When I rejoined the Proposals organization about a decade ago, the (then) Southern California Chapter of the (then) Association of Proposal Management Professionals arranged for satellite locations for its chapter meetings. Initially I would go to Redlands and attend the meetings at ESRI’s corporate headquarters. (Very nice facility, by the way.) Eventually I arranged to host satellite meetings at MorphoTrak’s Anaheim headquarters on Tustin Avenue, so my visits to ESRI in Redlands ceased. Now most meetings (other than Training Day) are online-only.
Add my interest in mapping to the mix, and you would think that I would be a prime target to attend ESRI’s annual User Conference in San Diego. However, as I mentioned, I wasn’t working with the company directly, and so I could never justify attending the ESRI User Conference in the same way that I could justify attending Oracle OpenWorld, the International Association for Identification, or IDEMIA/MorphoTrak/Motorola/Printrak’s own User Conference.
Then this pandemic thing happened, I became a free agent, bla bla bla. And so I found myself watching the Monday plenary session for the virtual 2021 ESRI User Conference.
For those who know ESRI, it’s no surprise that the speaker for much of the 3 1/2 hour plenary session was Jack Dangermond. This was the first time that I heard Dangermond speak at any length, and he provided a helpful overview of the company and its offerings, supported by a slew of ESRI product managers and outside partners.
For those who know ESRI, it’s no surprise that ESRI’s offerings have expanded since the late 1990s, with mobile and cloud options that could barely be envisioned in the last millennium.
Town criers were actually a remarkable technological innovation at the time, allowing notification over a (relatively) wide area of a newsworthy event.
‘Oyez’ (pronounced ‘oh yay’) comes from the French ouïr (‘to listen’) and means “Hear ye”. The town crier would begin his cry with these words, accompanied by the ringing of a large hand bell to attract attention. It was the job of the crier or bellman to inform the townspeople of the latest news, proclamations, bylaws and any other important information, as at this time most folk were illiterate and could not read….
Having read out his message, the town crier would then attach it to the door post of the local inn, so ‘posting a notice’, the reason why newspapers are often called ‘The Post’.
So in essence the town crier was a rather loud announcement of something that was followed up (for the literate) with written material. Town criers did other things also, but you can read about them here if you’re interested.
From town criers to callouts
However, it turns out that the medieval town crier is NOT the origin of the term “callout.”
Although I think it should be.
(Brief aside: Microsoft advises “callout” for noun use, “call out” for verb use. Sounds good to me. Comment if you think otherwise.)
In reality, call out first appeared as a verb in the 15th century and as a noun in the 19th. But even then, it was used to refer to summoning into action (for example, calling out troops). The definition for “call out” or “callout” as I tend to use the term appeared some time later. That definition, of course, is:
2: an often bordered inset in a printed article or illustration that usually includes a key excerpt or detail
Why call out?
Although I don’t use callouts in these blog posts (perhaps I should), I definitely use them in the case studies and white papers that Bredemarket authors in conjunction with clients. Big blocks of unending text are hard to read, so authors usually like to break up that text with textual callouts, alternative formatting (such as quotes and bullets), and images. Which reminds me:
The hope of the callout-using author is that even if the reader does not read every single word of the text that is presented, including the mispelled word in this sentence, the reader will at least look at the callout and get the message from the callout.
Is there a reason you are highlighting the content that you are putting in the callout?
If you want the reader to look at that text, the callout had better be meaningful, and had better convey a benefit to the reader.
A blue example
Rather than use an example from an actual client, let’s return to my favorite widget manufacturer, Wendy’s Widget Company. You know, the company that used a contractor to market its new square blue widgets.
Now when I previously discussed Wendy’s Widget Company in the context of ABC criteria, I never did get around to explaining exactly how the marketing consultant chose to market the square blue widgets. Of course, one person at the client’s company offered a helpful idea.
“Hey, I’ve seen the advertising for a phone manufacturer, and its advertising is really cool. I suggest that when you write that case study, you include a callout that says, “It’s blue!” And…get this…print the text of the callout in blue text! Isn’t that great?”
The marketing consultant turned to the person and offered these four words:
These days, more and more of us are marketing products that are intangible. But most of the essentials of marketing intangible products don’t differ much from marketing tangible ones.
Many, many years ago, the phrase “intangible product” seemed like a lot of nonsense. How could something be a product if you couldn’t touch it? Could you grab a product out of thin air?
Obviously that is no longer the case.
