Success stories are a highly effective marketing tool. They lend credibility to your firm’s technological expertise in a format that prospects can easily relate to and understand. A well-written story delivers compelling evidence of your ability to provide ERP, CRM, HR, and other technology solutions that help your prospects become more efficient, profitable and competitive … which may ultimately help you get the deal closed!!
But developing an effective success story is as much an art as it is a science. At Juice Marketing, we’ve developed several best practices that enable us to deliver success stories to our clients that are compelling and resonate with their prospects.
So let’s take a look at 6 critical elements of an effective success story.
1 – Selecting the Right Customers
There is a difference between a testimonial and a success story. You may have a customer that absolutely loves working with you but has a difficult time articulating pains & benefits that were addressed or achieved with your solution. If they simply say, “ABC Reseller is great to work with and the support has been wonderful,” you probably have the makings of a brief quote or testimonial that can complement your marketing collateral or grace your website. On the other hand if your customer can articulate the efficiency gains and can quantify process improvements (i.e. Saved $$$, reduced labor by X%, etc.), you probably have the makings of an engaging story.
P.s. Shorter customer testimonials are a great marketing tool as well. Check out our Customer Buzz program for VARs and channel partners. It’s like a success story, but shorter.
2 – Conducting an Effective Interview
Asking the right questions during the customer interview is one of the most important elements of the process. Remember that your customer is not in the business of providing success stories so they’ll need a lot of guidance in order to provide the ammunition you’ll need to develop an effective story.
Here are a few questions that we typically ask during an interview:
- Explain the challenges you faced using your old system?
- What are the business issues or pains that were addressed during the implementation?
- How have things improved today using the new system/solution?
- What benefits have been achieved? How has it positively impacted your company? Can you quantify those benefits?
3 – Quantify!!
Numbers (whether dollars, percentages or otherwise) are always compelling and lend credibility to claims being made in the story. A statement such as “We saved money with our new system” is much less effective than “We eliminated $60,000 in legacy support costs of our old DOS-based system which resulted in a 7-month return on investment.” Getting your customer to quantify the benefits of your solution is probably the most challenging part of the interview process and is quite possibly an art form.
Rarely are efficiency gains and process improvements benchmarked before and after an implementation so it often requires a bit of creative thinking and resourceful questioning to extract the quantifiable data that will make the difference between a good and great success story.
4 – Creative Writing Skill
Here is where you make the interview come to life and add depth to the conversation. Don’t look to your customers to provide you with eloquent quotes and statements that are absolute gems. They are not in the business of marketing so most of the time you’ll have to take what they said during the interview and add a little character (also known as embellishment). And don’t forget about the “story” part of the equation. A boring statement of facts or something that reads like a transcript of the telephone interview probably won’t keep your readers engaged. That’s where creative writing comes in!
5 – Format and Design
An appealing graphical layout will make the story more inviting to read. Section headlines, featured customer quotes, and carefully placed graphical elements will also help break up text into “bite-sized” pieces and make it easy on the eye. And while there is no standard length (it can be as short as 1-page, while others are 4+ pages), a 2-page format seems to provide enough space to convey important details without drawing the story out unnecessarily.
6 – Make it about YOU
Overall, the success story should convey YOUR capability as a technology solution provider and valued business advisor. Avoid the temptation to focus on software and product features as this approach does very little to “brand” your company’s expertise nor differentiate your implementation technique from the reseller down the street. If it’s all about the product, your solution becomes commoditized and the unique experience & implementation method that you bring to the table is devalued.
Success Stories that Sizzle
If you don’t have the time, resources, or are just too busy to develop success stories for your business, take a look at our Success Story program for Sage, Microsoft, and SAP channel partners. Or mozy on over to our creative portfolio to check out a few sample success stories that we’ve created for VARs and technology providers just like you.
P.s. You might also be interested in reading “Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Existing Success Stories“
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By Mark Badran