the complete guide to success story marketing

4 Tips for More Seductive Customer Stories

Author: ; Published: Jun 28, 2012; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: None; No Comments


(This week, we lost a treasured filmmaker, Nora Ephron. This post is a tribute to her.)

If you’ve seen Ephron’s classic ’80s comedy, When Harry Met Sally, you know the most famous scene.

Friends Sally (Meg Ryan) and Harry (Billy Crystal) are talking over sandwiches in a deli. To prove a point, Sally pretends – very loudly – to be experiencing a particularly, ahem, pleasurable human experience.

But the punch line comes from a woman at a nearby table. Swayed by what she thinks is Sally’s endorsement of the sandwich, she tells the waiter, "I’ll have what she’s having."

It’s a reminder of one of the most powerful marketing concepts around:

Other peoples’ ringing endorsements convince us to buy – better than just about anything else.

That means, stop talking about how great you are and let customers do it for you. Showcase their stellar experiences in customer success stories.

How do you create customer stories that elicit a reaction as emphatic as Sally does? Here are four ways to make your success stories more seductive:

1- Feature Only Insanely Smitten Customers

In the effort to get customer stories, just any customer stories, we don’t always hold out for the best. The result: lackluster narratives that leave buyers unmoved.

Truly convincing customer stories call for interviewing only those who love you.

Choose your customers carefully. Who eloquently sings your praises? Who already refers you to others? Get those customers on record.

Take the time to pre-qualify customers as being true fans before moving ahead with collecting testimonials or case studies.

2- Capture Passionate Customer Quotes

Customer quotes should ooze with that love – and the customer’s personality. That passion should jump off the page or video screen.

Just as in any news or feature story, quotes are often the most-read – or only-read – parts. Infuse your success stories with glowing direct quotes from your devoted customers.

To get passionate quotes from customers, ask questions that get them talking and sharing their emotions:

– “Describe the situation before and the pains/problems/challenges of that.”

– “Describe how your workday (or whatever) has changed for the better with the new solution.”

 “Can you share an example or anecdote of a time when the solution [insert name] made a difference for you?”

For optimal emotion, plan to capture stories before customers forget how bad things were previously, but also after enough time that they’ve had a chance to see results.

DON’T: Write quotes for customers. Collect them directly from customers. I know, customers are busy and often ask you to put something together for them to approve. But when possible, politely request a real quote.

Customers say infinitely more interesting things than what you might manufacture.

3- Tap into Prospects’ Narcissism – Make it ‘About’ Them

If you’re dating, you’re told to keep the other person talking about themselves. The same goes for wooing potential customers.

We all like talking about, hearing about, and reading about ourselves or others like us.

In a customer success story, that takes the form of featuring current customers that look just like prospects. A director of HR wants to hear about how another director of HR solved the very same payroll problem she’s contending with now. Otherwise, it’s not relevant for your audience.

4- Display your Feathers – Those Tantalizing Customer Results

In the peacock mating game, those flashy feathers are alluring for one reason – to attract and land the peahens.

In a customer case study or success story, your colorful feathers or enticing cologne come in the form of customer results – specific and as measurable as possible.

How do you get strong results? Going back to tip #1, choose customers well, in this case those that have only the best results and can share them.

Then, ask before-and-after questions. How much time or money (or whatever) did this require before, and how about now? Present those numbers in ways that put customers at ease. If dollar figures are too revealing, use percentages or factors of (i.e. cut in half, tripled, etc.).

Finally, showcase those results as a peacock would – so they can’t be missed. Weave them into your headline, highlight them in customer quotes and include them in sidebar summaries.
With these seductive qualities, a customer success story can actually sell for you, convincing that prospect to think unequivocally …


"I’ll have what he’s/she’s having."


Quiz: Is it a Case Study or a White Paper?

