8 Reasons Why Customer Success Story is #1 Kickass Marketing Content

Customer Success Stories are a “special” kind of content, and it is unlike any other kind of content. I can think of 8 reasons for it being kickass special and why it is (and should be) the #1 marketing content.

When i say customer success story –  i am referring to all kinds of customer/social proof content – case studies, stories, videos, testimonials, customer names, logos, reviews, ROI studies, audio/podcast, and everything in between.

8 Reasons Why Customer Success Stories are number 1 marketing content

8 Reasons that make Customer Success Stories #1.

Lets start with the most obvious

1. It is 10X more expensive than other content.

It is not just the cost of interviewing and writing, but the overall cost involved in acquiring the customer and making them happy in the 1st place. Add to it the cost of writing the story and finally publishing the end product.

It costs much much more than any other piece of content in terms of the effort, resources, money, time and people involved.

measure-ROI-customer-testimonials

If we go with the market dynamics which says cost is directly proportional to the value of a product/service, then customer success stories ought to be at #1.

50-80 % of a typical customer reference/advocacy program budget is spent on content creation alone (source: Customer Reference Forum)


Doesn’t just this say it all ?

Not convinced yet ? 🙂

Lets see if the other 7 reasons can convince you …


2. It is the 2nd most effective tactic in content marketing.

65% of B2B users feel that case studies are very effective as a content marketing tactic. Whereas 70% felt that the same for in-person events. This is huge to know – how users see customer success stories as comparable to in-person physical events in terms of being an effective tool.

effectiveness_of_customer_success_stories_in_content_marketing

(Source: 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends—Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs)


3. It is among the top ‘must-haves’ for any B2B website.

Case-Studies (at #3) and testimonials/client list (at #5) are on top of the top-10 things that users feel are a must-have in any B2B website. It is right below important things like pricing (at #1) and technical support (at#2).

customer_success_stories_is_must-have_in_B2B_website

(Source: 2014 B2B Web Usability Report | Huff/KoMarketing)

In-fact, the same survey says that case-studies are #1 when it comes to what users feel as “lacking” or needs improvement today., which is something to think hard about.

customer_success_stories_testimonials_lacking_in_B2B_website

(Source: 2014 B2B Web Usability Report | Huff/KoMarketing)


4.  It helps influence the buyer decision early-on, and that is “super important” today.

By now we all know enough about how buyer decisions are being taken early-on in the buying cycle . More than 57% of buying decision is taken even before talking to the company sales.

Purchase_decision_early_on_in_sales_cycle

(source: The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing 2012 – CEB/Google )

And this is a 2012 figure. The figures being quoted in recent discussions is upwards of 70% !

Here is a huge opportunity for marketing to help tilt the scale, and positive voices from existing customers can play a big influence.

Testimonials and Case Studies are the most influential content types both in the awareness stage and the evaluation stage

customer_success_stories_most_influential_early_stage_content

(source: 3 Keys to B2B Success 2013 – Hawkeyee.com)

Promoting and advocating your customer success stories through various channels is a sure shot way to get there.

Marketing should amplify and promote customer successes to help win in the early discovery and engage stages of customer life-cycle. Waiting for the sales team stage would be too late. (source: Tip The Balance From Reference Customers To Advocates – Forrester/Influitive)


5. It is among the top ‘must-haves’ for any Landing Page.

Any landing page or marketing copy without a customer/social proof is seen by users as just marketing fluff due to the 1-sided nature. Experts recommend social/customer proof as one of the must-haves in any page whose end objective is conversion/lead generation.

anatomy-perfect-landing-page_testimonials

(Source: Anatomy of Perfect Landing Page – NiceLandingPage.com/Unbounce)

And adding customer/social proof increases credibility, thus improving conversion drastically as proved by all the experts. unanimously.

34%_increase_in_conversion_with_customer_testimonials

(source: Social Proof Tips to Boost Landing Page Conversions – Aschottmuller/Unbounce/Visual Optimizer)

Adding social proof helps increase landing page conversion between 5-500% (source: Unbounce, CrazyEgg, Kissmetrics, Optimizely, Visual Optimizer, Kickoff Labs, Hubspot, and other marketing optimization experts)


6. It has an extended shelf life.

Typically a detailed story like a case study has a life of 2-years at the minimum. Many stories stay relevant for a longer period of time and hence can be used for more than 2-years.  Shorter proof points like testimonials and logos have an indefinite life span.

