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Case Studies or Customer Stories = Compelling & Magnetic Content

Barry Feldman: September 12, 2012 | Content marketing, Web-based marketing | Comments
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21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website: Part 13

A good portion of online marketing advice from “21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website” focuses on taking advantage of newer tactics. But not all of it. Case it point: case studies or customer success stories. I’ve been creating them for 20 years or so. They’re old school.

That said, from old school teachings, in marketing, or in any profession really, we are reminded of the importance of fundamentals. The case study or customer story is as old school as can be, but remains a fundamental component of the sales and marketing mix that has only grown more important and effective in this connected era where new media savvy companies publish a steady stream of content.

We’ll have a look at why to publish them, do a quick study of how, and toss around some “how not” wisdom to help you successfully make this age-old content marketing strategy a part of your big picture.


Your customers can provide some of your most powerful content—if you let them.

Case studies have proven to be an effective conversion tool because they:

  • Reinforce your core messaging and hammer home why customers like and trust your product
  • Provide the ideal vehicle to showcase features and benefits
  • Give prospects a tool to champion your company internally and decision makers a convincing reference

Case studies can also increase leads because they:

  • Allow you to further optimize your website and build SEO authority
  • Extend your content marketing strategy because they are easily repurposed in media such as newsletters, presentations for SlideShare, and much more (stay tuned)
  • Can generate additional media coverage

My friend Deana Goldasich (Twitter handle), founder of Well Planned Web, a company that helps thought leaders find a voice, gave a killer presentation at Content Marketing World on this subject. She called it “Customer Stories: How to Unlock an Abundance of New Content.” All credit goes to D, so I’m pleased to offer you this link to her presentation and summarize it here.

This is how customer stories are done.

A good portion of Deana’s presentation focused on how it’s done. Here’s the skinny…

Who cares?
Deana did her homework. She studied at Content Marketing Institute, I think. I’m a student there. You should be too. She presented the research findings culled from a CMI and Marketing Profs study designed to determine who cares about content marketing and what is it they care about.

So she cites research providing evidence that (1) today’s content marketers consider their biggest challenge is producing content that engages prospects, and (2) producing enough content is also atop the list of concerns.

Bring on the big reveal.
Deana quoted some seriously compelling numbers. I don’t want to dig deep into them here, but I will share that the bottom line is just one customer story can provide the credible content you need to create numerous white papers, emails, case studies, blog posts, infographics, videos, and more. She made a point of demonstrating all this with a quick recap of a client of hers—MediaLab 3D Solutions—who benefited from all type of things and more based on a customer story project. This ain’t merely theory, folks. Again, the evidence is presented here.

How to do customer stories. How not to.

You’re not the hero. Your company has a pretty decent role, but it’s not the hero either. Deana’s  lesson begins with a commonly misunderstood secret: these stories aren’t about your company; they’re about your customers. They play the hero role. They saved Gotham. They get the spotlight and glory.

Make them relatable. Perhaps we’re getting into subtle stuff here, but the point is this: don’t base your story on anonymous corporate execs who spew too-good-to-be-true corporate bullshit. Let them be human when you quote them, quote them.

Drop the pen. In the making of customer story, you’re not to be a creative writer. It’s non-fiction. You’re a reporter. Gather the story and report it.

Who’s interview worthy? The customer is. Don’t allow your story to be told by front line sales and service peeps. Don’t even let them conduct the interview. Get a seasoned storyteller (i.e. writer/journalist) to uncover the story.

Your job: shut up.  Ask questions and and listen. Don’t assume what the answers are or dictate how the story unfolds. Let it be real. Surprising as it may seem, it’s bound to be an interesting and credible tale of someone who had a problem and found the solution. Deana claims your story will resonate with prospects if you as the creator reduce your role. Introduce your featured guest; shut up and stay out of the way. The customer will do just fine. Your job is to facilitate, listen, capture, and glean.

Did you find this story interesting? Of course you did. You’re still with me. Here’s a bonus idea…

This is the age of sharing and customer generated content. Right? Think about this: what if your customers told their stories for you? I think Simply Zesty is onto something very cool here. Check out Simply Creative.

Telling customer stories on your website and in your content marketing programs is just one of the recommendations I offer in my free eBook,  “21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website.” Help yourself to the publication and feel free to contact me if you want to talk about how to sharpen your site.





Barry Feldman
Barry Feldman, founder of Feldman Creative, is a prolific writer with 25 years of experience bringing his clients' online presence to the next level through copywriting and content marketing creation and consulting. He writes and educates clients on online marketing on The Point and on many other sites across the web. Connect with Barry on Google+.
Barry Feldman


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  • MarketingWise

    Hi Barry – these are all excellent takeaways. My biggest challenge with customer success stories (and I write a LOT of them) is getting preemptive approval from the customer to be featured. My clients (the companies providing the product/service) struggle with this ALL the time. They have a really satisfied, well-served customer, but they can’t convince them to be featured in the case study.

    I’ve taken to writing ‘anonymized’ stories, which are not ideal, but if written well (taking into account the same strategies you’ve listed) can still add value. I’m wondering if Deana addressed this issue and if she had suggestions?

    • Deana Goldasich

      Yup! We run into that all the time, too. For some customer-types it just makes sense (legal, healthcare) for privacy sake. In those cases, we also go the anonymous route and call them something unique like “Situation Summaries.”

      But for the clients who say their customers are truly skittish, I politely challenge them with a “why” — quickly followed with the explanation that the story will make THEM the hero (that’s often part of the issue) and that the “problem” portion of the story will not make them look stupid or lame — but rather relatable and real.

      The “why” is a conversation that must be had. Simply asking if the customer wants to tell their story can be an easy “no.” But injecting some flattery in there and explaining in a nutshell WHY you see them as the hero of the story (hence why it should be told) is key.

      There can be a ton of reasons for the resistance…but “reading the room” and figuring out what’s at the heart is huge.

      Also, we find great success in approaching (or having the client approach) the customer immediately after the win. When the customer is feeling the “high” and feeling good about things is typically when they’re most likely to open up and share.

      It can also help to make sure you client is approaching the customer in the right way. If they’re the gatekeeper, it can pay to coach them a bit on the points above.

      • Barry Feldman

        How about that MW? You ask; Deana answers. You gotta’ love how blogging works. Keep the conversation going… Share, if you think your friends and tribes might be interested. Peace.