Management Perspectives: Getting Seen and Heard
Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Don Kreski
Producing and using customer case histories to increase your company’s visibility.
Why are case histories so useful, and so widely used, in technical industries like ours? They are useful because they give print and online readers a chance to learn about their peers and how they solve real problems in the field. In other words: Industry readers enjoy them and learn from them.
Case histories can be particularly valuable to an AV integrator for several reasons. First, they offer instant credibility; anyone can say their work is great, but a good and detailed case study proves the point. They can tell your story in ways that advertising and promotional pieces simply can't. Many trade magazines routinely publish case histories; submitting them to editors or posting them to virtual press conferences can be a great source of publication.
PRODUCING CASE HISTORIES
Not every case history gets equal attention from potential readers. You may have a great story to tell, but if your story doesn't have these four essential elements, it's not going to be read:
- Good photography. Most readers will look at the images on a magazine page, on a handout, or in a website before they look at anything else. Do you have clean, interesting, eye-catching photos to illustrate your story? Do they illustrate the crucial points you're trying to make? If not, there are certainly other stories and other websites your prospects can look at. Because photos are the first thing readers will see, I always tell my clients that the first step they need to take is investing in good professional photography of their client sites.
- Catchy headlines. Once your readers have decided the photos look interesting, they'll glance at the headlines, subheads, and section heads. The best potential clients rarely have a lot of time to read, but they will skim a lot of material looking for solutions to their particular problems. Give them a clear, concise headline and quick guides to your article's key points in the form of section heads, and you will draw people in.
- A good lead. Professional writers know that the first few sentences will either draw people into an article or turn them off. You need to find the most interesting part of your story and put it right at the beginning. Even if someone doesn't finish the whole article (and many won't), if you can get the gist across in the first few sentences, your case history will work for you.
- Lively writing. The better a story flows, the more of it a prospect is likely to read, and the more likely he or she is to contact you. You may have a talent for writing or photography, but if you don't, outsource the work to someone who does.
USING CASE HISTORIES
Once you have a good story, how can you best put it to use?
Placing the story in a magazine can be valuable, but I tell my clients that's not the end of the process. In fact, if you're looking for sales results, you'll probably be disappointed if you don't do anything more once the story has been published. Few people are looking for vendors when they're reading magazines or magazine sites. They're looking for ideas. So they may read your story and be impressed by it, but they're not very likely to call you then and there.
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