Have you ever had a conversation with someone and said, "for example," and proceeded to offer an anecdote to illustrate your point?
That’s what a customer case study should be – an example, a case in point to shed light on the topic of conversation.
Just as anecdotes don’t stand alone in conversations, customer anecdotes shouldn’t stand alone on your website.
Too often, you find them buried on vendor websites, under isolated headings like "Resources."
To get them into the "conversation" on your website, ensure customer stories and case studies are connected directly with talk of your products, services or solutions. Include links right on those capabilities pages, as your "for example."
This week, I came across a great execution of customer stories as "for example" pieces. EffectiveUI, a Denver-based user experience agency, connects customer examples directly with its capabilities copy.
From the following main page, users can take links to interactive environments where they can choose to look at various customer stories, such as "design work" or "development approaches."
Once you click on one of the hyperlinked phrases, you see an interactive environment specific to that link where you can choose a related customer story to view/read by clicking on the red, numbered circles or on story links at the bottom:
When you choose one of their client projects, a box pops up to highlight the story at a glance:
Here, EffectiveUI showcases the development work it provided for Adobe.
The company offers a dozen or more customer stories across its website, all provided within the context of their capabilities copy.
Consider, how can you better get your customer stories right in the "conversation" on your web site?
A guest post by Daphne Gray-Grant
Eighteen years ago, I spent much of my life feeding babies. Heck, in those days, I spent all of my life feeding babies.
My 7-week premature triplets were tiny, fragile and lousy eaters. It would take an hour to feed one of them -- and they ate every two hours. Do the math: it wasn't pretty. What scared me the most was horror stories of parents forgetting to feed one of their three kids. Understandable, really. In the melee of aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends all anxious to lend a hand -- it would be frighteningly easy to feed one baby twice and another not at all.
There was no way that was going to happen in my household! To prevent this, I became the doctor of mothers and drew up a feeding chart. It listed each child's name on one axis and the times of day on the other. Anyone who was feeding a child was instructed to mark it on the schedule.
We kept this daily record for the first year. Today, when I see my 6-ft 2-inch tall son (born at 4 lbs., 10 oz.) emptying the fridge for his bedtime snack, I smile. He's so easy to feed! But 18 years ago, the record was a lifesaver.
And so it is with records. They let you know what you've accomplished and what you still need to do. They inspire and motivate you. They keep life clear and on track. And all of these traits make charts extraordinarily useful for writers, too.
For example, such a record kept me from losing my sanity when I wrote my book, 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. I'd never written a book before -- my strength was the short form -- stories and articles for newspapers and newsletters. I could usually write the first draft in one sitting at the keyboard.
But a book? No way! It took me about six months to produce a first draft. I generally wrote first thing in the morning -- around 6 am. And what kept me grounded was the chart I had myself complete after every writing session.
My chart let me record: i) how many words I wrote that day, ii) my cumulative word total to date and ii) how many words remaining I had to write. The chart also had a fourth slot for a sentence on how I felt about that day's writing -- whether it was fun or tiresome and what I thought of the quality.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that chart made me finish my book.
On days when I felt "blocked" or too overwhelmed, my previous record of success was enough to persuade me to eek out a few more words so my daily total would never be shameful. As well, I also could easily calculate when I'd be finished -- a glorious thought. The sentences about how I felt -- which ranged from the giddy to the depressed -- taught me that writing is not a straight course, but a zig-zagging one, like a trail meandering through the mountains.
Want to give your writing a boost? Make a chart about it. Just use the “Table” menu in Word, select “insert table” and choose the number of columns and rows you want. If you’re writing a book, you can follow the four slots I used. Maybe you’re writing copy for your own web site, blog, a promotional article, or a big client project. Just tweak the chart to fit your needs. Regardless, record what you do.
Over time, you will discover that how you “feel” about writing is wonderfully unimportant. All that matters is that you do it, day after day.
Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book, "8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better." She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.
As you've heard here before, a customer's story can be used for much more than just collateral or for website content. Live presentations are one of the hottest ways to showcase customer stories - and all the more powerful when the happy customer does the presenting.
Picture a customer contact speaking before a room full of peers at an industry conference, talking about his/her successes, and how, by the way, the customer uses solutions from certain vendors to help make it happen. What better way for a company to get an endorsement from a reliable source, in front of a roomful of potential customers?
In just the past two months, I've helped clients capture customer stories four times to be presented at industry events.
How does it work and what do you need to take into consideration?
First, the presentation development (PowerPoint or other) can happen before the vendor creates a case study, or after...
From speaking presentation to a written/video case study
Often, a speaking opportunity comes before a written or video case study. Here’s how this might play out.
The vendor company might take the lead, providing details to the customer about the speaking opportunity, getting the customer’s commitment, helping create an abstract for the event for the customer to consider and helping manage timelines.
The vendor often does a lot of the heavy lifting in creating the presentation, in hopes that that legwork will help earn (and keep) a mention of the vendor’s solution in the presentation.
The process is then similar to creating a case study: you would need to gather background from internal vendor contacts first, and then collect information from the customer. In discussion with customer contacts, talk about themes and angles that the customer might want to highlight and what to avoid.
Before the event, the presentation will likely need be approved by the customer's organization. If so, you’ve got content from a satisfied customer that can likely be turned into other forms of customer story collateral, if the customer agrees.
From written/video case study to presentation
Or the speaking opportunity may come AFTER the vendor has documented the customer’s story in a case study – making the presentation development easier.
Here, start with a touch-base meeting with the customer to determine the angle or theme for the presentation, and again, what can be included or left out. The actual case study may just be one part – even one slide – of the greater presentation. But it’s still high-profile, contextual exposure.
Regardless of which direction you approach this, here are 4 things to keep in mind:
1. Keep the focus on the customer's success, not your product/service – Know that a presentation is not intended to be a stand-alone customer case study just about the vendor’s solutions. It’s an opportunity for the customer contact to showcase and educate about success in some area, with the vendor benefitting from additional exposure.
2. Collaborate closely with the customer on themes – For one recent client project, the customer contact offered some creative ideas for ways to package the presentation, as did the vendor. It was a productive collaboration that resulted in a presentation that pleased – and provided positive exposure for – both sides.
3. Think ahead about other uses – Live presentations can pave the way for documented vendor case studies on some of the biggest organizations, which are typically shy about being named in public stories.
The live presentation can open the door to these other opportunities. For that reason, try to get details into the presentation slides or notes that you want to use for other purposes, if possible.
For example, for one recent project, my client wanted to get certain key messages about the company/solution into either the slides or presentation notes because the entire presentation would be run past the customer's legal and corporate communications teams. If it was all approved, the vendor could then more easily use that information in the future in other materials.
4. Decide who's doing what - Who will create the abstract? The outline? And then the actual presentation slides?
It can be done in a variety of ways. Sometimes the customer contact and his/her team want to take ownership of the slide creation or maybe they want the vendor to draft a first pass and then they take it from there.
Either way, a collaboration is best. If the vendor company is active in the process, it can get a few of its desired messages into the presentation more easily. But above all, stay focused first on showcasing the customer and his/her success, with vendor key messages coming second.
When you help your customers use success story information in a variety of formats, you provide multiple opportunities for both of you to shine.