«return to Tip of the Month ListingCustomer Stories – When Video, When Written?

Video is hot these days. It seems everyone is trying to leverage video for promotion right now.

What’s one of the most compelling subjects? Your happy customers.

Satisfied customers are suddenly the stars of countless videos all over corporate web sites and YouTube.com. That has a lot of businesses asking, should we be doing video, written or both?

I turned to Zebra Technologies for its take on the question. Zebra makes specialty digital printing and automatic identification solutions to help companies identify, locate and track assets. They can be found anywhere from RFID season passes at the world’s top ski resorts to entry access at the country’s largest companies.

Zebra actively creates both video and written customer stories.

“At the beginning of the year, we set our case study goals and then actively pursue the applications and vertical markets we want case studies in,” said Tim Dreyer, PR manager.

Typically, Zebra uses video case studies on its web site, at trade shows, in online advertising and at times in sales presentations. They leverage written stories also on the web site, emailed to prospects, and to pitch to the media.

Zebra also uses what it considers a hybrid format, the webinar. The customer tells its story live on a webinar for prospects, which serves as a lead-generation activity.

Dreyer finds that each medium has specific advantages, depending on the story’s intended use.

When deciding whether to create video, written, or both, consider the following:

Your audience

People prefer to experience information in different ways. For many, visuals make the greatest impression.

“Seeing a customer’s face and their expressions while extolling the virtues of a product is very powerful compared to reading,” Dreyer said.

That makes video a strong asset on a company’s web site, especially posting them right on the home page, as Zebra does.

Yet, video case studies don’t go over as well with the media, according to Dreyer.

“There aren’t many editorial opportunities for video because it is seen as commercial. It has more of a sales and marketing look,” he said. “We usually place a written case study at least two to three times in print media. We can’t do that with a video case study.”

According to Dreyer, print media run the case study as-is, or use it as a story idea for writing their own story featuring that customer.

The customer’s time

Customers are more likely to view a short video. But you can’t get into much of a story in a short video. With longer videos, you risk audiences losing patience.

Video only follows a linear path, not allowing viewers to jump around. Dreyer says that written stories allow readers to skim the information quickly by looking at headlines or summary information, and know whether they should read further.

Your budget

Video costs depend on the quality and length. You can keep your costs down by using talent local to your customer’s office, rather than having a crew that travels. One software company recently captured a success story on a customer remotely via Skype. While the quality was lower, it did reduce costs significantly.

At Zebra, an approximately 4-minute video costs about 10 times the amount of a written, two-page case study. Also, as the customer’s use of a product or service evolves, it’s faster and cheaper to update a written story.

Customer cooperation

Dreyer finds that customers often want the raw video footage to repurpose for their own uses. If Zebra can offer footage for its customers to use for their own communications efforts, then customers may be more likely to agree to be featured.

“When customers are on the fence about whether to do the video case study, we suggest they can use the video to showcase their own accomplishments,” Dreyer said.

In my own experience, I find customers might first agree to a video or audio case study, and then later agree for the information to be turned into a written story.

Search optimization

If you’re trying to drive search engine traffic to your site, text seems to register more than video. At least that’s the current dialogue on the topic.

According to some, video garners more traffic when surrounded by text with relevant keywords. Text helps get traffic to your site, but having video may help keep them there and engage them emotionally when they arrive.

The conclusion?

A combination of video and written stories may be the optimal solution. Depending on your budget, perhaps capture a few high-profile customers that might not otherwise go on record on video. Afterward, ask for permission to put that story in writing.

Then create written stories to ensure that you cover all your solutions and target markets. No matter what format you choose, it’s important to have an array of stories to choose from to match any prospect the business might approach.