the complete guide to success story marketing

Creating Case Studies? The Math You Have to Master

Author: ; Published: Feb 25, 2010; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: , , , ; 6 Comments


I have a confession. I’m bad at math.

Writers and marketers out there, I know some of you are with me. We were the spelling bee champions, the honors English students and the school newspaper editors.

But algebra was not our thing. Sure, there were some kids talented at both, at which I’m always amazed.

After elementary school, my attitude become one of, "I’ll never use this stuff. I’m going to be a writer!"

Well, here I am in a career mostly about writing and I’m Googling my math questions, or instant messaging a quick story problem to my computer science/math husband.

If you are a mathlete, then stop reading here, or forward this to your "word" friends.

Persnickety Percentages
Customer case studies are about documenting results, showing that actual customers experienced the benefits that marketing and sales promised.

Whether you’re a marketer, business owner or writer producing case studies, there are likely times when you have to do the math on your own. It’s fairly rare that featured customers come ready with all their numbers worked out about how your solution made a difference.

So what do you need to know? Percentages!

In case studies, it’s all about the before and after. How much did the customer reduce costs? How much time are they saving? By what percent did their sales grow?

Percents are sometimes the fallback approach when you can’t name actual dollar figures. Customers will let you mention percentages instead, so you have to know how to calculate them.

Percentages can be easy if you’re going one direction with them, but not other directions.

Fortunately, I found a handy guide for the math-challenged among us. This page gives you a simple formula no matter which number you’re missing and how to do your calculations. There are even problems to test yourself.


Love it. It’s easier than Mrs. Swafford’s approach in 6th grade. (They probably learn this in 3rd grade now.)

Bookmark the page. I know I have. You simply have to do the math in this job sometimes.

Just today, I needed to determine what percent 1752 is of 1,807,125. Can you?


Podcast: Case Studies to Build Trust and Sales

Author: ; Published: Feb 17, 2010; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: , ; No Comments

How do you make the most of a customer's success story? What if you can't name a customer? How do new FTC rules affect case studies?

Get answers to these questions and others on a 25-minute podcast where interviewed Casey Hibbard, "Using Case Studies to Build Trust and Facilitate Sales."

  • Ways to use your customer case studies
  • How many and how often to create case studies
  • What makes a successful case study
  • What if you can't name customers?
  • Examples of professional services firms using case studies successfully
  • Why you shouldn't make people register to access cases
  • How to ease customer permissions and approvals
  • What the new FTC rules mean for endorsements

Listen here. It's only available to non-members of until Feb. 24.

What’s Better – Customer Feedback or Vendor Success Stories?

Author: ; Published: Feb 16, 2010; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: , , ; 5 Comments

As buyers, we need help making decisions. There are just too many options.

My last post revealed my own decision anxiety, multiplied when there are no customer reviews or success stories for me to rely on.

From personal experience, reviews help us make decisions faster and feel more confident about them.

But what's the difference between customer feedback a la Amazon or eBay compared to vendor-produced case studies and success stories? And how can companies benefit from both?

Customer Reviews
Smart companies today ask you for your feedback. They email you after a purchase requesting that you follow a link and "rate and review" the product or service.

  • Feedback is raw, real, unpolished information right from customers.
  • Customers are free to share their negative experiences.
  • Any grammar errors or typos are still there, adding to the authenticity.
  • It's free-form, so customers talk about what is important to them, usually without any prompting questions.
  • As a short review, it only takes a few minutes.
  • There may be a shortage of free-form reviews on higher-end solutions (i.e. $1 million ERP software implementation).
  • That content isn't leveraged beyond showing up on review sites.
  • Cheap or free for vendors.

Vendor Case Studies & Success Stories
Case studies and success stories, produced by the vendor company, formally capture a customer's experience.

  • Vendors reach out to their most successful customers, so no negative stories.
  • Prospective customers see them as more slick or "commercial" than raw feedback.
  • Customers agree to share their story formally and publicly.
  • Formal interviews draw out specific aspects of the customer's experience.
  • The story format engages readers in a different way, taking the audience through challenge, solution and resolution - allowing prospects to better see themselves in those stories.
  • Results are measured - to the extent possible.
  • Once approved, the content can be used in various formats - press releases, stand-alone testimonials, award applications, etc.
  • Takes more money and time.