I’m not even going to, um, touch the NFT world, but clearly things that we used to think of as tangible products are now moving to the intangible realm. I’ll give you two examples from my experience:
When I started selling automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) in the 1990s, a law enforcement agency’s AFIS consisted of a set of computer servers in the agency’s computer room, coupled with a set of some fairly expensive workstations in the agency’s work areas. But even then, there were several states that had minimal computer servers at the state agencies, with most of the servers located in the state of California. The Western Identification Network model was duplicated in later years by other agencies who would host their biometric server “products” at faraway Amazon or Microsoft locations.
Similarly, when I started attending trade shows in the mid 1980s, I would go by booths and pick up company case studies and white papers and stuff them into a bag. (Booths and sponsors that provided such bags were VERY important.) Today, some vendors don’t even have printed case studies and white papers in their booths any more; the attendees simply request electronic copies.
Yet for the most part the marketing of these intangible products isn’t much different from the way that the old tangible versions were marketed. The differences are minor:
When Printrak sold AFIS servers, care was taken to place a Printrak logo prominently on the server, where it would compete with the Digital Equipment Corporation logo from the server manufacturer. The logo even appeared as a component on an extended Bill of Materials. Now, purchasers of cloud solutions from the biometric companies don’t need to worry about placing logos on physical servers.
In the old days of product marketing collateral, you could get into big discussions about the quality, weight, and finish of the paper that you used to print your collateral. Today, those discussions are for the most part irrelevant, since the recipients print the collateral on their own printers, if they print the collateral at all.
The important thing in each case is the content. Fewer and fewer law enforcement agencies care WHERE their biometric data is stored, as long as it meets certain security, accuracy, and response time requirements. Similarly, people who collect marketing collateral are much more concerned with WHAT the collateral says than the weight of the paper used to print it.
I have been accused of preferring substance over style, and I plead guilty. While style is clearly important, the substance of the product must excel or the style is wasted.
Sometimes this requires the product creator to take a step back from the nitty gritty of collateral creation, and decide what the collateral is supposed to do, and why the customer should care. Rather than saying “give me a case study that tells how the widget is exactly 70 mm high,” my clients are now asking to “give me a case study that tells our customers why our product will let them sleep securely at night.”
If you would like to explore these topics for your next piece of collateral, whether it be a case study, white paper, proposal, or some other marketing written work, Bredemarket can help you explore. Bredemarket uses a collaborative process with its clients to ensure that the final written product communicates the client’s desired message. Often the client provides specific feedback at certain stages of the process to ensure that the messaging is on track. I combine the client’s desires with my communications expertise to create a final written product that pleases both of us.
Contact me and we can discuss how to work together to realize your goals.
I’ve worked with Honeywell’s customer, Harris County, Texas, but not on its security systems per se.
The case study follows a standard problem-solution format. After explaining the size and complexity of Harris County (the county where Houston is located), the problem is presented:
The problem? A lack of consistency in security products and transparency in systems used throughout the various buildings, which resulted in decreased operating efficiencies and more work for employees.
You’ll also note the use of “detriment statements,” or the reverse of benefit statements. Lack of consistency itself is NOT a detriment. More work for employees IS a detriment.
So the county called in a Texas-based integrator, ESI Fire & Security Protection, to help it solve the problem.
A little over a month ago, I mentioned that Bredemarket was going to be getting some more case study work. And it has.
(I’m gonna run my “case” study visual joke all the way into the lost baggage room.)
So how is my client USING these case studies that I am helping the client to create?
To win more business from law enforcement customers.
When my client’s law enforcement customers are pleased with the client’s offering, they’re willing to participate in case studies addressed to OTHER law enforcement customers.
Case studies are effective because they speak to the needs of the readers. The reader has a problem, and the case study tells how a similar entity solved that same problem. In this case, a law enforcement agency learns of a solution that has already worked for another law enforcement agency. “If it worked for my friends in the next county, it will work for me also.”
The power of case studies doesn’t just work for law enforcement. It can work in any industry where the customers band together to help each other out. E-commerce developers. Security experts. Mobile car washing services.
If you’re a company that provides identity solutions (or technology solutions, or other solutions), and you have customers who will rave about your product to other customers, then you’re a candidate to create a case study. If you want help, contact me.
I just found out that Bredemarket will be getting more case study work, which I’m looking forward to because case studies can often be enjoyable.
While case studies can take a variety of forms, my primary experience with case studies is when a customer explains how a vendor’s solution helped to solve a customer problem. While customers may sometimes want to avoid direct endorsements of a vendor products, a customer can truthfully state how a vendor product helped the customer solve the problem.
