When marketing your Inland Empire business to potential customers, you don’t start the conversation by talking about yourself. You start the conversation with a customer focus by talking about your potential customer’s needs.
And what better way to speak about your potential customer’s needs than by talking about other customers who have faced the same problem, and who solved the problem using a solution from your business?
A case study is one way to share another customer’s successes with your potential customers. Case studies can follow a format such as this:
The problem. Henry’s Horse Rentals couldn’t get any businesses because all of the people in Alta Loma who rented horses preferred dark green horses, and Henry’s horses were brown and black.
The solution (literally). Jane’s Green Widgets and Other Green Stuff offered an environmentally safe horse bath, Jane’s Dark Green Animal Bath, that turned the horses dark green, posed no health hazard to horses or people, gave the scent of a pine forest, and made the horses happy because they looked really cool.
The results. Once Henry’s Horse Rentals posted pictures of the newly-bathed horses on its TikTok account, renters formed lines around the stables, requiring Henry to increase his stable from three horses to seventeen. The fivefold increase in revenue allowed Henry to franchise his operations, bringing in more money and starting a worldwide dark green horse craze.
When potential customers read about the original customer’s success, they will want to do business with your company also.
But aren’t case studies only for large national firms?
National firms can certainly use case studies, and Bredemarket has written its share of case studies for large firms. But any company of any size can benefit from a case study. As long as you have a website or social media site to distribute electronic versions of your case study, or a way to hand out physical copies, a case study can start working for you.
Create the study, and at the end of the study encourage the reader to contact you for more information. (Or request the person’s contact information before letting the person download the case study, then subsequently follow up and see if you can help.)
In my Bredemarket consultancy, I’m involved in the creation of content for Inland Empire West and other businesses, including case studies / testimonials, white papers, and the like. But I generally don’t get involved in the distribution of the content. That’s for my clients to decide and manage.
At my new day job, I’m putting my fingers into both content creation and distribution, so I’m having to think about things that I haven’t thought about much before. For example, when you should gate content, and when you shouldn’t.
Bredemarket and gated content
Over the years I’ve created white papers, case studies, blog posts, and other content for Bredemarket clients. Some of this content has been “gated,” while other content has not.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of gated content, “gating” is simply a way to obtain some information about a prospect before providing content to them.
This blog post, for example, is not gated content, because anybody can read it and I don’t necessarily know who is reading it.
In other cases, companies (including some of my Bredemarket clients) require you to provide a name, company, email address, and possibly other information before you can download the content.
The “sometimes” comes into play when you consider where the prospect is in the sales process. If the prospect is in an early awareness-building stage, they might not be willing to surrender their spammable email to just anyone. If the prospect is further along, they may want to provide that email to a few top-of-the-line companies to whom they’re willing to talk.
Case studies are HUGE credibility builders. When done right, they prove you can get results for people just like your leads. Not only that, but they reveal by way of example what a lead should expect when working with you.
I can think of no better asset to show a lead in the awareness and evaluation stages than a well-written, beautifully designed customer success story.
So why on earth would you hide all of that credibility-building power behind a gate that a lead will need to trust you to open?
If you’ve been reading the Bredemarket blog long enough, you’ll note that I often combine discussions of case studies and testimonials into a single “casetimonial” discussion. After all, case studies and testimonials accomplish the same thing, albeit in different lengths, formats, and authorships.
Testimonials are often written directly by customers themselves, although a company (or an independent consultant!) could ghostwrite the testimonial. Because they’re usually much shorter, they don’t necessarily include all of the components that you could find in a longer case study. Although there’s no reason why they couldn’t. Take a look at this particular testimonial, which some of you may have seen before:
“I just wanted to truly say thank you for putting these templates together. I worked on this…last week and it was extremely simple to use and I thought really provided a professional advantage and tool to give the customer….TRULY THANK YOU!”
Although there’s no explicit problem description in this testimonial, there’s an implied one. Since the testimonial author praises the template writer because the templates were simple to use, this implies that the pre-template proposal creation process was difficult.
Other than lacking an explicit problem description, the testimonial has the other aspects of a case study: identification of the solution that solved the problem, what happened when the solution was used, and the benefits of the solution.
