DIY Success Stories | Step 5. Hone the Content

We’re heading into the home stretch, but it’s important to stay focused and on track.

In Step 4 – Write It Now, you created a clear and accurate success story, with all the facts, figures and details in place. That’s significant.

However, while facts convey concrete accomplishment, in and of themselves, they’re not completely persuasive. To hone the content and develop a more effective success story, review your working draft with the following issues in mind.

What story are you trying to tell?

What do you want readers to know about your company? Products? Services? Perhaps your goal is to demonstrate how your training helped improve sales. Perhaps your goal is to show customers how a cast part can cost less and still out-perform the current part.

Refine your success story goal and state it clearly and directly. Consider using this goal statement as the title, slug line or abstract.

Who was the customer?

What do you want readers to understand about your customer? Include the company name, industry, size, locations, product and service mix, and other details, like revenues, if appropriate. Keep the description focused and concise, and don’t get creative.

Review the customer’s website and marketing materials to see how they describe themselves, then restate the key points in your own words. Typically, a few short sentences will suffice.

What was the problem?

Describe the problem the customer experienced. Was quality an issue? Were sales declining? Processes outdated? Machine tools inadequate? Parts poorly designed?

State the challenge clearly and succinctly. Include enough detail to help readers understand the real issues and their impact on your customer. Quality, for example, is a broad category, but it can cause revenues to fall and costs to rise through rework and delays. Spell out the particulars.

How did you fix it?

Describe the specific solution. Explain whether it was custom designed or off-the-shelf, and why. Focus on higher-level descriptions, such as, “we designed a custom sales training program targeted to engineers.” Avoid minute detail, such as a week by week summary of every topic covered during 12 months of training and coaching.

If you find yourself cutting juicy information, consider using that content in a white paper, best practice or case study. All of these formats accommodate more elaboration.

What were the results or benefits?

Hard dollars are the most persuasive way to show return on investment (ROI), but use whatever facts and figures work best for your particular success story. The training helped increase sales by nearly $2 million in the first year. The website redesign increased traffic by 25%. Altering the part design reduced production costs by 67%.

Some benefits are useful but not easy to quantify. Some of these include valuable improved services, smoother operations or greater overall productivity. Whenever possible, translate general statements into real numbers. If a customer says revenue increased, probe for details, ask for comparisons, calculate the numbers, confirm you’re on the right track, and state an outcome you can substantiate.

What does the customer say?

Use customer testimonials to substantiate your claims. Be prepared to pick up the phone and talk to your customer. Explain what you’re doing and enlist their help. Some will be able to rattle off hard facts to make the case for your product or service. Others won’t, and you may need to ask very specific questions about revenues, costs, time, volumes, dollar values and longterm impact.

Ask your customer if it’s OK to quote them. Be prepared to paraphrase for clarity. Customers often say wonderful things in circuitous ways. Rather than using a convoluted quote, restate it in a direct, concise manner but omit the quote marks. Stay true to the facts and tone, and be sure your customer sounds smart, capable and articulate.

Are you ready to wrap it up?

Relish this moment. You’ve completed a well-developed success story, nearly ready for release. Uh-oh. Nearly ready?

Yes, you’re eager to put this tool to work marketing your business to customers and prospects, old and new. Before you throw the wrap party, take time to read the last and final segment in the series, Part 6 – Avoid 12 Common Pitfalls. You’ve worked hard to create an effective success story, don’t skip those final, important steps.

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Related: DIY Success Stories
6 Easy Steps (Overview)
Step 1. Market Your Business
Step 2. Get Started
Step 3. Focus on Facts
Step 4. Write It Now
Step 6. Avoid 12 Common Pitfalls

See also
B2B Content | Write by Design

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