DIY Success Stories | Step 3. Focus on Facts

In Step 2. Get Started we brainstormed and captured basic facts.

The challenge today is to flow that content into the basic success story outline.

The short or condensed versions are easiest to write, but it's worth the time and effort to develop a comprehensive success story at this stage. With that version in hand, you can pare down and extract key points to highlight in varied formats for print, web or digital use.

For now, let's focus on organizing the facts and information we have in hand.

Create a Basic Outline

The most widely used success story outline includes these key elements:
  • Customer Profile
  • Problem (or Challenge)
  • Solution
  • Results
  • Customer Comments (Testimonials, Feedback)
This structure is so prevalent because it works. Use it for now, then later, you can adjust it in any way that suits you, your customers or the story you’re trying to tell.

Connect the Dots

Begin moving bullet points from the notes you brainstormed (Part 2) into the most obvious section of the outline. For example:
CUSTOMER PROFILE
  • Who - Customer
  • Where – Industry, location, geography
PROBLEM (OR CHALLENGE)
  • What – Problem or challenge
  • When – Timeframe or deadlines
SOLUTION
  • How – Process, product or service applied to solve the problem
  • How much – Indicators of success (dollars or time saved, quality improvements, revenues earned, etc.)
RESULTS
  • How – Process, product or service applied to solve the problem
  • How much – Indicators of success (dollars or time saved, quality improvements, revenues earned, etc.)
CUSTOMER COMMENTS
  • Testimonials, endorsements, feedback, customer-provided indicators
Make it Concrete

Let’s look at the same elements, with our working bullet-point notes in place. Need I say it? It's still a work in progress, but it's beginning to resemble a very basic success story.
CUSTOMER PROFILE
  • Who – Sight & Sound Productions
  • Where – State-of-the-art audiovisual technologies for presentations, corporate meetings and major events; located in Jacksonville, Florida
PROBLEM (OR CHALLENGE)
  • What – Crisis-driven mindset; lack of overall vision and direction; too few people to cover day-to-day operations
  • When – Push company to the next level within three years, if possible
SOLUTION
  • How – Conducted thorough strategic analysis
  • How much – Benchmarked all significant indicators, including earnings, customer profiles, marketing, advertising and PR efforts, etc.
RESULTS
  • How much – Company moved from $.5 million to more than $1 million in one year; it moved to multimillion-dollar status in 3 years
CUSTOMER COMMENTS
  • Quote about landing $1 million contract
Summary

Today, we’ve focused on organizing rough notes into a classic success story structure. In Part 4, we’ll flesh out the detail, close gaps and write the story.

To get a head start on that process, take time now while your brain is warmed up to review your rough outline and jot additional notes. Flag areas where details are missing or buried in files, then go find that information. Dig up relevant customer testimonials and read through old project notes to find indicators of success.

Call your customer and find out how the solution you created for them is working now … even if it’s been some time since you spoke. Listen carefully to what they tell you. You may discover opportunities for new business, or learn they need assistance in a new area. Just be sure to get permission if you intend to quote them in your success story.

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Related: DIY Success Stories
6 Easy Steps (Overview)
Step 1. Market Your Business
Step 2. Get Started
Step 4. Write It Now
Step 5. Hone the Content
Step 6. Avoid 12 Common Pitfalls

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