I’m so not getting what it is you do.
August 25, 2011
Case studies and customer success stories are very effective promotional tools because they are so credible. As I explained in a previous blog post anything you say about your own product or service is suspect because you are totally biased – while the views of independent third parties are much more likely to be trusted.
However, that’s not the only benefit of using real life stories to promote your products and services.
Run that by me one more time…
I meet someone at a networking event and they tell me that “Our company offers practical, highly flexible, scaleable, and cost effective sales solutions to SMEs and multinationals.” I’m thinking “are they selling CRM software, offering consultancy advice, running training courses, or what….? I wish I’d never asked!”
I visit an exhibition and find myself opposite a stand that proclaims “Our services are focused on the successful implementation and ongoing management of business improvement processes.” I read it two or three times but really struggle to picture exactly what practical things they could do to help my business. Time for a quick exit.
I open an email that says “We offer comprehensive records management, data protection and information destruction systems which have been developed to smooth out your organisation’s operational processes while improving your overall activity planning and communication.” A little voice at the back of my brain is going “I hear what you say…but I haven’t got a clue what the hell you are on about!”
Most businesses are pretty complicated these days, and the offering can be rather intangible. On the other hand prospects are already overloaded with information. Put those two unhelpful factors together and explaining what you do, whilst relating it to the needs of potential customers, in a way that works…can be extremely challenging.
Stories solve the problem
The quickest way to overcome these challenges is to give an actual example of your product or service in action, in the form of a case study or customer success story.
Follow the classic story structure (background to the company, the problem they were struggling with, the solution you supplied, and the results) and everything becomes so much clearer. Your offering is not being described in the abstract, but demonstrated in action, within a real context. The client can verbalise the challenges you overcame for them, and exactly how they have benefitted. Suddenly everything comes into sharp focus – what was vague and woolly, expressed in jargon and shrouded in management-speak, becomes clear, tangible and meaningful. A light bulb goes off in the prospect’s brain and they exclaim “ah ha…now I get it!”
A story to explain why stories work so well
I was approached by a document management and data capture company. I was truly clueless about what those terms meant. But when I interviewed their client for the case study it rapidly started to make sense.
The client was a local authority which was struggling to process a huge volume of application forms from people trying to get onto the housing register (the first step towards renting one of their properties). The data capture technology that was introduced meant that instead of staff taking the hand-written information and laboriously typing it into the computer system, the forms were simply scanned and the hand-writing was converted into digital text then entered automatically. In the words of the manager “It halves the amount of time we spend on each form”. Suddenly it all made sense to me – data capture now meant something!
The same happened with the term data management. “With the old system”, the manager explained, “the data wasn’t very accessible. You physically had to go and find the file full of paper. If something had been filed in the wrong place, you were never going to find it. Also, the file could be sitting on someone else’s desk. That means frustration and delays.” Right, I get it…because all the data is now on the computer, anyone can find the information in a couple of clicks, instead of searching through filing cabinets and around desk tops.
Conclusion – stories sell
If you don’t make it easy for people to understand what you do, guess what? They are going to buy from someone that does. The easiest way to help those prospects? Use case studies and customer success stories at every opportunity.
Need help preparing case studies or customer success stories to promote your business? Get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org