All hail the chief
All Hail the King!

Lacy Cooper

We’ve heard the old adage: the customer is king. But what does that really mean for the 21st century marketer? How can we best leverage current customers to grow new relationships?

Let’s start with the customer I know best, myself. When I’m in the market for something new – whether it’s a product or service – there’s one thing I always do first: scour online reviews. I want to know what other people thought of the coffee maker I’m considering buying, or how well the painters did sprucing up someone else’s living room. I value other peoples’ opinions when I’m spending my hard-earned money, and I’d venture to guess that you do too.

It’s no different in government IT marketing:  customer case studies are the gold standard when it comes to showing how your product or service can address agency challenges. In fact, according to the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, the top three content marketing tactics are blogging (65%); social media (64%); and you guessed it, case studies (64%).

Why are customer case studies so effective as communications tools? A good customer case study says, “You know that thing you’re afraid of?  We did it already, and here’s how.”

As important, we’re suckers for a good story. No one wants to hear the sales shtick. But storytelling via customer case studies can help potential customers understand a problem, and the (hopefully) happily ever after.

So what makes a compelling case study? I’ve written a few hundred over my career, so here are my top tips:

  1. Provide Background – What does the customer’s organization do? Who is involved in the organizational structure? Give readers a launching point – enough so they can see themselves in this person’s shoes
  2. Set Up the Challenges – What was the customer struggling with before your solution came along? What were their biggest headaches? Focus your list on the most relatable challenges and only highlight those that your solution can (and did) remedy. Be sure to provide industry specifics wherever possible
  3. Outline the Results – This is obviously the most important piece. It provides a platform to showcase how your solution helped the customer achieve success. What are the benefits and results of the implementation? How did the customer measure these? How did they compare to expectations going in? How did the results affect performance, constituent service, compliance, etc.? Providing specific examples is key here – quantify as much as possible
  4. Walk through the Implementation Process – What was the customer’s approach (timeline, consultants, etc.)? What went as planned, and what surprised them? This is a good opportunity to work in the customer’s advice or lessons learned – but keep it short. No one wants to read paragraphs of technical jargon
  5. Include Customer Quotes – Selected quotes should summarize the uniquely great qualities or benefits your product(s) afforded the customer. This is an opportunity for the customer to discuss, in their own words, how the solution helped their organization overcome their specific business challenge. It should be a strong endorsement of your company or solution, with quantifiable benefits wherever possible. Quotes must be able to stand alone without the context of the entire story
  6. Plan for Reviews – The review and approval process is often the sticking point for government customers, especially Federal agencies. For the best chance of success: make sure to explain the full process up front; build in time for lengthy reviews; tread carefully when it comes to how you position your company/offering in the story (most Federal agencies are barred from publicly endorsing any one product over another); and keep the focus on the business results/how things have changed at the agency rather than on the product itself

You already did the hard part – selling a new customer, implementing the solution, and supporting the transition. Now shout your success from the rooftops.

Let’s keep the conversation going. How does your company tackle case studies?

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