46% of companies said they use customer success content for up-to 2 years. 43% said they could use it infinitely !

high_shelf_life_of_customer_success_stories

 (source: 2012 InEvidence Global Customer Reference Survey)

Which means you can re-use it like crazy. This is very important given the fact that producing enough good quality content is the #1. challenge for marketeers today.

producing_good_content_is_a_challenge_1

(Source: B2B Content Marketing Spotlight Report Nov-2014 – Technology Marketing Group LinkedIn/BrightTalk/IDG)


7. It can be added to other content to make them do more selling.

The #1. end goal of any content marketing initiative is lead generation.

customer_success_stories_check_all_boxes_against_content_marketing_objectives

(Source: B2B Content Marketing Spotlight Report Nov-2014 – Technology Marketing Group LinkedIn/BrightTalk/IDG)

Adding customer success proof in the form of customer names/logos, testimonials, proven benefits metric, story snippets, videos, etc into other content like best-practices articles, blog articles, whitepapers, discussion forum topics, ebooks, etc not only makes the content more interesting with real-life examples, but also adds a dab of marketing into them – thus helping you get more traffic to your website, more conversions and leads into your marketing funnel.

In-fact it helps check almost all the boxes against the content marketing goals.

As an example – An awesome example of using it in the blog would be this one

quicksprout_neil_patel_blog_testimonials_1

(source: Quicksprout/Neil Patel Blog)


8. It is valuable in all stages of the buying cycle.

Many people still believe that customer success stories are only needed in the last 2 stages –  i.e vendor comparison, and sales closure stages. This is incorrect.

The below research shows that it is in-fact useful in all the 4 stages. And it is the “most helpful” content in the stage-2 (understanding the problem) and stage-3 (Identify solution, consider vendors) in comparison with all other types of content.

 Customer_success_stories_for_all_stages_in_sales_cycle

(Source: B2B Tech Buyers – Which Assets Are Most Influential, and When? – MarketingCharts/Eccolo Media)


Conclusion:  You need-to believe in your Customer Success Stories.

Irrespective of any of the following –

You believe in Customer Success or not.

You believe in Advocate Marketing or not.

You believe in Content Marketing or not.

You believe in Digital Marketing or not.

You believe in being Online or not.

You do need-to believe in your Customer Success Stories.

Why ?

Because it is the most effective marketing content out there, without any doubt !

So what are you doing about your Customer Stories ?

almost_there

How Not To – Stop Short of Being Awesome – with your Customer Success

 How Not To – Stop Short of Being Awesome – with your Customer Success
(Image credits – changinglivesonline)

   

The just concluded Dreamforce 2014 was one of the eagerly waited events for the B2B subscription economy. And it had Customer Success written all over it. There is no question about the fact that paying attention to customer success is a must-do for any company to become successful in the subscription economy.

   

But Customer Success is not a new concept. It has existed every since the existence of doing business. What is new though is the availability of data and visibility on a real-time basis, to know if the customer is engaging with your product/services. Thus giving us the golden opportunity to work with the customer and ensure that they are successful. That’s a big deal.

   

I am a big fan of Lincoln Murphy. Lincoln is one of the most popular faces of SaaS and Customer Success. He talks in detail about what is customer success, and the  20 things you can do to ensure customer success. I would add an important step post making your customer a success. I would recommend you to “write home about your customer success” .

   

Yes. Document your Customer Success Story !

   

It can be a long copy or just a short one. Either ways, I would go to the extent of saying that every customer success should be followed by a customer success story. Yes. It is a big deal to to have a successful customer, and it is definitely worth writing home about it for the following 3 reasons:

   

3 Big Reasons for having a Customer Success Story

   

1. Customer success story helps you to showcase credibility and Social Proof.

Social Proof is big deal. It is one of the top must-haves that a buyer looks for before thinking about doing business with you.  It is an awesome marketing opportunity.

   

2. Customer success story helps you to celebrate and showcase your customer.

It is an opportunity to thank and promote the people at the customer side who made it possible.

   

3. Customer success story helps to recognize and motivate your teams.

It is an opportunity to thank and promote the people at your end that made it possible.

   

Net-Net – Customer success story helps you to multiply your customer success.

By promoting each of your customer’s success you are creating an opportunity to create many more such customer successes. Therefore do not forget to document your customer success stories, and do promote them internally, as well as externally.

