The ease and viral nature of video makes it a compelling format for sharing a customer’s story.
While it seems nearly everyone nowadays understands video is a powerful communications tool, most are unfamiliar with the technologies that take advantage of this medium’s full potential.
I’m super impressed with new video technology that completely changes the viewer’s experience.
My friend John Evans at LIGHTGROUP, a full-service media company, recently showed me the latest bells and whistles possible with video.
"We are in an on-demand generation," Evans says. "Which translates into providing viewers not only authentic, compelling stories with quality production values, but moreover offers them a genuine, rich media experience."
With video players like AccelaCast, you can give viewers an interactive experience, going way beyond the traditional linear video format:
- Choose your drop-in point – Give audiences an agenda or table of contents where they CHOOSE which subject matter to watch
- Link to resources – Let viewers click for more resources, like written case studies, white papers, demos or more in-depth video content
- Let viewers search – A search field lets audiences look for specific content in a written transcript and then drop into that point in the actual video
- Offer "Ask a Question" links – Give the viewer a way to ask a question, which is emailed directly to the relevant contact in your organization
- Help your viewer "Invite a Friend" – At any point, the viewer can invite a friend to drop into an exact point in your video content
- Survey viewers – Get feedback right at the consumption point regarding what prospects want to know more about
- Enable printing – Allow prospects to print your information
- Report on viewer preferences – Imagine knowing exactly what sections of video a prospect viewed, and for how long, with in-depth metrics. This can include all kinds of registration data that you might want to use as lead generation tool.
- Encourage action – Give prospects a way to take next steps immediately: schedule a demo, contact a representative or request more information
With these capabilities, Evans says, your video can stay "evergreen" by featuring compelling stories and then directing viewers to more detailed information thru links that can be periodically updated or changed.
Use your video case studies in multiple ways. Stream the video online, in an email window or at a trade show kiosk.
Feature one customer’s extended story, or allow prospects to hear from multiple customers.
See an Example
To see a sample of an interactive player, visit this site. Hint: The up arrow in the middle of the viewing frame pops up a menu of viewer options.
Customer case studies play several roles - credibility, education, and last but not least, validation.
Prospects need to see the specific value that a product or service delivered. Ideally, that's measurable.
But for a case study to be effective with the intended audience, you have to present metrics in a way that matters to them.
1. First, identify what metrics mean the most to your prospects. Ask some of your current customers.
Once you understand this, craft your interview questions to elicit these specific metrics. Ask before-and-after questions to help customers measure improvements.
2. Decide how to present metrics
Dollar amounts do not carry the same value for all prospects. For example, an annual cost-savings of $30,000 is likely very significant for a small business. But those numbers probably don't impress a midsize to larger organization.
If you're trying to keep case studies versatile for multiple audiences, then it makes sense to represent return on investment (ROI) data in more universal terms.
Instead of $30,000 in annual savings, instead we could say the company reduced its staffing costs by 15 percent.
3. Negotiate with customers
You may have a specific way that you'd like to represent ROI, but your customer isn't comfortable with that. Discuss with the featured customer how they are willing to show their results. That might be in dollar amounts, in percentages or in factors of (twice as, one-third of...).
As with many aspects of a customer case study, it's all about balancing the information you need to deliver to your audience with what your customer is willing to share.
Every year, Bike to Work Day - where I live - takes place at the end of June. This year, it's this Wednesday.
And every year, the local newspaper covers the event. Same event, year after year. So, how does the newspaper make it interesting and different to readers?
It's all about the angle, or slant, of their stories on the topic.
This year, the local paper decided to focus on three "extreme commuters," people who bike as many as 25 miles each way every day to work. The story highlights who they are and why they do it.
I wouldn't have read a staid story about numbers of participants or locations of breakfast stations, but I did read this interesting twist on the annual event. Like any good stories, it also put people behind the facts.
It's just one example of the power of a story angle.
Pick an Angle
Customer case studies and success stories are just the same. For any story you create, you have to choose the angle that will maximize the mileage, whether that's for lead gen, sales or PR, or all.
As you create a diverse mix of case studies to support your goals, pursue a variety of angles.
For example, I manage case studies for a software company where the benefits include regulatory compliance, network security and internal IT efficiency. The best angle for each story is where the goal and the customer's experience meet in the middle.
In developing each case study, here's how to ID your angle:
- Who's your audience and what do they care about? Or, what are their "pains?"
- What angles are most compelling to your audience?
- What is the featured customer's actual experience/results?
- How do you plan to use the story and what angles are most effective for those purposes?
Considering these factors, pinpoint your ideal angle and emphasize it throughout - from the headline to the sidebar call-out to the main benefit the customer experienced.
If you're making full use of a customer's success story, you're telling that story in multiple places - case studies, success stories, press releases, videos, webinars, white papers, and more.
Most likely, more than one person is involved in creating content with the customer's story. If you're not careful, the customer will be asked the same questions again and again.
That's why it's critical to approach the customer in an organized way with the goal of minimizing the customer's time. Ideally, that means one "power" interview to get all the details you need.
Right now, I'm working on a case study project where the customer will also be featured in a white paper. Instead of two separate interviews, the white paper writer and I are teaming up for a single interview to collect all the information we need for our respective projects.
The alternative - two separate interviews in a single week, with duplicate questions - would likely be very annoying for the customer.
To take best practices a step further, retain the raw transcript, audio or video for any future uses of the customer's story to ensure you don't need to engage more of the customer's time unless absolutely necessary.
In short, always make sure you're gathering the customer's story with an eye toward broader usage. When possible, knock it out with one power interview.
For other ways to keep customers happy during the case study process, check out Michele Linn's great recent post, Handle with Care: 10 Tips on Interacting with Case Study Customers.
Have you ever tried to cook something and just didn't have all the right ingredients? Or build something and a part was missing?
You simply can't construct something effectively without all the parts and pieces. The same goes for customer case studies and success stories.
That's why the information-gathering process - the time when you collect all the information you need for a customer story - is just as important as the writing process. Your story is only as strong as the information you have with which to construct it.
This is the time to be prepared and be thorough. A few tips...
ID story goals - What are the goals for the story? Tap key sales and marketing contacts to understand exactly what messages will have the most impact in a certain story based on the audience and how it will be used.
Map questions to goals - Design and type out your interview questions strategically ahead of time. Match them exactly to the information you need to collect to make your story strong and compelling to the audience.
Maybe even send the questions to your interviewees ahead of time so they are more prepared.
Ask a lot of questions - When you have the attention of contacts, be comprehensive. It's much harder to go back later to get something you may have missed.
To minimize the amount of time you require of customer contacts, collect as much background as possible from internal contacts before ever talking to the customer.
Be focused and targeted with your questions and you'll have the best building blocks available for a strong customer story.