Now a case study might go into much more detail, with extensive statistics and proof points. Testimonials usually don’t.
Should you gate testimonials?
I can only think of one conceivable reason to gate a testimonial, and that would be when the testimonial contains sensitive information. For example, I doubt that most testimonials written by secret agents are publicly accessible.
“I just wanted to thank you for the Acme Long-Range Recording Device. Before using this device, it was impossible to record conversations in the Mordor Embassy. But after adopting this device, I was able to uncover a Nazgul plot and use Rohan agents to foil it. THANK YOU!”
Now that’s a testimonial.
Are you opening the gate?
What content are you gating, and what content are you allowing to run free? And why? Feel free to comment.
This post is an update to my January 2021 post about the four identity information services. Yes, I just created a fifth one. (But most of you can’t see it.)
The first three services
The first three were created for the benefit of employees at (then) Motorola, (then) MorphoTrak, and IDEMIA. Briefly, those three were:
A Motorola “COMPASS” intranet page entitled “Biometric Industry Information.”
A MorphoTrak SharePoint intranet page entitled “Identity Industry Information.” (Note the change in wording.)
An IDEMIA (and previously MorphoTrust and L-1) daily email newsletter.
The fourth service
Of course, since I wrote the January 2021 post in the Bredemarket blog, the main purpose of the post was to tout the fourth identity information source, the (then) newly-created “Bredemarket Identity Firm Services” LinkedIn showcase page.
I marvel at the thought that I kept on doing this over and over again for four different companies, including Bredemarket. Why did I have this pressing need to reinvent the wheel as I traveled from company to company?
Habitually I’ve been a reader, and have found myself reading a lot of information about the biometric industry or the wider identity industry. Of course it’s not enough just to read something, you have to do something with it. COMPASS, SharePoint, email, LinkedIn, and Facebook allowed me to do two things with all of the articles that I read:
Save them somewhere so that I could find them in the future.
Share them with other people who may be interested in them.
I didn’t collect information on my impact to others in versions 1.0 and 2.0, but by the time I started managing the IDEMIA email list, I not only received comments from people who appreciated the articles, but I was also able to grow the subscriptions to the email list. (People had to opt in to receive the emails; we didn’t cram them into the inboxes of every IDEMIA employee.)
Similarly, I’ve received comments from people on LinkedIn who follow the showcase page, stating that they appreciated what I was sharing there.
And while COMPASS and the MorphoTrak SharePoint are long gone, and IDEMIA’s Daily News may or may not still be in publication, I can assure you that the Bredemarket Identity Firms services LinkedIn page and Facebook group still continue to operate for your reading pleasure.
And that’s the end of the story.
No it’s not.
The fifth service
As some of you know, Bredemarket has become a side gig because of my new day job, which is with a company in the identity industry. During my first days on the new job, I set up subscriptions to my new company email account so that I could receive information from Crunchbase and Owler, as well as relevant Google Alerts on the identity industry.
And as I began receiving these subscriptions, as well as performing my usual scans of other news sources…
…well, you can guess what happened.
“I need to store these stories and share them with my coworkers,” I thought to myself.
Finally, I created a new identity information service using the well-worn title “Identity Industry Information.” (Hey, it’s easy for me to remember.)
Now I can’t actually SHARE this service with you, because it’s just for the employees at my new company.
And THIS iteration takes advantage of a technology that’s slightly newer than COMPASS.
It’s a Slack channel.
P.S. to employees at my current company – if you’d like to access this Slack channel, DM me on Slack and I’ll send you an invite.
Way, way back in the last millennium, professional writers would possess specialized types of books that helped them write. Of course in those days, “books” were thick objects made of wood products that did not need power or an operating system to function.
For example, at my first job out of college, my boss gave me a dictionary so that I could look up words and ensure that I was spelling them correctly. Over the years I have also owned thesauruses, general style guides, and more specific guides for proposal writing.
These books still exist today, although they may be in electronic form. But this information may also be available in other forms, where you don’t have to obtain an entire book to answer a single question.
For example, take questions about spelling. I am composing this paragraph in the WordPress iOS mobile app, and if I type a word that appears to be misspelled, I will receive a suggestion of the proper spelling. I don’t need to open up Merriam-Webster for anything!
