How To Write Success Stories That Sell For You 24/7


How do you get your story out and let the world know about your successes without sounding like you’re bragging? Let your customers speak for you! Using the Success Story format, your past or current customers can show your prospects how wonderful your product or service is, and what a big difference it's meant to them. (This also works for career promotion as an adjunct to a resume, you use your job projects as the basis for your Success Stories.) Nothing makes a more compelling story than hearing how your product or service saved time, money or resolved a problem for a real live person in your industry. 

What Is a Success Story? 

A Success Story is a testimonial about how your product or service helped someone. These are also known as case studies, application stories or user stories. Success stories can be as short as a few paragraphs or as long as 10 page booklet. They can be distributed in print, as PDFs, in the company newsletter, or posted on the Web. They can also be handed out at trade shows, on sales calls and in literature kits for prospects, journalists and investors. 

In Part 1 the 10 tips  will show you what you need to do to lay the groundwork for writing powerful, successful Success Stories. Part 2 deals with the ins and outs of formatting so that your content is not only informative, but also attention grabbing, and reader friendly. 

Part I: 10 Tips to get you started

1. Pick a satisfied customer.
Review the projects you worked on and select those that were not only successful but also can highlight how your product or service saved a customer time or money or improved their business process. Then contact them and make sure they want to go on record for you.

2. Do research.

Revisit the project, going over the specifications, what you did for that customer and the results. Then gather background on the customer (if you need to). You will need this information when you interview them in order to ask your questions intelligently. 

3. Prepare for your interviews.

You will need to talk to your customer to get more details on how you helped them, along with some powerful testimonials. Even though everyone has already agreed upon the success of the project, what you need for a Success Story are specifics. Good interviews result from being able to refer to a thorough list of prepared questions. 

4. Handling email interviews.

Interview in person whenever possible. Or do it by phone. Do an email interview as a last resort. (However, emailing the customer in advance with the questions you will ask sometimes makes the process go smoother.) With email you risk losing the detail that comes out of a verbal conversation and gives your story life. Since attention spans are shorter when people read emails, do your questions in more than one email. Also ask for a brief call to follow up on your emails to quickly go over their answers and verify the information. 

5. Get quotes from your team.

You also need to gather quotes from your own management or the team that worked on this project. You can make up a suitable quote from your own people that fits your story... but be sure to get it approved! 

6. Use a journalistic style of writing.

Include lots of snappy quotes, facts and figures. Review your notes and if you still need information, keep on digging. 

7. Make your readers want to read your story. 

Develop an interesting lead sentence that pulls readers into the story. Use that angle to carry them to the end. 

8. Think Problem-Solution.

The classic structure for a Success Story is Problem and Solution, Then and Now, Before and After: Before we had this terrible problem, but After we found your product or service our worries were over. Remember you're telling a story, so keep it lively and dramatic. 

9. Get the customer's OK.

Have your customer read it for accuracy. You want not only the details to be correct but also any quotes.

10. When in doubt, hire a professional writer. 
If writing is not your strong point, engage a writer who has experience in writing the Success Story format. You can either do the leg work of interviews, etc and have the writer complete the document, or hand off the entire project.

Part II: Formatting your stories for success

Regardless of how you will use the final Success Story, or the format you place it in, it has to start out with a powerful headline highlighting the major result or benefit of the project. Next give a brief overview of the customer’s business and industry and the major business problem(s) they faced. Craft a summary containing the solutions you provided that solved the problem(s). That covers the introduction whose purpose is to grab the reader’s interest.

Depending on the length of the Success Story, the next paragraphs comprise the body where you elaborate on what happened. Use language that will make your reader identify with this story (have them understand how you eliminated this customer’s pain points). Start with a paragraph listing the challenges faced while working on the project. Sprinkle it with quotes from your people who were involved. Then move on to mention the benefits provided by your product or service’s solution. Here is where you brag about how you helped your client out of this situation along with discussing how you did it.

Be sure to include in  this last part your customer’s testimonial by way of good quotes about your problem solving process and how your product/service played an important part in the solution. End with how it was a win win situation for both parties and how your customer is now a “happy camper”.

It cannot be overemphasized that your Success Story isn’t only about you. It is about your product or service’s value to your customer. Your goal is to have your readers be able to relate as they read the Success Story and feel that - "Yes, I am also facing the same problems with my business" and that through quantifiable results “This company can help me find a solution.” 

After you have the detailed version written, create a shorter version for posting on your website. The ideal length of an online case study ranges from 300-500 words. Be sure that the link to the Success Story has an attention grabbing short summary of two lines that will motivate them to click through to read it in its entirety.

Success Stories are your 24 hour sales force. They can be given out as printed matter that a prospect files away for future reference, or posted on your website for active traffic to visit.

A special note for job seekers: You can wow a prospective employer by presenting them with your Success Stories. All of the above advice applies but instead of a business customer, think of the projects you did for your employer and how it made HIS customer happy. All you have to do is slant it so it mentions how you, the employee, played a vital part in the problem solving process. Also any quotes would be along the same line. You can leave a printed version with the interviewer and if you have personal website, post a version there too.
                                                                                                                         © 2007 Leona M Seufert