Success Story Value: Real or Perceived?

Success Story Value: Real or Perceived?

In this post, we describe seven points to consider when assessing success story value. In our next post, we will cover our recommendations for how to write a success story.

While most enterprises realize the value of effective corporate and product brochures, as well as a compelling Web site, many enterprises underestimate success story value. As Mark Twain once said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” In a business context, managers and technical professionals alike respond to the power of example, which is the essence of a business success story (also known as a case study).

In the past, success stories were perceived as “icing on the cake” – the last type of collateral that was developed. They were not considered to be a required or top priority part of the marketing communications package. Today, business customers are more demanding. Many require vendors to deliver success stories that are tailored to their particular industry. They need this real-world proof that the solution has been successfully implemented at a competitor to justify their investment in the solution. This poses a critical challenge for enterprises: they must produce case studies in each of their core target verticals.

Success Story Value: Seven Points to Consider

This article summarizes the top reasons why success stories are such a crucial part of the marketing process, especially when complex business issues and solutions are involved.

  1. Examples aid understanding. Examples improve understanding of complex business issues and solutions. Most people have struggled with a difficult concept, only to understand it when someone says, “for example.”
  2. Success stories generate empathy. Properly written success stories enable the reader to empathize with the problem or challenge that the customer in the story faced – in many cases, because they face a similar problem.
  3. Success stories are credible. Marketing success stories seem more credible to readers than marketing brochures because success stories relate a factual situation, rather than marketing claims.
  4. Success stories tell a tale. Everybody loves a story. The success story writer weaves a tale that can help readers take the first step towards solving a complex, and potentially expensive, business challenge.
  5. Success stories address a specific audience. Every potential customer wants to feel that their specific needs are being addressed. If the customer is in the healthcare industry and the success story describes an application in a telecom, it’s hard for the customer to identify with the story. That’s why most enterprises that adopt success stories as a key marketing vehicle tailor at least one success story to each main audience they target.
  6. Success stories can demonstrate ROI. In some success stories, the benefits of the solution can be quantified. In some cases, this enables documentation of a return on investment (ROI). This can present a compelling case for adoption of the solution.
  7. Success stories promote client satisfaction. By bringing closure to a successful client project, success stories can increase client satisfaction. Some enterprises provide a pdf file, printed copies, and even a framed hard copy of the final success story to their clients as a form of thanks. This framed copy that hangs on the wall of the customer’s office is a symbol of the successful relationship between the customer and the solution provider.

For many enterprises, expanding the role of success stories in their marketing and sales strategy can provide the missing piece to the puzzle. Effective success stories can be posted on the Web site, handed out at conferences, packaged and tailored to particular audiences for client meetings, and sent in direct mail packages. In highly competitive businesses, success stories can provide the competitive advantage that enterprises need.

However, writing success stories without a careful plan can lead to suboptimal results – duplication of target audiences and omission of others, for example. At the same time, poorly written or organized success stories reflect badly on the organization – causing more harm than good. And an improper approach to success story writing – failing to involve the customer at the right times, for example – may alienate the customer. For these reasons, many enterprises retain the services of agencies that specialize in writing success stories. A seasoned success story writer can enable enterprises to take full advantage of the power of example.

Do you agree or disagree with our take on success story value? We would love to hear your ideas!

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.