What is a Case Study?
A Case Study, or ‘success story’, is an excellent promotional tool for any business.
What is the point in writing a Case Study?
It describes what you have done for a particular customer, and, by default, what you and your organisation can do for the reader.
A good Case Study demonstrates the benefits offered by your organisation and offers concrete evidence of those benefits.
If written well, it will create a connection between you and the reader.
1. Make sure you ask the customer for permission. Get them to tell you the ‘story’ in their own words. This should give you some good testimonials. If you want to tweak a testimonial in order to make it more effective, simply ask – as long as you keep the customer involved, they shouldn’t mind.
2. A Case Study should be like a short story – memorable and enjoyable to read. It should have a beginning, middle and end, leading the reader on from one section to the next. There are several ways in which you could structure your Case Study, including:
- Challenge, Solution, Results: a straightforward method, which states the problem or ‘need’ experienced by the customer, how you helped, and the benefits they enjoyed as a result. The Case Study will have a traditional, ‘story’ feel with a satisfying conclusion.
- Results, Challenge, Solution: ‘start at the end’, by stating the results or benefits, then explaining what the ‘problem’ or ‘challenge’ was and how you helped. By putting the benefits at the beginning, you get to the point quickly.
- Challenge, Results, Solution: By stating the problem or need, then moving straight onto the results, you will create suspense. The reader feels compelled to read on, to find out how you achieved those results.
3. The best headlines are those that announce the quantifiable benefits your customer enjoyed by using your product or service. For example, “Top energy company enjoys a 42% boost in sales with innovative services introduced by company xyz.”
4. Place a very short quote from the customer immediately after the headline or introduction. This will set the tone and lend authority to the Case Study.
5. Consider beginning by summarising the key points in a couple of concise bullet points. The aim is to ‘tease’ the reader and gain their interest.
6. Pack in as many benefits as you can throughout – and remember to quantify them where possible. Examples are cost savings, increased sales, increased productivity, or reduced waste.
7. Focus on the customer. The reader will be interested in the story from their point of view. Whenever you mention a feature of your product or service, make sure you relate it to the customer, and how that feature helped them.
8. Break down the copy by using headings, bullet points and lists. This makes the Case Study easier to read and remember. You can also highlight key phrases within the copy by using a bold or larger font, especially where you are talking about benefits.
9. Use plain English where possible. Try to avoid industry jargon or technical speak.
10. Use pictures to add interest. For example, add a picture of your product being used by your customer. Or, a picture of you carrying out the service, such as presenting your findings, delivering a product.
Tags: branding, case study, communications, consulting, PR, writing
Presenting your brand consistently
Does your brand look the same everywhere? Are you consistently using the same logo, coloring, taglines, and messages? Does your Social Media presence sync with your website?
Targeting the right people
Are you focusing on your
company’s most ideal customers? Have you determined where they “hang out” online? Is information about their social media activities something you have considered and made adjustments to accommodate?
Sharing helpful information
Are you providing information that you know your customers and potential customers find useful? Are you creating your own content that will entice people to your website or wherever you want them to go? Does your content position your company as an expert in your area?
Do you discuss your social media strategies and tactics with the other people involved in your company? When planning out your marketing activities for a period of time, do you consider how your offline and social media online activities can work together?
Are you listening as well as broadcasting (promoting/advertising)? Are you keeping in touch with what your customers are saying about what concerns them? Sometimes what people say online is not what they might say to you or your staff in person.
Socialising and networking
Do you do as much or more socialising as you do broadcasting? Do you make time to interact with others in a non-promotional way… adding value?
Making your content “findable”
Do you use search terms and relevant keywords in your content that are more likely to help your content be found online? Have you thought much about what phrases or terms people use to find your products and services? If you’re a local business, are you including your location in your profiles and accounts?
Do you have social media engagement built into either your schedule or the schedule of someone involved with your company?
Seeking out the expertise of others
Are you bookmarking or subscribing to helpful blogs and email newsletters about social media? Have you been talking with other business owners or social media specialists to keep current and informed?
How did you do with the checklist? Are there any areas that you’re missing or weak in right now?
If you’re like most small businesses, the answer is most likely “yes”. The good news is that there is a wealth of help and information out there. Take advantage of it and see where the added exposure and interaction can lead.
Tags: Social Media
Customer relationship management isn’t just for big brands. These days, more and more companies are offering free online tools to make it easier for SMBs to keep track of and reach out to their customers.
For some SMBs—whether they’re brick-and-mortar shops or online businesses—being able to monitor customer feedback, respond to complaints and help answer questions across a wide variety of websites is incredibly valuable. It establishes a rapport with customers, who are likely to spread the word and praise the SMB for its outreach.
To get a better understanding of what the CRM tasks are and the best tools to accomplish them, Mashable spoke with Marsha Collier, who wrote the book on online customer service.
Collier says that when it comes to reaching out to customers on the web, small businesses have an advantage over their corporate counterparts.
“There is the opportunity for more communication within the company, more chance to build a customer-centric culture. They don’t have the issues of having to pass new ideas through meetings and legal department. If the owner/president is involved and the lines of communication are fairly open, they can turn on a dime and beat the competition,” she says.
Want to read more social media tips? Check these out:
Collier says that while there are lessons to be learned from larger corporations’ social media campaigns, the most important part of bringing your business online for customer interaction is that you’re creating a personality for your company and giving your business a face. “When you engage the community, you personalize your business. Your business is no longer a store or a website: It’s a person.” And at that point, Collier says, it’s vital to communicate promptly and personally, which can be time-consuming.
