the complete guide to success story marketing

Build Credibility by Showcasing Customer Successes

By Casey Hibbard; originally appeared in Frontrange TechBiz

Just about every company has at least one – that golden satisfied customer. You think, if only the rest of the world knew what this customer knows.

To build your company’s credibility, capture and share the details of customer successes with all your audiences, from prospects to the media to potential investors.

But showcasing your customer successes goes beyond circulating a press release and adding the happy customer’s name to a list on your Web site. You must show others that you have customers who are not only satisfied with their experiences, but who are doing business better, faster or cheaper as a result.

Most of the nation’s top companies, like Microsoft, HP, Accenture and Oracle, highlight their star customers to build confidence in their product or service with their many different audiences.

They do this through customer case studies and success stories on how a particular customer is benefiting from their product or service. It’s the proof to back up the promises in their marketing messaging.

Here are some of the reasons why customer success stories are a critical component in sales, marketing, PR and brand building in today’s businesses, no matter what size the organization.

  • Credibility – People don’t believe everything they read, especially in marketing and advertising. However, there is tremendous value in the own, true words of your satisfied customers.

    When they are willing to talk about their first-hand experiences with your company, product or service, and share the value they have seen, their words carry a lot more weight than any capabilities brochure ever can.

  • Feeding prospects’ need for information – Before others invest in your company, they do their homework to assess the potential return on investment—even more so when budgets are tight.

    And, the more costly the investment in terms of price and the role the product or service will play in the company, the more information and credibility they demand before making their decisions.

  • Mileage – Your success stories offer exceptional marketing, PR and sales mileage. Companies can use their case studies in a number of ways, depending on their marketing goals.

    Some print them for sales calls and trade shows. Others make them available to analysts, potential partners and investors. Nearly all publish them on their Web sites. Some use them to pitch unique PR angles to the trade press. 

    One Bay Area software company continuously earns ink in the trade press by pitching its case studies to editors. The company also landed a spot in a major analyst’s top 10 list of best CRM implementations based on a case study.

  • The Mirror Effect – Potential customers want to see themselves and their concerns in your marketing. With case studies, you have the opportunity to show exactly how your product or service filled a need and solved a problem—and offered a return on their investment.

For this reason, it makes sense to have cases that reflect all the different industries you are targeting. Show manufacturing prospects how other manufacturing customers benefited. Illustrate to a financial services prospect the ways in which your financial customers get value from your product or service.

So, when are case studies right in your marketing mix? Case studies are most appropriate if your product or service involves a significant investment by the client in terms of dollar value and time to implement and train (i.e. learning curve). They are also key when you are trying to build credibility with any new audience or vertical market.

All you need are happy customers who don’t mind talking about their experiences. Startups can feature their beta customers. More established companies should use their most satisfied, biggest name customers, if they agree to be featured.

When your customers have agreed to a case study, create interview questions that will hit on your key marketing messages. Develop the case study in a format that will attractively highlight your strengths. And finally, get the client’s sign off to use the story publicly.

For maximum mileage, use the customer’s voice in every place that you can.

With skeptical prospective customers, a little name dropping goes a long way.