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Success Runs with Success!

by Gordon Graham

These days, no one has time to listen to another sales pitch, to open another email, to click on another Web link.

So how do you get your story out?

Wouldn't it be great if your existing customers could speak for you? If they could show your prospects how wonderful your product is, and what a big difference it's meant to them?

That's why we love to write success stories.

Nothing cuts through the clutter like a happy customer singing your praises. And nothing makes a more compelling story than hearing how your product saved time, money or headaches for a real live person in the same field.

We call it "marketing writing for the real world"... the world where prospects are skeptical and need a good reason to listen to you.


What Is a Success Story?

It's a testimonial about how your product helped someone in the real world. These are also known as case studies, application stories or user stories.

Success stories can be as short as a few paragraphs or as long as 10 pages. They are often produced as one-page glossies with color photos.

They can be distributed in print, as PDFs, in the company newsletter or on the Web. They can be handed out at trade shows, on sales calls and in literature kits for prospects, journalists and investors.

No matter the length, no matter the format, we believe success stories are nothing less than the most powerful marcom document you can write.


10 Tips on Writing a Success Story

1. Find a happy customer.
You need a satisfied customer ready to go on the record for your product. Your sales team should have a few names to suggest.

2. Start your research.
Visit the customer's Web site to learn about their business. Then interview one or more key people there. It's always better to visit the customer in person if you can swing it.

3. Get ready for your interviews.
If you're nervous about interviewing people, have a list of questions prepared. Less experienced writers sometimes tape their interviews. More experienced writers just wing it.

4. Get the word from on high.
You'll also need to gather some quotes from your own management. You can make up a suitable quote from your own people that fits your story... but you'll need to get it approved.

5. Handle email interviews with care.
If you're having trouble reaching someone by phone, you may be tempted to try an email interview. This works well with someone who's constantly on the road. But you risk losing the color and detail that can give your story life. You may need to suggest a brief call to follow up on your emails.

5. Write like a journalist.
Success stories are best written in a journalistic style. That means you'll need lots of snappy quotes, facts and figures. Review your notes and if you don't have them, keep on digging.

6. Pull readers into the story.
When you start writing, spend enough time to develop an interesting lead (first sentence) that pulls readers into the story. Play on the same angle to carry them to the end.

7. Think Problem-Solution.
The classic structure for a customer story is Problem and Solution, Then and Now, Before and After: Before we had this terrible problem, but After we found your product our worries were over. Remember you're telling a story, so keep it lively and dramatic.

8. Expect lots of reviews.
After your story is drafted, it will need lots of reviews and approvals. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few drafts. But do be prepared to fight to retain your lively style.

9. Get the customer's OK.
Always get the customer's approval before you distribute anything with their name or logo on it. You may need to run it through their legal department. Remember that lawyers aren't gods and they certainly aren't writers. If they suggest clunky changes, see if you can rewrite them in a more graceful style.

10. When in doubt, hire a professional.
If you need help getting started, Gordon & Gordon would be happy to help. We can develop your first success story or a whole set, as we've done for many other firms.


How to Contact Us

 
Last updated:
October 11, 2002

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© 1999-2009
by Manuel Gordon
& Gordon Graham

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  How to reach Gordon Graham

Tel: (705) 842-2428 Eastern

Email: gordon@gordonandgordon.com
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How to reach Manuel Gordon

Tel: (514) 934-3274

Fax: (514) 934-6077

Email: manuel@gordonandgordon.com