more Funny Quotes

15 July 2012

Why are success stories so popular?

Why are they so popular? What are success stories (aka case studies) used for? 
We're going to answer the second part of that first and then tell you why they're so popular. 

What are success stories (aka case studies) used for?
Companies use success stories in a number of ways: (1) sales training and internal training for new employees, (2) webinars, (3) great fodder for newsletters, both internal & external. Those are the top 3 uses, although I'm sure you could think of more uses for success stories.

Why are they so popular?
Ahhhhh, now there's the crux of it. They are quite popular in the b2b world and there's a good reason for it. They speak to our most ancient instincts (reptilian brain aka the amygdala) about storytelling. Not only are they telling us a story, but it is the most ancient story of all time: The Hero's Journey.

The Hero's Journey is a mythic story that is told over and over and over again. It's one of the major themes used in blockbuster films (think Star Wars, Independence Day, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy). It's an archetype story that speaks to all people across the globe regardless of culture, language, or any other "differences." It's a story about growing up, about facing obstacles, overcoming those obstacles and becoming the hero to save the galaxy, save the universe, save the world, or in our case save the company.

And you just thought they were marketing stories, didn't you? ;>

19 January 2012

12 things you weren't taught about creative thinking

This is from an interesting article over on Psychology Today. I'll give the list here, but plz go soak in the details over there; there's much more than what I excerpted below.  :)  One surprise in here:  expect the experts to be negative. (hmmmm.... that explains a LOT doesn't it?!)

1.      You are creative.
The artist is not a special person, each one of us is a special kind of artist. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not.

2.      Creative thinking is work.
You must have passion and the determination to immerse yourself in the process of creating new and different ideas. Then you must have patience to persevere against all adversity. All creative geniuses work passionately hard and produce incredible numbers of ideas, most of which are bad.

3.      You must go through the motions of being creative. 
When you go through the motions of trying to come up with new ideas, you are energizing your brain by increasing the number of contacts between neurons.

4.      Your brain is not a computer. 
Your brain is a dynamic system that evolves its patterns of activity rather than computes them like a computer. It thrives on the creative energy of feedback from experiences real or fictional. 

5.      There is no one right answer.
Reality is ambiguous. Physicists discovered that light can be either a wave or particle depending on the viewpoint of the observer. The only certainty in life is uncertainty. When trying to get ideas,  do not censor or evaluate them as they occur. Nothing kills creativity faster than self-censorship of ideas while generating them. 

6.      Never stop with your first good idea.

7.      Expect the experts to be negative. 
The more expert and specialized a person becomes,  the more their mindset becomes narrowed and the more fixated they become on confirming what they believe to be absolute. Consequently, when confronted with new and different ideas,  their focus will be on conformity. This is why when Fred Smith created Federal Express, every delivery expert in the U.S. predicted its certain doom. After all, they said, if this delivery concept was doable, the Post Office or UPS would have done it long ago.

8.      Trust your instincts.
One professor said Einstein was "the laziest dog" the university ever had. Beethoven's parents were told he was too stupid to be a music composer. Charles Darwin's colleagues called him a fool and what he was doing "fool's experiments" when he worked on his theory of biological evolution. Walt Disney was fired from his first job on a newspaper because "he lacked imagination." Thomas Edison had only two years of formal schooling, was totally deaf in one ear and was hard of hearing in the other, was fired from his first job as a newsboy and later fired from his job as a telegrapher; and still he became the most famous inventor in the history of the U.S.

9.      There is no such thing as failure.
Whenever someone tells you that they have never made a  mistake, you are talking to someone who has never tried anything new.

10.   You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are.
Interpret your own experiences. All experiences are neutral. They have no meaning. You give them meaning by the way you choose to interpret them.

11.   Always approach a problem on its own terms.
Do not trust your first perspective of a problem as it will be too biased toward your usual way of thinking. Always look at your problem from multiple perspectives. Always remember that genius is finding a perspective no one else has taken. 

12.   Learn to think unconventionally.
Albert Einstein once famously remarked "Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them. 

02 September 2011

Success Stories aka Case Studies

This time we're looking at Success Stories, which are also known as Case Studies. You'll see these on most websites usually right next to the option to either download a white paper or go to the white paper section of the website.

Success stories are just exactly what they sound like: the client / customer has a problem, you help with client / customer with your product or service to solve the problem, client / customer problem solved and their clients and customers are happier, their sales are better, or whatever the clients / customers definition of success for the issue was accomplished. 