In today's buying climate, you need these customer experiences to help buyers. What do you choose?

Both. Ideally, your prospective customers can find free-form feedback on the web AND review more formalized, comprehensive, measurable stories about customer experiences.

Customers today benefit from both. The first provides more AUTHENTICITY and the second much-desired DETAIL - both critical pieces of a buying decision.

In fact, make both a part of your marketing plan:

  • Give happy customers links to online feedback sites.
  • Approach those same happy customers about documenting their stories more extensively in print, audio or video.
  • Send prospects to sites with customer feedback (hopefully it's good!) and to stories on your website.

Regardless of what mix you choose, always ensure that you give prospects access to other customers' experiences. You can help them get past indecision.

What's your take? What do prospects gain from free-form feedback versus vendor stories?

Customer Successes – Help Buyers Decide FASTER

Author: ; Published: Feb 5, 2010; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: , , ; 2 Comments

All week, I've been mulling over a few purchase decisions - comparing specs, prices and especially reading online reviews from other buyers that have gone before me.

Not the impulsive type, my research was going well until one of the purchases on my list hit a wall - NO customer reviews or success stories.

If you're like me, you've grown very accustomed to having real feedback from other buyers on anything from a $10 book to a $20,000 car. A lot is riding on each purchase: a big investment of time in the first case and a chunk of change and safety for the latter.

We've come to rely on these "Citizen Marketers" (coined by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba) as our compass for making decisions. Without it, we can feel lost in the woods.

So what's really going on when a buyer can't get her hands on other customer experiences?

We make decisions more slowly - or not at all

This week I'm investigating new video cameras and hotels for a spring vacation. Sites like, TripAdvisor, and stories/testimonials on actual websites of hotels and bed and breakfasts have all pushed me closer to buying.

With that rich information, I am MUCH closer to making a decision.

Yet for a business product I'm considering, no such customer feedback is available. So instead, I put off that decision for now.

We buy less confidently

What's really behind it? I'm just not confident enough in the business product to move ahead. Maybe it's a fabulous product, but I'm going to need more than the company's sales copy to help me decide.

I don't think I'm alone. Buyers today are very accustomed to having that level of information to support their purchases.

Think about it. Are your buyers hesitating without customer feedback? What can you do to change that?

Whether it's suggesting happy customers post on review sites or capturing the details in case studies or success stories, HELP prospective customers buy faster and more confidently.

And now, I have a few purchases to make...


What was the last significant purchase you made, and how influential was real customer feedback?

Next week: The differences between review sites and vendor-produced case studies and success stories.

Customer Stories…Make a Tractor Interesting?

Author: ; Published: Feb 2, 2010; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: , , ; No Comments

Most of us - for better or worse - have had a fast-food hamburger. It usually arrives in paper, often drippy and with an already soggy bun. The burger gets the job done, but not memorably.

Compare that to eating the hamburger at an upscale restaurant. The menu talks about "grass-fed" beef, "artisanal" bread and maybe a house-made aioli mayonnaise. Then, someone slides it gingerly in front of you on a modern square plate with toppings on the side that look fresh from the farmer's market.

They're completely different experiences - and all in the presentation.

Customer case studies and success stories are just as subject to packaging and presentation. You can lay out just the facts, or you can tell a STORY.

Volvo Construction Equipment gets it. They know they're not just selling construction equipment. In the story below, they're selling better, cheaper road maintenance.

The packaging: an intriguing, well-written customer success story. Volvo tells the tale of a rural Alabama county's plight after receiving 12 inches of rain in a single day.

What does Volvo do right?

Feature-story format - The tale takes the form of an engaging feature story like you'd see in a magazine. It doesn't go traditional by blocking text into Challenge-Solution-Results sections.

Strong writing - The writing is specific and sets the scene about the toll of the heavy rain.

Authentic quotes - The quotes sound genuinely spoken by the guys in the field using the equipment, which adds authenticity with the audience.

Clear results - Volvo highlights measurable and anecdotal results.

If Volvo can make a tractor sound interesting, then there's hope for whatever your product or service is. 

Whatever you're selling, you can wrap your customer's story in cheap paper or present it elegantly.