!) with Customer Success Stories - and start using your stories to the fullest.