Also see my earlier article on writing and promoting success stories –  How to Convert your (Ordinary) Case Studies & Customer Success Stories into a Selling Machine (w/ 5 Examples)

What has been your experience ? Please share by commenting

   

How to Convert your (Ordinary) Case Studies & Customer Success Stories into a Selling Machine (w/ 5 Examples)

I want to take this topic beyond the scope of creating a good case-study/success-story, over to the discussion of what do you do with your good customer stories. It is not about having amazing customer case studies and success stories, but it is all about how well are you using them. If they are gathering dust in some hidden corner of your website, then it is a big opportunity lost !

In this article we will discuss about – How to design your case study/success story to become a selling machine ! I believe that lead generation and conversion should be the #1 desired outcome of any case study or success story because that is the end objective of content marketing or any marketing initiative for that matter, and you should be looking at the customer stories the same way.

I love customer case studies and success stories because in my opinion they are the most effective category of content within your content marketing mix.

I can think of just 1 reason  as to why they make to the top of the content strategy pyramid – and that single reason is that a well written case study or success story can be a nice hybrid of the following 3 things –

1. Informative – as a piece of content –  they can help educate the customer with respect to typical pain points, best practices and use cases. It is always nice to read what problems other customers have faced and how they are trying to overcome it – gives a lot of fresh ideas.

2. Credible – as a social proof point – It is the end customer who is telling the story. Social proof point which makes it much more credible than coming from the vendor since it is someone else who is willing to put his/her credibility at stake.

3. Selling – as a marketing copy – At the end of the day, you as the vendor have the opportunity to weave the discussion to be in-tune with your marketing copy. In-fact a well written story is a marketing copy in disguise.

 

Today, i would be focusing exclusively on the #3 point above

How to design your case study/success story to sell.

I will be analyzing examples of case studies for best practices based on 5 key factors. These factors have nothing to do with the content style per say, and it is everything to do with conversion and lead generation.

5 Key Factors to help make a case study or success story to sell

  1. Organized – Is it being organized in an intuitive way so that your prospects are inclined to read on ?

  2. Engaging – Is the case study engaging with less text and lots of visuals, and organized in a story telling format ?

  3. Clear Benefits – Are you highlighting the key benefits of using your product or service in the form of call outs or shout outs with metrics and compelling reasons ?

  4. Clear CTA (Calls-To-Action) –  are there clear calls-to-actions and do they stand out ?

  5. Promoted – last, but the most important – how are you promoting your case studies ? or are you assuming your prospects will come searching for them ?


 

Now lets see how to apply this to analyze some popular case study pages.

(author’s disclaimer – I am in no way associated with any of these companies. I basically allowed Google to tell me the top 5  🙂


 

 

Example 1 – Hubspot

1. Organized – 4/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - Hubspot - Our-Customers Page

 

It is definitely well organized. The individual case studies are in a sequence and it is not in A-Z. I believe Hubspot has a reason for showing the ShoreTel one on the top. (Maybe it aligns the most with their latest marketing message of inbound marketing versus marketing automation – ideally migration stories from market leaders Eloqua and Marketo ?).

I like how it does not try to confuse you with too many case studies shown at your face at one go. The navigation is very intuitive with the appropriate tags and groupings that focus on the way customers would like to search for customer proof – By Company Size, By Business type, By Solution, By Industry, By Country. All makes sense except for the Reviews vs. Testimonials Vs. Case Studies. Not sure if customers care what is your format ?

2. Engaging – 4/5

It is engaging. I am looking at the same ShoreTel example – There is a video that is not too long, and is not just a talking head but in a nice story format talking about why ShorTel choose Hubspot over Marketo, and migrated from Eloqua (bulls eye  from a marketing messaging perspective ).  In addition to the video, there is a face photo of Freeman, and a nice big logo. The Text is not too long and it is in a story telling format, so makes it not boring.

3. Clear Benefits – 5/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - Hubspot - Case Study - Benefit Metrics

The benefits are highlighted in a shout out format, and they are clearly compelling. The metrics clearly outline the end benefits of using Hubspot. eg. 36% year-on-year increase in leads.

4. CTA (Calls-To-Action) –  3/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - Hubspot - Case Study CTA

 

Though it does have a primary Call-To-Action button, it gets a little distracting with too many other options all in 1 place. The screen i was looking had 6 options !! I agree it is better than not having any CTA at all, but 6 is a lot of distraction for a normal person. Looks like Hubspot guys stopped paying attention to their A/B tests ?

5. Promotion – 4/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - Hubspot Home Page - Customer Testimonials Snippet

In addition to the Case Studies primary tab in the navigation, they are using snippets of the case studies in the home page very prominently, providing link back to the main case study page.

