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.
You need to catch them when they are in buying mode. That is, when they have found you via Google, when your salesperson or dealer has made a successful cold call, when they're checking you out via your website, or when you hand them a proposal or a packet at a seminar or tradeshow.
At these crucial times, your case histories will make a huge difference in how potential customers perceive you. Are you trustworthy? Will your product do what you say it will do? Is your work as good as that of your competitors? With a good case history, you're not just making a claim, you are providing proof.
Publication in a national magazine can be very helpful because it's another layer of evidence for the value of your work. It's not just you telling this story, but an industry expert. Still, publication alone is not enough. You have to put the story where buyers will trip over it while they are making the decision to buy. Hand it to them. Email it. Feature it on your home page. Link to it from your product pages. Tell them where to find it when you are talking on the phone. Then it will have tremendous power.
RULES OF THUMB
I'm sometimes asked, “How long should a case history be?”
If you place the story on your own website or in a two-page handout, 500 words is usually enough. Your prospect will see your photos, the names of your clients, and a brief description of each job. If you are submitting the story to a magazine, however, the editor is likely going to want 800 to 1,200 words. If it's a really interesting story or describes a groundbreaking technology, you may need to write more.
For your own publications, there is always a tradeoff between eye appeal and interesting detail. If you present your longer stories as one dull block of text, people will tend to turn away, even if the writing itself is lively.
On the other hand, if you structure the article so that it's easy to skim (with bold section heads, callouts, and key words in bold type or bullet points), and you leave sufficient room for photos, the extra detail is good. Busy people tend to drill down through an article — viewing the photos, headlines, and section heads first — but when they find something that hits home, they will read it all.
For a longer story, you may need to produce a four-page handout, rather than two pages. And you may need an extra-long web page or a multipage story, and perhaps a slide show to make sure the layout is appealing and the photos emphasized.
Still, when budget is an issue, I usually tell my clients to trim text rather than photos. A short story with good photography will work better than a long story with nothing to catch the eye.
You can reach Don Kreski at www.kreski.com/contact.html.
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