Mark My Words

They shoot case studies, don’t they?

“On the client’s web site”, every corporation’s very own sunset boulevard in hyperspace, would be my guess, based on recent wanderings through digital real estate in the IT WAN networking space.

tokyo-sunset-case-studyIt’s ironic when what are supposed to be customer success stories end up tagged and bagged in the online equivalent of a pauper’s grave – the corporate marketing archive.

Here lies “content marketing item 95EH8-1.”


How sad.

A busy b2b marcoms reader will be forgiven for wondering why any of this matters.

With product to sell and stories that tell (or is that now “show, don’t tell?”), maybe customer case studies are just another round in the magic chamber of customer acquisition targeting.

Then again – perhaps the thought of marketing passing out the ammo, and then leaving sales to pull the trigger, fills some of you with horror? Especially given all the blood, sweat and tears that go into creating a success story from scratch.

Fortunately, there’s so much more a case study can do when the story’s clear and present with MEANING.

For one thing, harried sales staff are more likely to remember them.

This is great because when talking with prospects, who very likely have downloaded and read relevant stories, the chances increase of the relationship deepening beyond the formalities of business protocol to include visceral and emotional connections. In my experience, people often choose to do business with those who best understand them (and, of course, have a proven solution for their problem(s)…)

A second thing concerns the structure of customer stories in the b2b world.

Prospects and customers understand that these are disguised sales pitches, and that the ‘characters’, the ‘story arc’, and the ‘happy ending’ are a case of all concerned putting their best foot forward. However, the most effective (and remembered) stories succeed because they capture a sense of the frustration, anger and concern etc felt by the customer prior to the white knight’s arrival (hello vendor!)

Note that it’s not the vendor who should be the obvious hero of your stories –  your customer always is. And not just customer in a legal, corporate sense. Few people care much for the discarnate identity of a business but many will relate to people in the eye of the storm.

For example:

  • the IT security manager faced with the nightmare of upgrading firewalls across multiple sites in different continents.
  • The WAN operations manager dealing with irate executives from HQ expecting same level video-conferencing service in a remote field office.

The list is long but amounts to people, roles and goals (and the latter is where the vendor should be positioned, through helping customers succeed and thrive.)

The takeaway here?

Each account rep should have a story bank available whenever and wherever they happen to be doing business. I think there’s a case (pun intended) for professional storytellers, with a business nuance, to train sales teams in the acting out and recall of key customer stories.

Check out this fascinating post by Shawn Callahan on about “how to remember a story so you can retell it.
An interesting use of the Evernote platform and smartphone app.

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About the Author
Author: Mark McClure - A freelance b2b case study and white paper writer to the computer networking industry. Based in Tokyo, Japan. About the 'Samurai Writer'.

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