Put yourself in these shoes:
You just noticed a Tweet, or a LinkedIn or Facebook posting, that’s of interest to you. So you follow the attached link.
When you arrive, you hit a closed door – you have to fill out a form with your information in order to go further.
Would you leave? Probably.
When you follow social media links, you expect that content to be EASY and quick to access.
You should be sharing your customer case studies and success stories on social media. Relevant stories spread your ideas and solutions to new people.
That calls for keeping them free and open – not behind closed doors.
Social media is about sharing and interacting with others, first and foremost. Don’t bring them to locked content and make them give you something in return for the key,.
The rule of thumb: If you lock your case studies, then don’t publicize them on social media.
Better yet, don’t lock your case studies.
By leaving them free and open, MORE people will see them, increasing the chances that you’ll actually make a connection with a greater number of people.
What’s your take? Do you agree?
It can be really tough to get customers to go public with their stories.
But the prospect of winning an award gets customers on board - fast!
Your products and services are helping customers do innovative, progressive things. Why not submit those examples for industry awards where you both get some of the glory?
Just last week, I helped a client capture two of its best customer success stories to submit for two different awards programs in my client's industry.
And get this...Both featured customers are major, nationally known companies.
My client's customers were all over the idea, even mentioning how excited they were in the interviews. Plus, the prospect of an award deadline got the customers to MOVE quickly.
Somehow, submitting for awards doesn't require (in most companies) the usual PR/legal approval that customer case studies do, but you still get a positive story out publicly- if you win.
If the entry wins, everyone benefits:
- The individuals at your customer companies receive praise internally for their efforts.
- The customer company receives positive press.
- You, as the vendor, receive attention for being part of award-winning efforts. You can then turn around and publicize that every chance you get.
Moreover, once your customer has won an award, they're often more likely to allow you to publish that tale as a case study or success story.
2010 Action Steps:
- Search online for awards relevant to your industry and mark them on your calendar.
- Select some customers that you'd like to submit.
- Capture their stories well in advance.
- Fill out the award application for the customer.
- Get the customer's approval of the award submission.
- Go back later and ask if you can simply put that information into a public case study.
If you win, tell everyone!
Any great success stories to share about submitting customers' stories for awards?
Customer case studies and success stories change hands - a LOT.
On average, 3-4 different people review a story before it's finalized. At times, it can be twice that many.
Each review is an another opportunity for errors and typos to creep in.
Don't expect reviewers to find these errors. Most are not proofing for perfection, but rather for content.
Whether you're a writer or manager of the project, make sure every story gets a final proofing.
Pick a proofer
Ideally, select someone who hasn't seen the document all along, just to do the proofing.
If not, then the writer usually assumes this role.
Build it into the process
Team members can be eager to get an approved case study out for use.
But make it mandatory that the case study goes through this final proofing phase before it goes out for public consumption.
Especially if you wrote the story, read it carefully.
Maybe even print it out so your eyes see it differently. You'll catch things you wouldn't see on the screen.
Beware errors in design
If the story is going into a design template, proof it again after it's in that format.
A perfect Word doc can end up with words missing in the layout process.
Being detail-oriented pays off. You don't want prospects to find an ugly typo in your hard-earned case study.
Suddenly, the marketing world is in a panic over the new FTC rules regarding endorsements (testimonials).
It's December, and the new guidelines went into effect yesterday.
Some are asking, should we pull down every customer testimonial, success story and case study?!
While it sounds bad, the impact on case studies may be minimal compared to stand-alone testimonials. Even then, there are ways testimonials can comply.
After reading the official guidelines and various interpretations, here are some of my conclusions:
(Note: This is my take on the guidelines - and I'm not an attorney.)
Conlusion #1: Stand-alone testimonials need to be clarified
Testimonials expressing satisfaction or opinion - without mentioning results - usually seem to be OK.
It's those with specific results that are a particular problem. Consumers can't really know what's behind them or if results are typical.
Yet, statements such as "results not typical" are no longer valid under the guidelines.
Here's a sample problem statement from the FTC doc:
“I lost 50 pounds in 6 months with WeightAway."
Who knows whether this is typical or what went into these results?
Under the new guidelines, testimonials with results can't omit the "how." Endorsements must have context.
Here's the FTC's revised example:
“Every day, I drank 2 WeightAway shakes, ate only raw vegetables, and exercised vigorously for six hours at the gym. By the end of six months, I had gone from 250 pounds to 140 pounds.”
It's not as crisp and succinct, for sure. But it explains much more accurately what went into the weight-loss results.
IF this is typical of someone who drank the shakes, ate well and exercised that much, then it's fine.
If not typical, then use of such a testimonial requires you to mention what the typical result would be with this combination.
Conclusion #2: Case studies likely BENEFIT from the new rules
As noted above, a glowing testimonial of a sentence or two ususally doesn't show the full context.
I have to give Michel Fortin credit for being the first to point out that case studies just may be the answer in many cases.
Customer case studies are intended to go beyond just the results - to show what's behind the numbers.
By showing the path to success, you eliminate the ambiguity or the implication that magically plugging something in produces success. There's usually more to it.
To that end, if you write or manage customer stories, make sure that you accurately portray the steps that led to success - which may be more than just your solution.
That may mean fleshing out success stories a bit so they are not just overviews but more detailed accounts.
Also, instead of pulling out specific results quotes from case studies and using them elsewhere, you may need to get customer approval on a second version of each quote that can be used as a stand-alone.
Conclusion #3: Check back with customers regularly
I listened to a recent webinar that Jim Edwards conducted with Richard Cleland, assistant director in Advertising Practices at the FTC.
Cleland clarified a lot of questions.
He also pointed out the importance of updating your endorsements regularly.
Technically, if you've left your testimonials and customer stories up for a year or so, you should check back with customers on whether they still feel the same way.
Doing so may even result in updates that make your testimonials or case studies stronger.
Conclusion #4: Introduce affidavits or modify release forms
Cleland also suggested that customers sign an affidavit that their statements are in fact true at that time.
Many legal release forms have wording to this effect. If you use email approvals, you might want to create a very short affidavit doc or email approval string that has wording to address this.
Conclusion #5: The guidelines aren't totally clear
Even with example scenarios in the doc, the guidelines are still a bit fuzzy when you try to apply them.
At times, it seems a few words can make the difference between compliance or non-compliance.
Just keep in mind the intention of the newly clarified guidelines. They're intended to protect us from misleading and fraudulent claims.
If we simply learn how to work with them, they're a good thing for us all.
The FTC has said that, if by chance you are out of compliance, you will receive a warning and a chance to fix the issue.
Over time, these should become clearer, as we learn what real-world examples the FTC finds out of compliance.
Evaluate your inventory of testimonials, success stories and case studies per the guidelines.
Update or get new approvals of old endorsements.
Decide whether you need to revise or add affidavit language into any approval documents.
- Additional resources:
Michel Fortin's blog post
Joel Comm's blog post
Jim Edwards' webinar with the FTC
How are you changing your case studies and practices to fit these new guidelines?