Success stories are STORIES which everybody loves to hear. I think it's some kind of innate human quality that loves to hear stories. As a trained hypnotherapist, I can tell you that stories speak to us on a subconscious level. They speak to our inner child, the part of us that loved stories as a kid and the part of us that learns from stories. Stories speak to our soul, and that's why nearly every marketeer out there will tell you to frame your marketing materials in a story form if at all possible. Success stories do just that and they star someone with a similar problem to your prospects.

Start the success story using a benefits-oriented title, concise client / customer quote, and a summary of the benefits. Include photos and/or video if possible. Human factors engineers have verified we respond better to things that have faces, even if it's just a smiley face on the computer screen.

Here's the quick list, then below we'll go into details about each item. 

  • Title
  • Client / Customer Quote
  • Benefits Summary
  • Tell the Story 
  • Emphasize the main benefit.
  • Use action verbs.
    (For example: improves, reduces, streamlines, etc. Writing in active voice regularly helps keep these verbs in the front of your mind.) 
  • Keep it short.
Client / Customer Quote
  • Include a concise, benefits-oriented quote, ideally 20 words or less. 
  • Make it sound like dialog, and request permission to attribute  the quote to a high-level exec (include the name, title, and company with it).
    This can usually be handled via e-mail, then the person you're attributing the quote to can easily make it their own. 
  • Focus on results, benefits, and overall satisfaction, not what was done or how it was done. (What and How can be addressed in the white paper and data sheet.) 
Benefits Summary
  • Highlight the key qualitative and quantitative benefits in a few concise bullet points at the beginning of the doc.
Tell the Story 
In this part, use interesting subheads to help guide the reader. 

  • Describe the general challenge, problem, issue, or opportunity faced. Keep it short and down to a few sentences.
  • Smoothly transition to a description of the specific challenge, problem, issue, or opportunity this specific client / customer faced.
  • Remember to define terms readers may not be familiar with.
  • Describe the solution.
    First discuss the specific solution for the specific problem the client / customer faced. Then smoothly transition to a description of the more general ways this solution can solve industry problems, issues, respond to regulatory requirements, or take advantage of business opportunities. 
Finish Strong 
Finish strong with the benefits of the solution. 
  • Provide more information on the benefits of the solution. Remember to map the benefits back to the topics discussed in the problem section to close the loop for the reader.
  • If the benefits are quantified, describe the assumptions (including any financial ones) and methods used to calculate them. This helps clarify for the readers how the benefits were determined.
  • Provide contact information (name, phone, e-mail, and website).  
That's it! Sounds easy, doesn't it? :)  Now you have a checklist to make sure all the elements are there the next time you have to whip up a success story.

Until next time,

21 August 2011

Newsletters, where "brevity is the soul of wit"

This time we're talking about newsletters in detail, where (to quote Shakespeare) "brevity is the soul of wit." And this is truer in newsletters than in other forms of writing.

When I worked in technology transfer, we published a quarterly newsletter that ran 8-10 pages. In those pages, you had a feature story that covered the entire front page and then the rest was filled with smaller stories from the 6 staff writers. Basically, we had 3 paragraphs to tell you (1) what the technology was and what it did, (2) what the SDI or "star wars" funding was that was the tie-in we needed to cover the story, and (3) the commercial applications. 

That little newsletter found its way to a number of other publications because they could re-print and use the stories. For example, one story found its way to the cover of the Wall St Journal.... the one on laser eye surgery, and yes it was born from the laser research done for SDI. Another story was on the "smog dog" sensor that could tell by looking at car emissions whether they were within established guidelines or not. That technology I now pass routinely on the highways of Colorado in the form of "rapid screening" sensors. A third was the material used to fix the Hubble Telescope (remember, it needed "glasses"?), another was the Blue Lasers which gave birth to blue LEDs and Blue Ray disc. (Blue light can hold more information because of its longer wavelength.) The material the pizza guy uses to keep your pizza hot also came from the SDI research.

So, although I had been writing and working on my skills using information from places like Writer's Digest and books like Write Tight, working on that newsletter staff helped me hone my brevity skills even more.  

Newsletters are one of the easiest marketing tools you can use and one of the cheapest, right behind your business cards. These days, there are services like AWeber where for less than $20/month you can set up your newsletter opt-ins and auto-responders so the visitors to your website who would enjoy seeing information from you on a regular basis can. And at least w/ AWeber, you can set up a whole bunch of newsletters for different sites or different blogs, each with their own e-mail lists. 

