One of the best ways of communicating
the power of your company's technology is showing how customers are
using it to solve business challenges. This is usually done using
written or video formats that describe how a customer uses a given
technology. Most every vendor has a few of these success stories, case
studies or application briefs. Too bad many of them don't work very
The most common format is the formulaic one, usually
specified by marketing or PR folks who either inherited this style as
corporate boilerplate or are afflicted with terminally linear thinking.
This format divides the story into discrete chunks, sometimes with
specific word counts. These sections often bear predictable subtitles
such as: The Company. The Challenge. The Solution. The Benefit. These
aren't necessarily bad in themselves, but they tend to constrict the
way a story flows.
The core information is probably there, but
with rare exceptions this format yields bland, stiff, unimaginative
documents that are light on details, have all the allure of material
safety data sheets, and barely scratch the surface of how a product
solved a particular challenge. Your technology deserves better.
So Tell the Story Instead,
a story in a format and style that engage the reader. Since tales
of printing equipment and software merge technology and business
issues, it's important to explain how this happens in ways readers can
relate. The best results come from working with writers who understand
both your technology and the business and operational issues your
should read like a good magazine article. This can require more words
than the formulaic approach, so tight writing is important. It's fine
to keep within a specific word count, but make all the words work to
tell the story while keeping it alive on the page.
readers can identify with and do it right at the beginning. If
they don't see "what's in it for them" they will bail out fast. The
story should provide enough detail to show that the problems and
challenges described are clearly not trivial and are ones with which
other companies can identify.
Interview two or three
people at a company and use quotes from all of them. Ideally you want
someone at a management level speaking to business issues and others
further down the food chain who have their hands on the actual jobs to talk about
the operational side. That way you tell a complete
story that's more useful to readers.
about the benefits of your technology and what they
mean to the featured company. Whenever possible, quantify
labor and cost savings, lower cost of ownership, improvements in
efficiency, greater throughput, faster turnarounds, better staff
utilization, and so on.
the product the hero but
don't beat the drum too loudly. It's a story, not an advertorial. Your
message is far more effective and credible if the customer is the
winner, i.e., more efficient or more profitable, through adoption of
your technology. Throw PR agency policies aside and don't use your
product or company name more than two or three times. Readers aren't
stupid; they know what you're talking about. (And don't put the
company/product names in bold type, either.)
A key upside to
this format is that a trade magazine editor is more likely to be
willing to run the story (after relieving it of any product pitch)
because it requires minimal editing. This is not the case with stories
using the formulaic approach that are too structured around a product
to be used in a magazine without serious editing or rewriting --for
which magazines have paper thin budgets.
This same process is true, with a few more details, for video versions of success stories. But that's a tale for another day.