Overall, I would rate Hubspot’s Case Studies a 4/5

 


 

Bonus Tip #1 :

One of the very effective ways to make a case study engaging is to use a story telling style. See this short article by Hugh Taylor on how to write technology case studies that tell a story

 


 

Example 2 – VMWare

1. Organized – 2/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - VMWare - Our-Customers Page

 

It starts well with a main spotlight video, and another 3 spotlight customers. So far so good, but then once you start searching, it lists everything as A-Z ! which means that i am always looking at the A’s. You might have the best story in a D, but then i will never be able to reach it, no matter how hard i try (and keep in mind your customers will not be trying even half as hard).

 

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - VMWare Case Studies

 

It does have the typical By-Product, By-Solution, By-Country, By-Industry, By-Language selectors, but everything finally lists it in A-Z, even the Chinese case studies. Shame that B-Z customer stories will never be seen by anyone 😦

2. Engaging – 4/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - VMWare - Ducati - Success Story Page

 

The story is in an engaging format with videos, less text and highlighting of the important sections with call outs and shout outs. Here i am looking only at the newer stories that are showcased in the customers page. the ones that come up in the case studies page seem to all be in the older PDF format, which is not that engaging. and remember you don’t really get to see the newer ones unless the name starts with an A. Now you know why i hate the A-Z lists  🙂

3. Clear Benefits – 4/5

The benefits are highlighted and there are metrics that tie to the usage of VMWare, thus making it compelling.

4. CTA (Calls-To-Action) –  1/5

There are no calls-to-action anywhere in the case study page or the customers page. Except for the social sharing buttons which is more of a call-to-action for the employees than to visitors and prospects.

5. Promotion – 2/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - VMWare Home Page - Customers snippet block

 

There is no customers or case studies tab in the main navigation. There is a small section on the home page talking about customers, but that does not stand out. So unless someone is looking for case studies and success stories, you will not find them.

Overall, I would rate VMWare’s Case Studies a 2.6/5


 

 Bonus Tip #2:

There are many many ways to promote your stories. For some ideas see my recent article  25-Ways to Promote your customer Success


 

Example 3 –Tibco

1. Organized – 4/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - TIBCO Our-Customers Page

Like the way Tibco has arranged its featured stories – By the various industry segments.  Very inviting to click and see the story.


 

Bonus Tip #3:

It is always a good idea to give a little more detail about the customer in addition to the photos because it might get confused for stock images. example – logo of the customer, or a call out benefit, or even just the name of the customer.


 

2. Engaging – 4/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - TIBCO - RNLI Success Story Page

It has all the components that are very engaging – good video, not too much text, visual elements, call outs, etc.


 

Bonus Tip #4:

Splitting a story page into tabs as overview, details, & testimonials does takes away the flow. Would it  have been much more engaging if they were all woven into the story. what do you think ?


 

3. Clear Benefits – 2/5

There are  metrics, but they are focused on the customer’s business than Tibco’s. Example – RNLI having a 70Million budget does not say anything about the benefits of using Tibco.

4. CTA (Calls-To-Action) –  1/5

There are no calls-to-action anywhere.

5. Promotion – 4/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - TIBCO Home Page - Customer Carousal

The stories are being well promoted. – On the main Tab, in the Carousal and in the product/industry pages. The real photos add to the wow factor.

Overall, I would rate Tibco’s Case Studies a 3/5

 


 Bonus Tip #5:

I am not a big fan of the carousel because in my opinion most people don’t get to see the subsequent slides unless it is dynamic and making movements in some way.

 


 

Example 4 – AWS (Amazon Web Services)

1. Organized – 4/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - Amazon AWS Our-Customers Page

Amazon has organized the success stories very well. The featured stories are on the top. There is enough information to entice the user to click to see the story. The big brands add to the oomph factor. Even the search is not bad. Though it lists in an A-Z order, there are not that many stories, hence it fits into 1 page and they have enough details with the customer logo and the benefits summary, thus helping users to be able to select the ones they want to read.

2. Engaging – 3/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - Amazon AWS Dow Jones Case Study Page

The Stories are not very consistent. Example – some have detailed stories, while some are just videos, which is not bad in itself because most times in real life you have less choice as to what your customer is willing to provide. you have to make do with whatever is available. The videos are good, but the problem with just videos and no text is that it is everything or nothing.


 

Bonus tip #6:

In case of just videos – It might be a good idea to pull out snippets from the transcript and highlight it in the story page. That would entice users to see the video. In the above case the videos are in-fact very good, but you don’t get to know that without spending a few minutes. Not designed for people in a hurry, which is 99% of the audience !