This regular contact with your customers and clients is invaluable as you build a trusting relationship with them. Because b2b products and services are so much more expensive than b2c and because they involve more than one stakeholder, the more you can build this relationship the better. It is not unusual for buying decisions to take months before the final purchase is done, and chances are the customer will also purchase a service contract of some type along with the product.  Especially if it's IT-related in any way, shape, or form. 

The trick is to make sure that the information you are sending in your newsletters is indeed helpful to the recipient and that you are not just annoying them on a regular basis with "buy now" messages. The other trick is to make sure that your newsletters are frequent enough to inform but not frequent enough to annoy. 

I get e-mails from some places daily. Sometimes more than daily. And unless the subjects are *really interesting* I tend to cancel these mailing lists pretty quickly because I just don't have the time to spend on them. Some places send newsletters weekly, others monthly, and even others bimonthly or quarterly. 

So what frequency is the right frequency? That depends on a lot of variables, not the least of which is your audience. Like other forms of writing, you must NAIL your audience and know who you're talking to. How busy are they? How much time do they have? What are their greatest concerns? What are you sending in the newsletter? Is it helpful information? The more the newsletter is helpful to your audience, the more likely they are to "click" with you and your services or products.

So once you have a pretty good idea of who you're talking to, try and include more helpful information than selling information in your newsletter. 

Yes, tell them about sales and special promotions, but also share industry information with them and links to current developments. For example, HP announcing last Thu that they're looking to sell off their PC division is kind of a big deal as is Google buying Motorola's device division. How is that going to impact the rest of the industry? How is that going to affect your client/customer's business? How is it going to affect your business?

I guarantee that if you share that kind of valuable information with your newsletter subscribers, they will indeed stay on your list. Your name will stay in the front of their mind, and when they are ready to purchase, you'll be one of the first they will contact for a quote. :)

until next time,

14 August 2011

re-focus: b2b marketing for high tech companies

Welcome to our relaunched, refocused blog! The website has changed focus, so we thought it only natural to change the focus of our blog as well. We're transitioning from strictly doing technical writing to focusing on technical copywriting. What's the difference? Well, there are a lot of differences and a lot of similarities for the longer marketing materials.

For one, technical writing is much more involved with the end user of the equipment or the application. And that's not a bad thing. In fact, that's a good thing because we can easily take our "user advocate" skills and apply it to creating b2b technical copy. The WIIFM factor or "what's in it for me?" It's only a bit more complicated because we have to address the WIIFM factor for not only whomever will end up using the product or service, but also the manager's WIIFM and the accounting department's WIIFM, and the senior managers WIIFM, and so on. These additional WIIFMs must be addressed in addition to the primary WIIFM somewhere in the marketing materials, and for technical marketing it's often in the success stories, white papers, and on the website. All of those are naturals for the technically-inclined writer.

Success stories, white papers, and websites along with newsletters and social marketing are where we're focusing our b2b efforts. These longer marketing materials (success stories, white papers, and websites) are a natural for one who's been writing the longer-form technical documents (installation and configuration guides, procedures, policies, online help, IT department newsletters, and so forth).

So over the weeks to come, we'll examine those longer forms in this blog. We'll start with newsletters next time only because we have a long history of writing newsletters of all kinds --- IT department newsletters, professional technology transfer newsletters, even neighborhood HOA newsletters.Then we'll move on to white papers and success stories. 

Lastly, we'll start delving into websites because that's a rather large subject area because the way a page is crafted depends on what it is exactly you want it to do, as well as what you want your reader to do. Buy something? Subscribe to a newsletter? Sign up for your e-mail list? Just like in technical writing and any form of writing really, you must nail the audience first and what it is you want them to do. Then craft the page or document to persuade them to do just that. 

Persuasive writing is marketing writing. And building relationships build trust. In the b2b world, your client or customer is going to spend thousands of dollars (not just $29.95) on a purchase that may last them several years. You're also going to try and get them to purchase a service contract for that piece of hardware of software, so you'll have an on-going relationship with them. That's why building that relationship on trust is so important. And that's why this type of marketing is so different from b2c. 

What's that? Social Marketing? FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter?  Yep, we'll look at that after working through the details of a b2b website because what you're usually trying to do at that point is drive traffic to your site. At least from a b2b perspective. You may also want to have your Help Desk or a "social marketing director" monitoring all the chatter because one tweet or remark about your "bad" service or product can quickly go viral.  :) 

until next time,