Every day, we encounter new stories – on TV, in books, movies and magazines, and in discussions with others.
Nearly all of them build toward an end result, which isn’t clear until you arrive there.
But in marketing, leading with the outcome gets the attention of distracted audiences.
Just this past week, Richard Fouts of Gartner presented the webinar, "How to Tell Better Marketing Stories."
In it, he offered three tips for telling stories well, with "start with the end of the story" as #1.
Here’s an example:
If you saw the movie "Memento," you know that it famously starts with the end (a gory scene) before taking you on a wild ride to see how that end came about.
This technique works beautifully in customer case studies and success stories, but applied slightly differently (and with no gory outcome).
Here are two ways to lead with the end result in your customer stories:
Use your top headline to reinforce the most significant and important result that the customer achieved.
Let’s look at a few sample headlines that showcase the end result…
"Sprint Nextel Grows E-mail Volume 30% in 2009 – and Maintains High Performance"
"Time Warner Cable Fills Revenue-Generating Jobs in Half the Time"
"Consumer-Driven Plan Saves Employer up to $75,000 Annually"
All three headlines spill the story’s end to the audience right at the start. Then, just like Memento, the case study goes into how that came about.
An Intro Summary
In longer magazine features or even the evening news, the story often kicks off with a brief summary of what’s to come – usually only a few sentences.
For each of its case studies, Microsoft includes a summary just under the headline, before the body copy starts.
Keep it short and to the point. Ideally, mirror the rest of the story in that single paragraph by briefly mentioning the main challenge, how it was solved and the
biggest benefit the customer experienced.
An example of the intro summary on a case study, from Microsoft…
Jelly Belly Candy Company has experienced rapid growth over the last decade, as the company expands into new geographies and product areas. The company installed an ERP system in 2007 and began work on a project for an accompanying customer relationship management system. However, after 18 months of work, Jelly Belly decided to abandon the project and look for a more stable system that would meet its core requirements more effectively. Working with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Webfortis, Jelly Belly implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM in two-and-a-half months, meeting core requirements, such as integration with the ERP system and creating a single view of customer information across the company. Jelly Belly uses the solution to strengthen relationships with customers and has reduced customer churn by at least 34 percent and added U.S.$60,000 each month in sales.
Do you "start with the end" in your case studies and success stories? Any other ways besides these two examples?
If you’re a marketing copywriter, you can increase your monthly income by adding case studies to your repertoire.
In a first-of-its-kind mentoring program, Casey Hibbard shares everything she’s learned over the past 10 years about growing a copywriting business with customer case studies.
Early-bird signup ends next week! Learn more now about The Case Study Copywriter’s Mentoring Course.
This morning, a perfect example of customer case studies in action arrived in my inbox.
The subject line reads: "Webinar - How IGN Entertainment Increased Self-Service Rates to Over 90% Using Parature Customer Service Software."
One of my clients, Parature, is taking a case study a step further by having a happy customer speak about her experience using the software.
Once again, the power of letting the customer say it for you shines through. It provides credibility, education and validation.
I imagine Parature would receive less interest and signups if one of its own spoke instead, with an alternate subject line reading: "Webinar - Increase Self-Service Rates with Parature Customer Service Software."
More compelling, the email goes on to mention a few highlights of the customer's results and best practices.
Case Studies for Lead Gen/Nurturing
Some say case studies are more appropriate for later in the sales cycle - when prospects are validating solutions.
But really, is there any time in the sales cycle when a happy customer's experience isn't more compelling to a prospect than web copy laden with features and capabilities?
Early on like this, prospects and customers register for the webinar and Parature then has information with which to keep in touch and nurture relationships.
Which Comes First - Written/Video Case Study or Webinar?
A written and/or video case study perfectly complements the "case study webinar." But which first?
Create the written/video story first, as Parature did. For starters, it allows you to scope out the customer's story in depth before planning a webinar. Are they actually seeing results and how strong are they? Do you think the customer's personality would lend itself well to a webinar presentation?
Then, create a story that the customer approves and publish a link to the full case for webinar attendees to view and download. It gives them something that they can then pass along to colleagues also involved in the decision.
Most importantly, think of ways, like Parature, to integrate the voices of your most successful customers in all your marketing efforts, from lead gen to upselling to current customers.
Have you tried case study webinars and what's been the response? What other ways are you using case studies for lead generation?
Copywriters: Want to make more money with case studies?
Then your stories HAVE to SELL.
Join me on Wednesday, September 8 at 9 PDT/12 EDT for a no-cost, one-hour teleclass:
For Case Study Copywriters: 8 Secrets for Writing Stories That Sell (More)
In this one-hour call, you’ll take away tips to help you create better case studies and be more valuable to your clients or company:
- The #1 way to "wow" your client or boss – What questions can you ask your client so you deliver more on-target stories?
- How to case your client’s competition – Case studies must sell against the competition. Do you know what to look for and how to write a story that competes?
- “Magic” questions to get featured customers to tell you more – How do you get hesitant interviewees to share more details of their experience?
- How to uncover measurable results – How can you help featured customers measure their results?
- Writing stories that pull prospects in – What tactics make a story more engaging and keep prospects reading?
- How to give executive decision-makers what they want in a case study – With time-pressed decision-makers, how do you help them glean information faster?
- Adding navigational “signposts” to your stories – Do you know how to cater to skim readers?
- Getting the customer’s "tears ‘n fears" – Why is emotion important and how do you weave it into your case studies?
Take away tips to help you write better case studies and be more valuable to your clients. In other words, make more money!