If I can use an example that predates my consulting career, I was once involved in a case study in which a law enforcement agency talked about a particular product for law enforcement customers.
This type of customer is all too happy to talk about something that keeps the bad people off the streets, since the case study lets the citizens know that the law enforcement agency is taking steps to protect the citizens.
And of course the product vendor is all too happy to be associated with this, since it provides a vivid demonstration of how the product works.
A win-win for both customer and vendor, both of whom can look like heroes with the proper case study.
Whenever constructing a case study that features a law enforcement agency or anyone else, it’s important to remember that the vendor’s solution is not the COMPLETE solution to whatever problem is solved in the case study. Again returning to the law enforcement example, the most amazing product gizmo is completely worthless unless a trained person actually applies the gizmo, and knows when to apply the gizmo. And most criminal cases are not solved with a single gizmo, but with multiple gizmos…and a lot of hard work from the law enforcement agency that brings everything together to solve the crime.
Of course, case studies aren’t restricted to law enforcement customers and software products. You can construct a case study out of anything. They can be medical (“Case Study: A Patient with Asthma, Covid-19 Pneumonia and Cytokine Release Syndrome Treated with Corticosteroids and Tocilizumab”), service-related (Direct Travel’s case study of a consumer goods manufacturer), or even relate to adult toys (SEO Design Chicago’s case study for a client who had to overcome advertising challenges due to Google restrictions on sensitive content).
Anyway, I’m looking forward to more case study work…in the biometric, secure document, or technology areas. (I’m not going to cure COVID with novelty items.) In the work I’m about to do, I’ll get to learn about the vendor, and about the vendor’s customer, and how they worked together to solve a particular problem. My part in the process is to help the vendor communicate the story, while emphasizing the benefits that the vendor’s product can provide to customers.
(If you’re interested in understanding benefits, and the difference between benefits and features, take a look at this Hubspot article.)
While brings us to the shameless plug (you knew this was coming after my last post): if you need assistance in coming up with the words for a case study, contact me. I can help with the initial ideas, participate in customer interviews to get information, and draft the words of the case study itself. Bredemarket’s collaborative process ensures that the final written product communicates the client’s desired message. For case studies, this includes mutual agreement on the objective and the outline, and client reviews of the draft iterations of the case study until the final text is delivered.
And even if you don’t use me, business leaders should be thinking about how case studies can help their business, and which of their customers would be willing to participate in a case study…for mutual benefit.
It turns out that when you add services to your profile, you need to include images along with the listing.
Adding images to these service descriptions should be easy, I thought. After all, I don’t need to create the images myself, I just need to have a good (and royalty-free) concept. Piece of cake.
TL;DR: it wasn’t. So far I have only been partially successful. If you have any suggestions after reading my story, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.
The first attempt
For my Bredemarket 400 illustration, I didn’t have permission to cite any of the blog posts that I’ve written for my clients, so I posted an image from one of my own blog posts instead.
I already had a picture that I could use to illustrate the Bredemarket 2800 Medium Writing Service.
So I uploaded these pictures to the IS.
In this case, “IS” stands for “intermediary service.” It’s good to define your acronyms; otherwise, you might think that I was referring to the Input Station 2000. (OK, you probably wouldn’t think that.)
The IS replied to both of my picture uploads with a message that indicated that I didn’t RTFM. I’m not going to define that acronym for you. If you don’t know what RTFM is, Google or Bing or DuckDuckGo it yourself.
You see, I thought it was a GREAT idea to illustrate my writing services with…well, with writing. But if I had RTFM, I would have realized that was the WORST thing I could have done.
Your project requires revisions before it can be approved because the images included do not adhere to our project guidelines. Specifically:
Image contains excessive text. For certain types of work, it is necessary and relevant to include images with text. However, this should be kept to a minimum and the images should be clear.
So I was trying to think of an image with minimal text that I could use to illustrate my writing services.
And that’s when a song popped into my head.
I wish that I could say that the song in my head was a profound and meaningful song, like Freur’s “Doot Doot.” But sadly, the song in my head didn’t convey the universal truths that Freur’s masterpiece did.
In fact, I couldn’t even remember all of the lyrics of the song that was now stuck in my head. All I could remember was the chorus.
All the people gonna come to Portland All the people gonna come to Portland All the people gonna come to Portland All the people gonna come to Portland
And it’s probably just as well that I couldn’t remember the rest of the lyrics, because this was a song that I wrote myself many years ago, when I was in college in the city of…guess. (Hint: the town is not in the state of Maine.)