Synonyms are also easier to discover. If I’m in Microsoft Word, I can just select the word and see a list of synonyms. Alternatively, I can just ask my smart speaker to fetch me a lot of synonyms.
And there are other one-off questions. I recently shared an example of a source that answered a specific question that I had. I wanted to pose the classic identity question “who he says he is” but wanted to use the singular they to do so.
These are just a few examples. Many of the writing questions that required a book to answer in the last millennium are just a few keystrokes or voice commands away.
So you can get free answers to all of your writing questions in seconds!
Well, not really free.
If you look at the Word Hippo example above, four words appear at the very top that have nothing to do with “large amount.”
got milk? Learn More
My 1980s Merriam-Webster dictionary didn’t have advertisements.
On Saturday morning, my wife and I returned from errands to find a huge package on our front porch. The package contained a crib.
No, my wife is not pregnant.
We examined the package and found the following:
A tag from the delivery company. I won’t name the company, but I will say that this package delivery was “off track.”
The true destination address for the package, which had the same street number but a different street name.
A message indicating that the crib was a gift.
Wrong deliveries have been a topic of conversation in my Ontario neighborhood on the NextDoor app, especially after “R” posted this:
Many people did not agree with “R,” including myself.
So I tried to load the huge crib into the back seat of my car, but it was wider than the car. Since I didn’t want to drive around with an open car door, we went over to the real parents, who thankfully had a truck and picked up the crib.
But the package was delivered several days ago!
The most upsetting part of the story to me isn’t that the delivery company misdelivered the package in the first place.
The most upsetting part is that the delivery company told the parents-to-be several days ago that the package was delivered.
When it obviously wasn’t.
They had been wondering for several days where their supposedly-delivered package was, which wasn’t delivered until today…to the wrong address.
That’s really “off track.”
There’s a technology lesson here
All of the delivery companies, both the good ones and the bad ones, are incorporating package tracking technology into their operations. In theory, the technology lets you know exactly where the package is at any given time. In theory, this benefits the recipient by making sure the package is delivered to the right place at the right time.
Why do these errors happen? One reason is because the automation isn’t completely automated. Everything still depends on humans in the loop. For example, this morning’s delivery depended on a human to verify that they were delivering the package to the street name on the address label, and not some other street.
Another example that doesn’t amuse me is delivery time guarantees. Let’s say a package is promised to arrive at 10:30 am. In the real world, the package may not arrive until noon or later, but if you check the system, the system says the package was delivered at 10:29…and that many of the delivery driver’s packages coincidentally were delivered at 10:29!
But this is not a technology problem. It’s a business problem.
But it’s really a business lesson
While the delivery company strives for on-time and accurate deliveries, their actual processes to achieve this end up hurting the company. Rather than making sure that the package truly arrives correctly in the real world, the employees are incentivized to make sure the system records correct delivery of packages.
And the employees are punished (maybe fired) if the system says the package wasn’t delivered to the right place and/or at the right time.
The result? Some employee, afraid of losing their job, recorded a crib delivery several days ago to address X when the crib was really delivered today to address Y.
This is something that technology cannot solve. This can only be solved when a company focuses on delighting its customers, rather than reprimanding its employees.
B2B content creators often find themselves telling stories to drive their readers to take action. Usually the desired action is to do business with the company telling the story. But as Redlands-headquartered company ESRI demonstrates with ArcGIS StoryMaps, there are many ways to tell a story.
Why tell stories?
Now you could easily adopt a “just the facts” approach to sharing the necessary information, but your potential customers’ eyes may glaze over.
About a year ago, when I was selling Bredemarket’s services to a potential biometric client (obviously before I announced Bredemarket’s change in business scope and stopped providing services to finger/face clients), I started off by presenting a SWOT analysis. For those not familiar with the term, “SWOT” stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
For the topic of discussion with my potential client, I went through my independent analysis of all four of these items, engaging the people in the meeting who suggested some improvements. This SWOT analysis led into a presentation of the services that I could provide to the firm—services that addressed the weaknesses and threats that we had mutually identified.
What happened? I signed a contract with the company and worked on multiple projects to successfully address those weaknesses/threats.
Do you see what I did there?
