How to Write Success Stories (that Succeed)
As we described in our last post, most enterprises realize the value of effective success stories (also known as case studies). Yet many product managers struggle with the task of actually developing them. This post describes seven proven techniques for how to write success stories.
1. Convince the Customer
In many enterprises, the number one factor that limits development of success stories is the customer. To help convince a customer to agree to sign their name to a success story, explain the benefits they will realize. For example, remind the customer that they can show the completed success story to their senior management or board of directors – demonstrating that they are innovative, solution-oriented, and focused on business benefits.
Another way to help convince the customer is to tell them they will receive a framed hard copy of the final success story as a form of thanks. This framed copy, hanging on the wall of the customer’s office, will become a symbol of the successful relationship between the customer and the solution provider. Over the years, colleagues, co-workers, visitors, and others will admire the achievement.
2. Work with Customers to Ensure Success
Customer involvement is much more than just the initial “ok” to proceed. Follow these tips to ensure a positive customer experience and help ensure successful completion:
- Obtain customer permission before writing the document, solicit input during the development, and secure approval after drafting it.
- Rather than asking the customer to draft quotes, write them for their review; this usually results in more compelling material.
- Use “homegrown” customer photos to personalize the story and help connect with readers.
3. Agree on a Common Organization
The time-tested, most effective organization for a success story follows the problem-solution-benefit flow. First describe the business and /or technical problem or issue. Then describe the solution to this problem or resolution of the issue. Finally, describe how the customer benefited from the solution. This natural story-telling sequence resonates with readers.
4. Get Started with a Bang
The most prominent parts of a success story (e.g., title, subtitle, and benefits bullets) are typically the most difficult parts to get right. The best advice is to start with a bang. Use action verbs and emphasize benefits in the title and subtitle. Include a short customer quote in larger text. Then, summarize the key points in 2-3 succinct bullet points. The goal is to tease the reader into wanting to read more.
5. Try to Quantify Benefits
No single element in a success story is more compelling than the ability to tie quantitative benefits to the solution. For example, “Using Solution X saved Customer Y over $ZZZ,ZZZ after just six months of use.” Quantifying benefits can be challenging but not impossible. The key is to present imaginative ideas to the customer for ways to quantify the benefits, and remain flexible during this discussion. If benefits cannot be quantified, attempt to develop a range of qualitative benefits; the latter can be quite compelling as well.
6. Address Highly Tailored Solutions
Even highly tailored solutions and services can be described in an effective success story. This can be done by writing first about a more general problem in the industry, then transitioning to the specific problem that the customer faced. In the solution section, use the opposite sequence: describe how the solution solved this specific problem; then indicate how it can also help resolve this issue more broadly within the industry. Beginning more generally draws the reader into the story. Concluding more generally allows the reader to understand how the solution can address their problem.
7. Find the Right Writer
A common logistical limitation is finding adequate staff time to make the success stories happen. And even with the best plan, a success story is doomed to failure if the writer doesn’t know how to write success stories. A talented writer can make the difference between an effective success story and one that falls flat. When marketing staff time is limited, many enterprises outsource success story writing.
Enterprises usually can’t afford not to develop success stories. Their competitors may be using the power of example effectively, thus gaining an advantage. In most instances, a set of effective success stories can pay for themselves in increased sales. Many prospects need verification that a vendor’s solution can successfully address the types of business challenges they face in their industry. Success stories can provide them this proof.
What do you think of our tips on how to write success stories? What tips would you add? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
For the last 30 years, Hoffman Marketing Communications has created white papers, collateral, and more recently multimedia, on complex business issues and technologies. Sign up here to get your free copy of our White Paper on White Papers to learn the ten best practices for creating effective white papers.