I just saw this interesting post that excerpts “Stories that Sell”, but Casey Hibbard, or “The Power of Success Story Marketing.” The gist of this excerpt is that “[w]e [customers] trust what others say much more than what a business itself says,” and that presenting customer experiences as case studies is a more effective marketing tool than almost anything the company writes about itself. While “most of us don’t truly believe the benefits espoused by companies–unless they are verified by other trusted sources,” the author continues with the zippy line “[j]ust about everyone else is more credible than the business itself.”
I would agree that good customer stories provide compelling evidence that the the product or service has been delivered successfully to meet the needs of similar buyers. However, it can be difficult to get good customer stories that align completely with what the company presents. Buyers buy products and services to solve their own need–the buyer may accept a vendor’s argument about solving a peripheral issue for the buyer, but they buyer may not be willing in terms of cost or time to help the vendor prove it.
I believe that context-appropriate simulations can be similar to a case study when it shows how a mock customer, in this case, the viewer, can solve a problem that we hope is relevant to the customer. If we can align our presented problems (contexts) with the problems that viewers face, we in effect put viewers into their own case studies.
“Products don’t function on their own”
I love this quotation because it zeroes in on the problem I have with most types of advertising on the web — show a picture, write some specs, maybe even a short video. While the latter is getting to the idea that demonstrating function is important, I think that simulations presented in real-world contexts show the interaction between the operator and the product. Allowing the viewer to drive the operation further puts the product ‘in the prospect’s hands’, which all good salespeople know is the ultimate sales pitch. Directly following this quote is another gem: “People encounter challenges to overcome, become heroes, find solutions, and ultimately triumph.” What better way than to show how the prospects themselves can solve that burning issue.
In a section entitled “Education: Show, Don’t Tell”, the author identifies that “as much as [marketers and business owners] detail how their products and services work for users, there’s often a gap between those descriptions and readers’ understanding of how they will actually work in their environments–all the more so when the products or services are complex.” The conclusion? Another point for the right kind of simulation: “you have to show readers what you’re talking about, descriptively and in context, rather than just telling them that your product or service accomplishes this or that.”
Then the author turns to some important numbers:
A survey by KnowledgeStorm (www.knowledgestorm.com) and MarketingSherpa (www.marketingsherpa.com) shed light on the role of case studies, particularly in IT purchase decisions. The survey, with results published in How Technology Marketers Meet Buyers’ Appetite for Content, asked nearly 4,000 B2B marketers, and technology and business professionals, what buyers want and what marketers deliver. The survey revealed that buyers expect you to educate them. In fact, 84 percent said they want content that educates them and expect vendors to provide it.
Awesome. Now I have to talk with my clients to help me prove my hypothesis completely (won’t that make a great customer case study? 🙂 ).