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Three different ways to write about happy customers

28 Oct

Businesses like using success stories about customers, clients or users to showcase the benefits of a service or product. But what’s the best format? Like any other written communication, it depends. We need a fair bit of information before the writing starts: what the audience will want to know, what we want to tell them, what kind of language will catch the eye, what format will appeal and what visuals will make a connection.

Over at paper.li, a content curation tool that you can use to create a newspaper from twitter, Facebook or other web content, we’ve been writing some interviews with happy users. The essentials are a striking image, a description of how they’re using the tool – for business, pleasure or a cause – and a lively Q and A that tells their personal story while weaving in how they’re using paper.li. The Q and A is conversational and friendly and hopefully lets their personality shine through. The aim is an engaging story that makes clear what you can do with paper.li and how to go about it.

One interview was with a university teacher, Kate Morgan, who uses paper.lis in the classroom – great ideas for other teachers.  No doubt the interview format will be refined over the coming weeks, so keep an eye on paper.li.

What else?

If a Q and A doesn’t feel right, you could do traditional PDF reports, like the ones Facebook publishes about successful marketing campaigns. The one for a Norwegian chocolate spread comprises a short executive summary and a longer narrative. What’s nice is that you can scan the summary in seconds to see if the case study is of interest – if so, you dip further into the details. The landing page has an index with very concise summaries of many successful outcomes. There are few visuals – but as the target audience is marketing professionals who are already interested, Facebook doesn’t have to work hard to attract readers.

Don’t like that idea either? You could go for a traditional newspaper-style article of narrative interspersed with quotes and crossheads. Personally, I find this style heavy going on screen. Take this one at startups magazine. It could be too long and dense to hold the average web reader to the end. Shame, because it has great subject matter – Moonfruit, a company that makes it easy for people with no technical knowledge to build beautiful websites.

Perhaps you don’t want written case studies at all. So use video like these Google Apps for Business interviews. I’m not a great fan of these because I find ‘talking heads’ quite difficult to focus on after a while. But that’s a personal issue – I’m just happier reading than watching video. I imagine the target audience is the opposite. If Google had asked me (which of course they didn’t) I’d have suggested a few paragraphs of written summary  alongside the video (currently they have one paragraph).

The trick is finding out what kind of case studies are going to work in your unique situation. One size doesn’t fit all!

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