To leverage a good story, you need cooperation from all the participants
One of the truths of successful content marketing is you never waste a good story. Some of your best stories will be customer case studies – nothing sells like a real-world application. However, case studies are only implicit testimonials. For most of our clients, their customers will not endorse a product or service, although they will explain, in detail, how they use that product or service to improve their own operations and promote their own brand. The trick when working with customers for case studies is making sure that everyone gets to shine and tell their story, but without detracting from the objectivity that gives the case story its value.
“What’s In It for me?”
When I interview case study candidates, I try to make sure they have a chance to shine and tell their own story in their own way. I look for ways to make sure that the interviewee gets to promote his company and its brand in an appropriate fashion.
Usually, the case study needs to show how the customer is outperforming the competition thanks to your product or service. The objective is to make them look smarter and a leader in their industry because they were wise enough to use your product. Sometimes, a middle manager is seeking to build his reputation, his personal brand, and by being featured as the expert in a case study his or she gets to strut their stuff.
However you approach any case study, everyone has to look like a winner.
How far will they go?
As part of the case study qualification process, you need to assess how far the customer will go in talking about your product or service. Some customers will only speak as anonymous vendors, while others are willing to talk to analysts, editors, prospects, and even stand up at trade shows and brag about how they use your product.
You need to ascertain how enthusiastic your customer contact is about the vendor relationship and the product, and more importantly, how much authority they have to speak for their organization. More than one case study has been quashed by legal, the PR department, or somebody in the C suite.
Once you find the right spokesperson – someone in authority who is an enthusiastic evangelist, the sky’s the limit! You can use that contact for sales referrals, interviews, and other strategic opportunities. However, be judicious about bringing out your best customer advocates. You don’t want to go to the same well too often; it will run dry.
Rinse and repeat
Once you have the case study approved and in the can, and your customer spokesperson primed and ready, what’s your next step? How do you get the most value from a case study?
1. The web site – Of course, you want to make sure that online visitors can read your latest tale of triumph. Consider using a teaser approach, so visitors get part of the story but they have to get the payoff after becoming a Facebook follower or subscribing to your newsletter.
2. Campaigns – If it’s a good story, use it for a direct marketing campaign. Build your mailing list by providing a PDF of the complete case study in exchange for an email address.
3. Article placements – No good story should be wasted, so why not place it in a trade magazine? Editors are always looking for good user stories, if you are willing to remain objective and tell the story without flourishes or hyping your product. (Don’t worry, the readers will know it’s your product.)
4. Videos – If your customer is willing to tell his or her story in front of a crowd, make a video. Video content is very powerful and can be used and reused for a variety of marketing programs.
5. Webinars – Better than a printed story is a demonstration. Webinars featuring case studies are a great way to promote your products.
6. References – Industry analysts, editors, and even sales prospects want to talk to customers. They need reassurance that your value proposition and product claims aren’t just empty promises. Having a catalog off referencable customers you can rely on for references can be invaluable. Just be sure to keep them informed before you drop their name, and be sure they stay happy.
Happy customers with an interesting application story can be gold for any marketing program. Be sure to spend them wisely.