Jun 20, 2003

Customer Success Stories Make Companies Shine by Illuminating Business Strengths


To outshine the competition in today's business
environment, companies must deploy the right public relations (PR) tools at the
right times, which means allocating PR dollars and resources more wisely than
ever. Interestingly, many companies overlook the fact that they are sitting
atop an untapped PR gold mine--their own customer base, which has the
potential to propel them into the public spotlight again and again. One of the
most powerful tools for mining this wealth is the customer success story, a
credible third-party endorsement of a manufacturer and its product or service.
Through the usage of customer success stories many companies can highlight
their business strengths and open the lines of communication with their sales
reps and customers.

Whether you are marketing home products or financial
services, success stories are a high-impact way to promote your products and
enhance your image by demonstrating how your product or service help address a
customers' business need or concern. A well-executed success story
program quickly can enhance your credibility and visibility with target
audiences, whether they are consumers, builders, architects, retailers or other
manufacturers or service providers. For instance, a kitchen and bath products
manufacturer could target a success story to building trade magazines,
highlighting how its innovative product attracted more homebuyers to a
builder's model home, boosting sales opportunities for builder and
manufacturer alike. A story geared to architectural publications could explain
why a top residential designer prefers to spec one manufacturer's
building material, home appliance or other product in their homes. A bank
looking to grow its equity loan business could aim a story at consumer
financial websites, telling how it helped a family finance a home remodeling

One of the biggest challenges is identifying which customers
have the most compelling success stories and are willing to have their stories
published. Not just your sales reps, but your dealers, resellers and
distributors often can help identify the best success story candidates since
they have direct customer contact. Once you have viable candidates, be sure to
tell them how the publicity can positively impact them by enhancing their image
and visibility, boosting business potential and giving them a free tool they
can use in their own self-promotion efforts--in most cases, this increases
their willingness to share their story with the world.

When creating success stories as sales tools, colorful
graphics and logos, catchy pull-quotes from customers, glossy photographs and
promotional copy make a more eye-catching presentation and increase the chances
customers and prospects will notice you. It's wise to be conservative
when pitching it as a feature story to editors of print or online business and
trade publications. A low-key approach bolsters chances that editors may want
to expand your story into a feature-length article versus a news brief. Whether
you are using them as sales tools or for publication, the more success stories
in your PR arsenal, the more impact the program will have on your image. While
story quality is critical, there is power in numbers, too, especially when
sales reps need more support tools to secure accounts in tough markets.

Because a success story program requires significant time
and resources, many companies outsource to PR agencies that have demonstrated
expertise in this area. Agencies typically have strong relationships with
top-notch case study writers, art directors, photographers and other pros who
can collaborate to produce high-impact success stories. They can manage
everything from interviewing customers to pitching stories to the media.
Agencies can open new dialogs with editors of relevant publications that would
be interested in publishing stories for specific areas of interest such as home
technology or building trades. Experienced agencies know how to build a rich
success story portfolio that will make your company--and your
customers--shine bright and get noticed.

About the author

Walt Denny is the president of Walt Denny, Inc., an advertising/public relations agency that focuses primarily on home products clients such as Amerock Corp., KitchenAid brand, L.E. Johnson Products and Whirlpool Corp. The Home Products Agency was established in 1989. For more information on Walt Denny, Inc., visit www.waltdenny.com.