Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Making the Customer Case Study Work Harder on the Social Web

Is the customer case study becoming obsolete in today’s Social Web? A world where every customer has an audible opinion and an instantaneous, inexpensive way to broadcast it?

No. The customer story is more important than ever. Here’s why.

The customer case study is the marketing intellectual property that gives people the detailed story as presented by your brand. But it’s also the source document for blog content, Tweets, and so on – and a jumping-off point for conversations with your market. There was an old saying in traditional PR: “If there is no conflict, there is no interest.” Today it’s: “If there is no conversation, there is no interest.”

To make your customer story conversation-worthy, rethink the content. Stop thinking of it as an ad for your product or your expertise. Instead, think of it as a tutorial on how customers and prospects can improve their business and personal lives. This can be particularly challenging for companies that sell very technical products – for example, I work with a lot of companies that sell deep infrastructure information technology. But these are the vendors that tend to benefit most from this approach to customer case studies. Remember: the ultimate goal is to find more customers like the customer you are writing about.

To better exploit a customer case study on the Social Web, here are three ideas:

Make it easy to love. Tell a story – the customer’s story. People like to read about people and talk about people. Tell how you solved the customer’s problem and made his life better. Leave the feeds and speeds in your product literature. Go for natural quotes that capture the customer’s personality and enthusiasm, and don’t “PR-ize” the quotes. Use your biggest asset – an enthusiastic customer – to engage, enlighten, entertain. (And yes, even business customers can wax enthusiastic.) A bonus: I have found that the more the story is about the customer’s business, the more likely it will get through his corporate approval cycle. If you do a really good job, the customer may end up using your story to promote himself.

Make it easy to find and share. Put the content – or part of it, or a link to it, or a customer logo – on your home page. Don’t require registration to get the case study. Consider distributing a direct-to-consumer, SEO-ed news release about it, highlighting the business or life lessons learned by the customer by using your product.

Make it easy to talk about. Cross-promote, cross-promote, cross-promote. Blog about it, and encourage comments. Tweet it, including using appropriate hash tags. Create a customer corner on your Facebook fan page, or have an interactive discussion. Do a Tweet chat. Look for vertical industry Web sites or topical sites (for example, food or wine sites) where you can create and engage in conversations using the content. Conversation makes the case study a living, evolving thing.

Also, consider using video and podcasts to bring the print customer case study alive. This can create additional publishing and social networking opportunities. For example, I love podcasts of a peer-to-peer nature: where a vendor’s senior manager interviews the customer. A money-saving hint: if you do an annual customer conference, try to set up your video or podcast interview operation there. You can often capture multiple customers, and at their most enthusiastic.

There’s obviously a lot more you can do, and I am probably overlooking things, because I am not a “social media expert.” But by applying a few simple techniques, you can start to create more “sociable” customer stories and get much more mileage from them.

No comments:

Post a Comment