Author: ; Published: Jun 20, 2012; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: None; 2 Comments

Every couple of weeks it seems, I see someone confuse customer case studies and white papers. People frequently call case studies "white papers," and vice versa - even marketing folks. In my narrowly focused case study world, I see them as distinctly different. But I can see where it's easy to confuse the two.

Why the confusion?
First, there are similarities. Customer case studies and white papers are both narrative forms of marketing that focus more on how challenges are solved rather than on heavy promotion. But beyond that, there are distinct differences.

Let's take a little quiz. Answer "customer case study" or "white paper" for each of the following questions. The answers follow. Don't cheat!

1. The focus is on how a certain challenge is solved and the benefits of the solution, without being customer-specific.

2. The primary focus is one customer's experience with a product, service, solution or person.

3. The written document is typically 5-10 pages in length.

4. It can mention a customer's experience but mainly in the context of showing benefits/results.

5. It does not require external approval by a customer.

6. You can reuse the content in a dozen or more different ways.

7. In surveys of B2B technology buyers, this was named the most influential collateral type.

8. This educates readers about how a product/service/other solution looks in action.

1. Focuses on how a certain challenge is solved and the benefits of the solution, without being customer-specific.
Answer: White paper

A white paper gives a vendor the opportunity to highlight challenges and then details how a solution goes about answering those challenges. The focus is on capabilities and benefits generally, without diving into one customer's experience.

2. Focuses on one customer's experience with a product, service, solution or person.
Answer: Customer case study

In contrast to #1, a customer case study is about a customer from start to finish. While it still highlights challenges, solutions and benefits, it always does so in the context of a customer's experience.

3. Typically ranges 5-10 pages in length.
Answer: White paper

White papers are usually at least twice as long as customer case studies, which typically range from 1-4 pages. White papers use that extra space to go into much more detail on the stated challenge or problem, ways that can be solved and the benefits/drawbacks.

4. Can mention a customer's experience but mainly in the context of showing benefits/results.
Answer: White paper

White papers are not free of customer examples. In fact, they can really bring life to a white paper. But a customer example here would be mentioned in context, in summary, in the doc, rather than being the focus of the entire piece.

Check out this article by Jonathan Kantor about how to weave customer examples into white papers.

5. Requires external approval by a customer.
Answer: Customer case study

Customer case studies that mention the customer by name are collaborative pieces. You interview the customer and the customer reviews, edits and approves what you create. However, if a white paper mentions a customer by name, and that content has not been approved previously by the customer, then it will also need approval.

6. Contains content that can be used in a dozen or more different ways.
Answer: Customer case study

While you may be able to use certain parts of white papers, the content does not pull out in as many ways as with case studies. You can repurpose and reuse case study content for numerous sales and marketing activities, such as blog posts, newsletters, sales letters, sales presentations and proposals.

7. In surveys of B2B technology buyers, this was named the most influential collateral type.
Answer: White paper

According to Eccolo Media, which runs an annual B2B technology collateral survey, respondents ranked white papers the most influential type of collateral. BUT, case studies were a close second.

8. Educates readers about how a product/service/other solution looks in action.
Answer: Both!

Customer case studies and white papers alike serve to educate prospects about how something works, whether that's a piece of technology, a consulting engagement, or the experience of getting your kitchen remodeled.

Still unsure of the differences?
If there's still any confusion, here are some short descriptions of both media...

Customer case studies:
Focuses on a customer's experience with a product, service or provider with a look at the customer's challenge, the specific solution applied and the outcomes (benefits/results) of the engagement.

White papers:
For this description, I turned to my trusty bookshelf, where I pulled my friend Michael Stelzner's book, "Writing White Papers." It's excellent, by the way, if you haven't checked it out.

Here's how Mike defines a white paper at a high level:
"A white paper is a persuasive document that usually describes problems and how to solve them. The white paper is a crossbreed of a magazine article and a brochure. It takes the objective and educational approach of an article and weaves in persuasive corporate messages typically found in brochures."

So, weigh in. How would you describe either of these media?