What marketing collateral is most influential in B2B technology purchases?
A recent survey offers some answers.
In July 2009, Eccolo Media conducted its second annual B2B Technology Collateral Survey. The 501 respondents included C-level executives, vice presidents (VPs), managers, directors, developers/programmers, and technicians.
Once again, white papers topped the list of collateral that influences technology purchases.
But we’re pleased to report that case studies were a close second. (Go Team Case Studies!)
Here are a few standout stats from this year’s survey:
Two-thirds relied on them in the past six months – 69 percent of respondents used a case study to help make a purchasing decision over the past six months—a 10 percent increase over the 2008 results.
The majority found them influential – 79 percent felt that case studies were moderately to extremely influential in making a purchasing decision.
They share them with colleagues – 85 percent of the people who influence or make technology decisions share case studies with others.
White papers and case studies are most influential – Product brochures and data sheets are behind white papers and case studies in terms of influence.
Written case studies are preferred – Two thirds of respondents preferred written case studies followed by one-third preferring video and a small percentage preferring audio testimonials.
Check out the full survey results – and consider ways to integrate customer stories more into your 2010 marketing plans.
Can 140 characters lead to more leads and sales? Absolutely.
There are countless tales of Twitter wins these days.
Several companies I follow on Twitter are Tweeting about their customer success stories.
While you can't tell your whole story in that amount of space, you can pique followers' interest.
Here are a few tips for Tweeting your stories:
Education, Not Promotion – Think of your 140 characters as a teaser, similar to an email subject line or blog headline.
Your subject line should promise the reader something, and help them understand what they will take away if they read the rest of your info. Think education, not promotion. Don't push your product in the Tweet.
- How a small business increased web traffic 400%
- ABC Manufacturing saves millions with better inventory management
- Gaming co saves equiv of 2 FTEs with online self service
Link to the story – Give followers the link directly to more information about that specific story, not your products in general.
This can be your produced case study or success story on your site, or an article that ran about the story online.
Use link shortening sites like http://bit.ly to reduce character counts.
Encourage customers to Tweet – Ask whether the featured customer will Tweet and link to the story about the success with your product/service.
Have you Tweeted your customer stories? Any tips to share from your Twitter experiences?
If asked, will customers submit themselves as possible case study or success story candidates?
From consumer-products companies to B2B to nonprofit organizations, many now actively solicit stories with self-service “Share Your Story” links on their Web sites.
- Apple created a link for this soon after the release of its wildly popular iPhone.
- FileMaker software includes a link to “Tell us your story.”
- Girl Scouts of the USA asks former members to share their experiences for its alumnae program.
- And Toyota Motor Sales gather owners' stories and gets usage permission through an online form.
Does customer self-nomination actually work?
Sometimes. I know it's worked extremely well for Toyota, which has tons of customer experiences on its site.
But some B2B companies have tried the approach with hardly any submissions to speak of.
Are consumers willing to submit themselves more readily than business candidates? Perhaps.
Fortunately, it's something that's pretty cheap to try for while, and pull if it doesn't generate any great story candidates.
Self-Service Story Options
You have a few different options for information that comes through “Share Your Story” links on your website:
- Collect names and customer interest, and then follow up to get the complete story.
- Create a web form that asks for more detail. Then run stories as first-person customer accounts basically verbatim—like extended testimonials. Check for typos, etc. before publishing online.
- Create third-person, professionally written stories from answers that customers provide on a web form.
Be sure to let customers know how stories will be used, and the positive benefits of being featured.
If you choose to run stories based strictly on customer-submitted information, you'll need a way for customers to indicate their permission as they type in their experiences. Toyota has a check box that handles this.
You may also want a way for customers to upload a photo of themselves, if applicable.
In general, but not always, first person (I, we) stories seem most appropriate for consumer companies while third person (he, she, they) works best for B2B.
To decide the best approach for your company, consider your audience, and maintenance and cost considerations.
Have you tried a web form? If so, share your experience in the comments.
Want more tips for managing your case studies?
It's that time of year, when hordes of students head back to school.
Makes me almost miss the chance to get a new backpack and school clothes.
In the spirit of lifelong learning, here are a few upcoming events—all virtual—to sharpen your knowledge and skills.
Generalist vs. Specialist: Which Is Better for Writers in a Tough Economy?
Free live debate - 2-3 pm EDT, Sept. 17, online, free
Join Peter Bowerman, "The Well-Fed Writer," who's made a great writing living as a generalist since "day one" of his career in 1994, as he squares off against über-specialist Michael Stelzner, international authority on white papers and author of the book Writing White Papers.
Telling Stories to Generate Revenue
BtoB Magazine Webcast - 2-3 pm EDT, Sept. 17, online, free
An expert panel will share the why, when, where and how of storytelling for revenue. Along the way, they will provide detailed examples demonstrating unique content and formats.
The Customer Won't Sign Off! and other Pitfalls: The Case Study Manager’s Crash Course
a Stories That Sell webinar - 12-1 pm MDT, Sept. 29, online, $24
Learn simple strategies to improve your customer stories, and the whole process with customers – with less stress and delay. Boost customer participation, get case studies done in less time, create case studies that win more sales, and enhance relations with customers in the process.
Copywriting Success Summit 2009
online summit – multiple dates in October, online, $297 before Sept. 24!
What do successful writers know and do differently that makes them so successful? How do they generate quality leads and win better clients? Now you can learn their tactics. Discover how to grow your writing business during this economic slump.
Just like a sales pitch, it's essential to be organized when approaching customers about participating in case studies and success stories.
They want to know exactly what's involved, how you plan to use their stories, and how they benefit.
Create what I call a "pitch package," which provides all the details customers need to make the decision about being featured as a success story.
Here's what you might include in your pitch package:
Samples of past stories, Provide 2 to 3 current case studies or success stories in their final format, or links back to the stories on your Web site.
If you've never created any before, go online to companies you respect and whose success stories you like and pull those as examples of what yours will look like.
One-page description of the process and usage, Create a one-page document that describes your success-story process, from end-to-end, and covers how the story will be used. Include a few points about the benefits for that customer.
Interview questionnaire, Customers appreciate knowing what you plan to ask them. Send them your list of planned questions, but ideally, conduct the actual interview live or via phone. (Email is not interactive.)
The release form, If your organization uses a legal release form for customers to provide approval, give customers a copy ahead of time so they know what to expect.
By assembling all this information in a single email to potential candidates, they can easily forward it on to others in the company.
Do You Manage Customer Case Studies/Success Stories?
Customer stories are unlike any other marketing communications project; they intimately involve your happiest customers.
Learn how to manage your case studies more smoothly - get them done faster, with less stress and with more impact - in an upcoming webinar.