I could remember the title of the song, though: “Town Crier.”
The title caught my attention, because town criers catch attention, because they have to. The Wikipedia article on the town crier explains that a town crier “was used to make public announcements in the streets.”
Prior to widespread literacy, town criers were the means of communication with the people of the town since many people could not read or write. Proclamations, local bylaws, market days, adverts, were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier.
People are literate today for the most part, but there’s so much cacophony surrounding us that sometimes extraordinary means are required to deliver important messages. I’m not suggesting that it is a good marketing practice for people to SHOUT AND WEAR ELABORATE ATTIRE, but you need some mechanism to get people to read your message.
And that’s what Bredemarket strives to do.
So I began to think that the image of a town crier would be just the thing to submit to the IS. And as it turned out, that Wikipedia article included a public domain image of a town crier, taken from an old, old postcard.
So I submitted that image to the IS and waited for a response.
When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing
And I got a response a few hours later, stating that my Medium Writing Service image had been…rejected.
Image is not related to the service being offered
I guess my “town crier” representation of my writing service was a little TOO subtle for the IS reviewer’s taste.
So I wondered if there were a better image to illustrate my writing services, since written text was apparently forbidden, and esoteric conceptual illustrations were also forbidden.
Unfortunately, the only idea that came to me was an image of two appropriately diverse people, smiling while looking at a piece of paper.
You know, something from the canned stock images that I detest so much. Note to the reader: using canned stock images to illustrate your marketing materials does NOT make you stand out from the competition.
And by this point I was married to my “town crier” idea anyway, and began thinking that if I actually referenced the words “town crier” in my description of my service, then the picture might become amazingly appropriate after all and would pass IS review.
I became more attracted to the “town crier” concept when I received a message a few hours later from the IS regarding my Short Writing Service.
Congratulations! Your project has been approved.
So, let’s recap.
Two similar writing service descriptions were submitted to the IS for approval, both using the same “town crier” image.
One was approved.
The other was not.
Obviously the descriptions were sent to two different approvers at the IS. Or perhaps the same approver saw both descriptions, and finally figured out my subliminal meaning when he or she read the description for the second submission.
So I decided that I would add a reference to the “town crier” to the unapproved description. And while I was at it, I figured that I’d add the same reference to the description that was already approved, in case another reviewer looked at the description later and didn’t like the image.
But I wasn’t going to do anything that evening. I decided I’d sleep on it.
And as I was sleeping, a new idea popped into my head.
Since I had the opportunity to change my Medium Writing Service image anyway, perhaps I could select an image that was similarly themed to the “town crier” image. This would help distinguish the two services from each other a little bit., while emphasizing their commonality.
Ideally, the new image had to have an “old” feel to emphasize that commonality.
I wondered if a picture of (old) books from a library would do the trick. After all, if you post white papers and case studies on your business website, the documents serve as a “secret salesperson” to continue promoting your message, even when you’re not around.
So I found this image.
This worked for me. So I proceeded as follows:
I added this image to my Medium Writing Service description, and added a textual reference to a library in the descriptive text, and resubmitted it to the IS.
While I was at it, I added a textual reference to a town crier to the descriptive text for my Short Writing Service, and resubmitted that to the IS.
Because repurposing is good, I added those same images and text descriptions to the Short and Medium writing service descriptions on the Bredemarket website. I went ahead and added the images and text to the appropriate entries on the Bredemarket “Services” page on Facebook. (As I am writing this post, I realize that I probably ought to update some of the other services at some point. I’m putting that on the “to do” list.)
And now I waited to see if the new, improved (WITH EXTRA WORDS!) description of my Medium Writing Service would be approved by the IS.
You won’t believe what happened next!
And…the new submission was rejected.
Project category chosen doesn’t match the description or images
Because the IS doesn’t have a “white paper” category, I listed my Medium Writing Service under the “case study” category. However, my guess is that it doesn’t matter whether I use “case study” or “white paper” as my product category.
So, how do I illustrate a case study if I can’t show a literal case study?
Do I need to explicitly talk about case studies more frequently in my textual description?
At this point, I’m just going to sleep on it some more. Although if you have any suggestions, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.
And the exercise wasn’t a complete failure. Even though the Medium Writing Service remains unapproved, my Short Writing Service is now listed on the IS website, and I’ve made improvements to my Bredemarket web page and my Facebook page. Multiple wins for me; I get a cookie.