As you probably noticed, I just told a story that had a conflict, actions, and a final resolution. “And they all sold biometric products happily ever after.”
Now SWOT analyses may not be your preferred type of storytelling, and frankly I usually don’t use SWOT analyses to tell stories. Stories can be of the “what happened to a company” or “what happened to me” form. For example, I recently told a “what happened to a company” story when talking about Conductor’s use of Calendly.
On April 20, 2022, ESRI announced its introduction of ArcGIS StoryMaps, saying that “StoryMaps Allows Content Creators to Unify Digital Experiences in One Place Furthering Esri’s Mission to Bring the Geographic Approach to All.” In its announcement, ESRI started by presenting the problem:
Capturing and sharing life’s experiences today often requires multiple platforms and tools, which can result in disjointed storytelling.
ArcGIS StoryMaps seeks to allow marketers and other content creators to use a single easy-to-use tool to tell their stories. As ESRI’s video on ArcGIS StoryMaps states, “Every story has a place, and every place has a story.” StoryMaps helps people tell place stories.
Now ESRI hasn’t asked me to tell stories for them (yet), but perhaps your Redlands-based company might want a storyteller. Consider the Redlands, California content marketing expert, Bredemarket. I provide marketing and writing services in the Inland Empire and throughout the United States.
Here are just a few examples of what Bredemarket can do for your firm:
Let’s look at why I declared myself the biometric proposal writing expert (BPWE) and biometric content marketing expert (BCME) in mid-2021, what happened over the last few months, why it happened, and who benefits.
Why am I the BPWE and BCME?
At the time that I launched this marketing effort, I wanted to establish Bredemarket’s biometric credentials. I was primarily providing my expertise to identity/biometric firms, so it made sense to emphasize my 25+ years of identity/biometric expertise, coupled with my proposal, marketing, and product experience. Some of my customers already knew this, but others did not.
So I coupled the appropriate identity words with the appropriate proposal and content words, and plunged full-on into the world of biometric proposal writing expert (BPWE within Bredemarket’s luxurious offices) and biometric content marketing expert (BCME here) marketing.
There’s been one more thing that’s been happening in Bredemarket’s luxurious offices over the last couple of months.
Let’s say that it’s December 2022, and someone performs a Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo search for a biometric content marketing expert. The person finds Bredemarket, and excitedly goes to Bredemarket’s biometric content marketing expert page, only to encounter this text at the top of the page:
Update 4/25/2022: Effective immediately, Bredemarket does NOT accept client work for solutions that identify individuals using (a) friction ridges (including fingerprints and palm prints), (b) faces, and/or (c) secure documents (including driver’s licenses and passports).
I’ve already shared some (not all) details about why I’m pivoting with the Bredemarket community, but perhaps you didn’t get the memo.
I have accepted a full-time position as a Senior Product Marketing Manager with an identity company. (I’ll post the details later on my personal LinkedIn account, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jbredehoft/.) This dramatically decreases the amount of time I can spend on my Bredemarket consultancy, and also (for non-competition reasons) limits the companies with which I can do business.
Those of you who have followed Bredemarket from the beginning will remember that Bredemarket was only one part of a two-pronged approach. After becoming a “free agent” (also known as “being laid off”) in July 2020, my initial emphasis was on finding full-time employment. Within a month, however, I found myself accepting independent contracting projects, and formally established Bredemarket to handle that work. Therefore, I was simultaneously (a) looking for full-time work, and (b) growing my consulting business. And I’ve been doing both simultaneously for over a year and a half.
Now that I’ve found full-time employment again, I’m not going to give up the consulting business. But it’s definitely going to have to change, as outlined in my April 25, 2022 update.
So now all of this SEO traction will not benefit you, the potential Bredemarket finger/face client, but it obviously will benefit my new employer. I can see it now when people talk about my new employer: “Isn’t that the company where the biometric content marketing expert is the Senior Product Marketing Manager?”
P.S. There’s a “change” Spotify playlist. Unlike Kevin Meredith, I don’t use my playlists to make sure my presentation is within the alloted time. Especially when I create my longer 100-plus song playlists; no one wants to hear me speak for that long. Thankfully for you, this playlist is only a little over an hour long, and includes various songs on change, moving, endings, beginnings, and time.