“I know of small business owners who continually monitor social media platforms for mention of their business. They get text messages and try to direct the issues immediately. I even heard of a brick-and-mortar restaurateur who got a text about cold French fries at his location. He texted the manager, who then showed up at the table within minutes to diffuse the situation.”
Best Tools to Use
When it comes to specific tools that SMBs should be using, Collier says, “Of course, the very basics would be Tweetdeck or Seesmic. You’d be surprised how many small businesses don’t know about the basic tools.” She says HootSuite is a great choice for a slightly larger business.
Anyone who runs an online business will tell you that customers are shopping 24/7. Collier says they can “smartly install a web-based help desk from Zendesk or chat products like Meebo Me or Skype on their websites to immediately answer customer service issues.”
Collier says those who wish to monitor mentions of their brand or vertical can use sites such asSocialmention or Tweetbeep. “Small business again can jump the gun here,” she notes. “Using their knowledge of their own industry, they can comment topically on blogs. They can even help their competitors’ customers in public on Facebook, on blogs or boards. By helping people with good service they can turn those people into prospective customers.”
Best Practices & Streams to Study
Collier says that she’s spoken at length with scores of SMB owners while writing her book, The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide. She says that some of the most diligent practitioners of online CRM are the tens of thousands of business owners who make their living selling only on eBay or Amazon. Collier says these folks have to “stay on top of customer transactions” in a way that other SMB owners and managers don’t.
For offline businesses, Collier says, “Keep in mind we are on the cusp of this new form of online customer service, and the tools and procedures are just now being perfected. The few businesses who actually ‘get it’ right now are doing it right.”
A fine example that Collier recommends for further study is @UnitedLinen, a company that uses social media to connect with the customers in its local area. “The company has a personalized stream where it engages customers,” she says, “yet it’s also used for product announcements and crowdsourcing” and promotion of its YouTube series on the art of folding napkins.
Collier also points out that quite a few food trucks have mastered the art of social media CRM. She recommends checking out the efforts of street food companies such as Streetza Pizza and Kogi BBQ.
At the end of the day, Collier says, “Good customer service in any form has a positive effect on ROI. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs is quoted as saying, ‘A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience.’ If that is a real world statistic, the online world must be ten times that.”
She adds that people don’t do business with those who have a reputation for mistreating their customers. And since more companies are shifting to social media as the platform for all customer service, “small businesses should grab the opportunity and begin to make their mark.”
In other words, practice will make perfect, and Collier advises getting as much social media practice as you can.
Unfortunately, not all customer interactions online are going to be positive, and there is little SMB owners can do to control that. “Negative feedback can appear anywhere,” Collier says. “New media has drawn an end to controlling the situation.”
Rather than trying to shut down conversations that might cast your business or product in an unflattering light, Collier says you should approach all such conversations with honesty and a willingness to make amends if needed.
“The object is to be there, to monitor the various sites,” she says. “Claim your business’ Facebook Page, sign up with Yelp, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor and any review site you can find on a Google search for your industry. Be transparent. Own up to mistakes and let the audience know about how you made things right for the customer.”
Being proactive with social media makes it easy to nip a negative situation in the bud—and everyone knows how quickly you responded, which can help you win even more customers.
This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
Tags: brands, SMB, Social Media
The psychology of colour is one of the more complex subjects in website design. It is important to make sure the colours you’ve selected reinforce your message and the image of your personal identlty or brand.
What do the colours mean?
- Red – Fiery and passionate, can represent both love and anger
- Orange – Shares attributes of both red and yellow. Associated with energy and warmth. It’s calmer than red and more cheerful
- Yellow – A warm, happy colour. It can represent either joy
- Green – Signifies nature, growth, entreprenurship and renewal. Along the same lines, green can sometimes represent inexperience
- Blue – Calming and cool, but too much can be depressing. Often associated with corporate images
- Purple/Violet – Long associated with royalty and wealth. It’s also a spiritual colour, and is thought to be creative
- Black – A bit of a chameleon, it can be conservative or edgy, traditional or modern. It can be mysterious and sexy or conventional and safe, depending on how it’s used
- White – Associated with purity and innocence. It goes well with any other colour
- Gray – Neutral and balanced. Gray is conservative and sophisticated, but can be seen as moody, too
- Brown – A wholesome and down-to-earth colour that denotes stability and reliability
Tags: presenting, website design
After a recent request for executive coaching from a small company founded in China, I have been spending time looking at the culture behind how business is done in China. It was an opportunity to revisit some old research on social media in China too.
Highlights on China:
- China is the biggest Internet nation with India catching up very quickly.China currently has over 5 Billion net users
- Social media is now the fastest growing and hottest topic in China’s industrial world
- Chinese social networks provide many innovative features for business marketeers. eg., Sina Weibo, the biggest microbloging tool in China, offers corporates account to companies with more customizable features on their profile page and advertising. Similar to Twitter.
Brilliant slide deck on social media in China
Tags: Executive Coaching, International, Social Media
Feedback can be defined as :
Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement
Receiving feedback is an essential process through which we continuously improve our actions and working context. By reviewing outcomes and thinking about how we could do better in our work today and in the future. Feedback formalizes someone’s opinion – and needs to be treated as such. It’s not necessarily ‘true’ – but it doesn’t have to be, it’s true that a person thinks what they think, that’s what it’s all about.
Feedback is essential to team and self development. It ensures that individuals within the team are aware of the impact of their work, it avoids frustration to settle in and problems to emerge and remain unresolved. It also increases trust within the team – team members know they will receive honest feedback and will not have any surprise. They get to value each other and appreciate the way they help each other grow.
Next time you do a presentation, write a report or simply complete any form of task – ask for feedback and see if you can improve.
Tags: presenting, writing