Customer success stories are powerful. They educate your target audience about the benefits of doing business with you. They help you convert skeptical prospects. They reassure customers that they made the right decision. They reinforce your brand. And they show your employees why their work matters.
But it takes real work to write a case study. Here are nine mistakes we see time and again. Imagine how much better your stories would be if you could avoid them.
Not setting clear objectives
Start with the end in mind. What’s your primary goal? How will this customer success story be used? How will you know you’ve succeeded in getting your message across?
The answers to these three questions will serve as a compass to guide you through the entire case study development process.
Choosing the wrong customer
It happens more often than you think. An excited sales representative approaches the marketing department to write a success story about a customer she has a great relationship with.
Except that the story doesn’t align with your business objectives, the specific results are not exactly mind blowing, and the topic would have been great two years ago, but is now a bit dated.
Requesting permission from the wrong person
Naturally, if you have a great relationship with your customer and your solution delivered outstanding results, you tend to assume that your customer will happily share her story.
The only problem is that—especially in large organizations—your customer can’t grant you permission before first clearing it with her corporate communication or legal department.
Avoid unpleasant surprises by finding out early who needs to be involved in the decision.
Ignoring your audience
You should always keep your ideal reader in mind. Literally. That is actually the point of developing buyer personas.
At the very least, ask yourself: How technical is the reader? What are her main concerns? How familiar is she with the topic?
Conducting the interview with your own customer
You may be tempted to save some money by writing your own case study, but that’s usually a bad idea.
While there is no doubt you know your customer better than anyone, your customer may actually be more forthcoming about the many benefits of working with you if she talks to a third-party interviewer.
It’s always a bit awkward to ask your customer to tell you how wonderful you are.
Neglecting the storytelling part
Customer success stories tend to be short, one or two pages at the most. Nonetheless, they are stories, not PowerPoint presentations.
A story is engaging. It encourages empathy in the reader and uses storytelling methods to evoke emotion. Ultimately the reader should feel compelled to take action.
Not designing for readability
Regardless of the length of your customer success story, people usually scan before they decide to read more carefully, especially online. Headlines and quotes are particularly important to improve readability.
A professional designer will suggest different layout options that match your brand’s look and feel. This level of professionalism will undeniably make a positive impression on the customer who, despite her busy schedule, agreed to share her experience.
Having no promotion strategy
No matter how great your customer case study is, people won’t read it if they don’t know about it. In this respect, your promotion strategy is almost more important than the case study itself.
There are so many channels available (website, email signature, email campaigns, social media, pay-per-click advertising, etc.), but strategy should precede tactics.
To avoid spreading your efforts too thin, check your work against your original goal. Then, remember who your audience is.
Your plan should identify which story will be used, when it will go live, and through which channels.
Working in silos
The marketing department usually has the task of writing case studies, but that doesn’t mean you should work in silos.
It’s important to maintain an open dialogue with your sales team to ensure the success stories you deliver meet their needs and they actually use them.
Once they’ve realized the value of customer success stories, they’ll provide you with a constant flow of new candidates you can interview for stories.
If you’ve avoided these nine common mistakes, you will undoubtedly reap the rewards of writing compelling stories.
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