 

3. Clear Benefits – 2/5

There are no consistent call outs for benefits. They are all there hidden in the videos and even in the story text in cases where there is text, but it does not catch the attention.

 

 


 

Bonus tip #7:

It is always a good idea to highlight end outcomes in some form of shout-outs. It draws attention to the most important part of the story – which is “So What ?”. and it is easy to do it if you already have metrics in the story or the video. It is a very low hanging fruit with Max returns.


 

 

 

4. CTA (Calls-To-Action) –  3/5

There is a CTA button to get a free account that shows up only after you start scrolling. that’s neat. But there is also a Next Steps section at the bottom that links to a different page. So there is some kind of confusion.

 

5. Promotion – 3/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - Amazon AWS Product Features Customer Video Snippets

There is no primary tab for Customers or Case Studies (Success Stories). Also there is no mention in the home page. But it is very prominent when you go to the products page. There are many customer videos per features, which is cool !

Overall, I would rate AWS’s Case Studies a 3/5

 


 

Example 5 – Box

1. Organized – 2/5

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices)  - BOX Our-Customers Page

 

The featured customers are cool. There is a video for each of the 4 featured customers. But there seems to be some confusion in the way things are organized. Examples –  Our Customers Page and Case Studies page are 2 separate pages that are not connected to each other. The Customer logos in the customers page are not clickable though they are presented as if they had more to just logos. maybe there is a case study/success story somewhere, but it is not linked.

There is a link in the bottom footer navigation that says Case Studies. Gotcha !

 

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - BOX - Customer Case Studies Page

I actually like the way they have organized their case studies. It is by Industry and it is easy for users to see the ones that might be interesting to them.

 


 

Bonus Tip #8:

There are some awesome examples of organizing your Our-Customers Pages. See this recent article by me – The Best of Our-Customers (Our-clients) Pages. How to make Customer-Success-Marketing work for you ?

 


 

2. Engaging – 3/5

 

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - BOX - Balfour Beatty Case Study Page

The stories are short and to the point, but no visual elements.


 

Bonus Tip #9:

I am not a big fan of stories being presented inside a reader (with scroll bars) since it takes away the coolness. That might be just my personal opinion 🙂


 

 

3. Clear Benefits – 2/5

The benefit metrics do not stand out

4. CTA (Calls-To-Action) –  1/5

There is no CTA button.

5. Promotion – 2/5

 

Case Study Tips: Examples of how not-to-waste your customer success stories (w/ best practices) - BOX Home Page Customer Logo Banner

Not a primary tab for Customers or Case studies/Success Stories, but there is a customer logo banner that is liked back to the customers page. And it says case-studies though it is a separate page.  Not really sure what they are trying to accomplish.

Overall, I would rate Box’s Case Studies a 2.0/5


These were the 5 examples we analyzed.

Some more examples here  –  

1. Example of a success story page designed for conversion

2. Case Study Tips – Good & Bad of LinkedIn’s Customer Case Studies

 


 

Summarizing, You saw 5 different case study pages and the good and bad in each. They were just examples, but this applies to pretty much every case study or success story.

Overall, you need to pay attention to the following areas which are usually ignored. 

1. CTA Buttons

It is a big lost opportunity if you are not using your case studies and success stories for conversion, especially when they are meant for selling (lead generation or conversion) as their primary objective.

2. Promotion

You need to be promoting your customer stories everywhere. Assuming that your prospects will come searching for them is again a lost opportunity. Keep in mind that 60-80% of the buying decision is already taken before your sales teams get to talk to your prospects. And this is the exact phase where  your customer success stories can tilt the scales in your favor. It would be really smart to bring the success stories in-front of your audience.

 

If you have other good examples either from your own companies or from others that you admire, please share via commenting.

If you feel this is useful, please share it with your friends. appreciate it. thanks. anupam


anupam_bonanthaya_customer_rivet_founder_ceo

Anupam Bonanthaya is an experienced Customer Success Marketer and the Founder of CustomerRivet – The Social Proof Marketing Experts

Rivet.ly – Hosted Our-Customers Page

Get More Leads and More Conversions by Optimizing the use of Testimonials, Success Stories, Case Studies, Videos, Reviews, Customer Photos, Tweets, or any other Social Proof, in your Marketing.

Ask for a Demo today to see how it can help “Transform Your Customer Success Marketing”. OR Contact Anupam Bonanthaya via LinkedIn


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