Hundreds of thousands of local government officials nationwide – on the front lines during this brutal pandemic – are heroes.
Celebrating their success in your marketing is an eminently satisfying thing to do – AND a great way to grow your business. Win/ win, as the cliché goes.
Since reinventing the wheel is so 1990s, we decided to develop a set of “best practice” guidelines to help you get your client stories out to the world, and to your clients’ peers in other governments (the most important influencers for critical purchase decisions).
To do that, we surveyed the websites of 100 of the leading companies marketing to local governments to find the firms with the most compelling documentation and presentation of customer successes.
Their 4 most imitation-worthy practices – and links to compelling examples – follows.
Practice #1: Systematically Document Your Financial Impact on Local Governments
Every marketer on the planet knows that local government finances are severely strained. There is no better way to overcome this challenge than providing proof that investing in your solution will improve your customers’ financial condition and generate a strongly positive ROI.
So let’s look at how local government marketers are “proving” revenue gains or cost savings.
Unfortunately, only a few suppliers present any evidence documenting revenue gains resulting from their solutions. The “best practice” supplier here is Avenu Insights & Analytics, which keeps a running tab of additional revenue captured by their clients, now totaling $2.4 billion. They also present a half dozen very detailed case studies documenting the client situation, process, implementation process, financial and qualitative benefits.
Duncan Solutions also does an excellent job of measuring their overall revenue impact, claiming $425 million in total revenue gains for clients and collection rates nearly double the industry average. (That said, we would suggest that they add individual case studies to bring to life their revenue capture claims.)
Suppliers are a bit more consistent in documenting labor and cost savings. Tyler Technologies, for example, has one of the most extensive case study libraries, and frequently makes very specific cost savings estimates (e.g. a $7.4 million cost savings for the county of Fulton, GA here).
Accela’s dozens of case studies often quantify cost reductions, such as a 50% savings for Philadelphia’s 311 emergency communication service.
Practice #2: Document and Bring to Life the Quality and Service Benefits of Your Solutions
While finances are always a vital concern, local governments are eagerly seeking solutions that will improve the quality of the services they bring to their citizens.
The best marketers are systematic and creative in bringing these benefits to light.
Our favorite example is ShotSpotter’s “Positive Outcomes” scoreboard. They rigorously and persuasively document their impact in a variety of formats to engage the reader:
- Compelling statistics (both internally generated and from third parties, enhancing their credibility)
- Detailed charts and graphics
- Links to published and social media stories
- Customer quotes
- Video testimonials.
Comcate produces fascinating case studies, incorporating a creative variety of real world images, product screenshots, statistics, charts and customer testimonials that tell the story of customer successes. For example, in how their solution improved code enforcement capacity 52% for Florence, KY.
Practice #3: Make Your Customer the Hero – NOT Your Company
It’s human nature to want your company to be the hero in the case studies you write. Perhaps… “Town ABC was bleeding money, with its citizens in near revolt when we came in and saved the day”.
That’s an extreme characterization of this approach, but MOST marketers make a lesser version of this mistake. They write case studies that, while perhaps discussing the client at length, place their solution at the center of the story.
(For a fascinating take and “how to guide” on crafting a customer story as a mythical “hero’s journey”, see this brilliant Medium post.)
The gist of the Medium article . . . Marketers want to be Luke Skywalker; they should be Yoda instead. In success stories, your customer should be the hero. Position your company as the mentor or sage, the loyal sidekick who equips the hero with the tools, wisdom and means to achieve their goals.
The benefits of this approach are many:
- Customers will LOVE to participate in your case studies (everyone wants to be a hero)
- They will be more likely share the stories with their peers (growing brand awareness and reputation)
- They will be more likely to link to your stories, boosting your SEO
- Your customers are the heroes (they keep your lights on)
Practice #4: Go for Quality, NOT Quantity
There are quite a few suppliers in this space that have produced dozens (in some cases hundreds) of case studies.
But the quantity of case studies is NOT the key. After all, who has the time – or inclination – to read more than a handful?
Quality is critical. Almost all of the local government case studies we reviewed fall short in one or more of the following ways:
- Failure to adequately quantity the impact on cost, revenue and/or quality
- Not engaging visually, for many reasons:
- Not professionally designed
- Little effort to make visually engaging for the reader
- Excessive use of text, sometimes not written for the Web
- Not enough or poor-quality images
- Boring or confusing charts
- Failure to provide a PDF version for printing and sharing offline
- Failure to use video:
- 59% of BSB decision makers prefer video over text content, but 95%+ of the case studies we surveyed are text based.
- Forrest Research reports that it is 53 times easier to rank a video in Google’s search results than with types of other content.
- Failure to close with (or link to) a call to action.
Based on our review, no one does a more professional job of presenting engaging case studies online than, Granicus. Check out this concise, persuasive and beautifully designed presentation of their work for Maricopa County, AZ.
Another best practice customer storyteller is OpenGov. They have 80 success stories online, but every one of them is of the highest quality, with detailed documentation of results, presented in a variety of visually interesting formats, and including dozens of video case studies. To prevent overwhelm, the reader can filter the stories by region, role, agency and solution.
Customer success stories are an essential marketing tool. As Yoda says, “Produce them, you must!”.
Best practices to keep in mind:
- Systematically document your financial impact on customers. Nothing will help you sell to cash strapped local governments than a compelling ROI.
- Bring to life the quality and service benefits of your solutions, both for local government officials and the constituents they serve.
- In your stories, employ the “hero’s journey” metaphor – a staple of Hollywood scripts for a reason – and make your customer the hero.
- Choose quality over quantity. Remember presentation matters, and include some video stories.
And of course, don’t forget to share your stories far and wide with local government officials in need of your solutions.
As it turns out, many of the world’s best local government marketers use our ultra-accurate, comprehensive list to reach more than 257,000 officials representing 98% of the local governments in the US (with a population over 1,000 people).
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