Turning Users Into Heroes

featured-future-howIt’s safe to say that just about everyone researching a product or company likes a good case study. The story. The context. The technology. Oh yeah: the marketing spin. Have you noticed that the majority of “case studies”  covered in today’s trade publications are more hype and pull quotes than meaningful examples of need/challenge/solution? Surely there’s a better way than advertising-sponsored fluff that’s plastered in print and on the web.

I’m sure the print world is still trying to come to grips with the death of print, but in the meantime I believe that manufacturers and vendors alike should be masters of their own domain names and creating high-quality, helpful case studies on their own.

The Voice of the Publisher

Since social media has given everyone a voice and, in effect, made everyone a publisher, the same truth can be applied to creating your own content that doesn’t feel like the spin-cycle on the washer. If a product works particularly well in churches, then show and tell these stories yourself. Capture the heart of the matter, not your product of the moment. Help the reader or viewer understand the pain point of that other church that they, too, have felt (or are still feeling). Connect us with the emotion of the pain, the real-life scenario that didn’t just make a tech director’s job easier, but that created value for the entire congregation.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t advertise in trade publications that fit your market, but I am saying that you should be the content creator, the content curator and the content provider. It should start and stop with your organization, because you’re the one in touch with the clients. You’re getting the support calls and emails. You’re asking for feedback from every purchase and installation. You should be owning the content because you’re the one that benefits the most from sharing the stories!

Video is the New Ink

This will be slightly geeky, but I trust you’re tech-savvy enough to see the value in what I’m about to share.

There are any number of video technologies available today for creating beautiful images, but I’m going to go so far as to say that if your marketing team doesn’t have a staff member or a freelancer on contract that’s shooting with a high quality DSLR camera, you’re simply not maximizing your marketing. Technology has advanced so far in the world of video that these photo-style cameras are capable of producing video that looks more like film than a broadcast-quality television camera of 10 years ago.

Here’s the geeky part: The average $3,000 DSLR such as the Canon 5D Mark III or the Nikon D800 not only takes great still photos, the HD video capture ability is stunning. That’s remarkable, considering a scant decade ago the same quality image would have cost at least 25 times as much. These cameras are used by cinematographers who win awards with these little marvels of image engineering. And with vendors like LensRentals.com, the overall get-up-and-running cost is pretty low.

To initiate those unfamiliar with the kind of quality I am talking about, just search YouTube for DLSR video examples. It’s stunning stuff, especially when shot by a video professional.

But I digress. The point is, if you’re not capturing compelling stories with these bare-minimum tools, you’re missing the point of reaching a culture that loves a good story and real-life application success.

Get Users In on the Act

As a manufacturer or vendor working with churches that are leveraging high quality video productions themselves, you can offer contests and giveaways that offer financial incentives and personal promotion. These guys often can produce the kind of quality videos that would take you sending a small crew to capture on-site; and it can be free for you because the contest/giveaway provides the incentive for them to produce quality work.

Have them tell a story of how your technology solved a pain point and provided a greater experience for them. Ask them to highlight unique applications of your technology. See what kind of creative solutions these churches are coming up with that utilizes your products. You will have great user stories, told by the users without the typical marketing spin that gives instant credibility to the value of your product in a church environment. Given enough stories from a variety of church sizes and styles, and you’ll begin to create a library of content that can be used in your marketing efforts.

Leverage Social Buzz

When your product becomes the key to a pain point or desired solution, the value proposition for your solutions increases. This is a far more attractive marketing and sales effort than simply spouting off the typical features and benefits, which inevitably leads to a war of marketing words pitting your product against a competitor’s product. Can I tell you something? Consumers don’t care. It’s like when two gas stations on a street intersection get into a price war. The lowest price wins short term, but there’s zero brand loyalty that comes with it. Similarly, the tired “our product is better because…” or the “their product can’t do this…” ends up convincing a slim minority.

With the voice of the publisher firmly in the content producer’s hands, your task is two-fold: Craft stories that show the persona as the victor, and incentivize the leads and user base to do the promotion for you. From hashtags to link sharing, the opportunities to create, track, promote and virally infuse your target audience is only as limited as your storytelling and social media efforts. This not only means the need to create content, curate content and share content is a premium investment for your business, it also is a time to rethink your house of worship market strategy to create value in your social media interactions and promotions with your target audience. This doesn’t replace your advertising in the trade publications, it enhances it. And, frankly, it should be a holistic effort that drives leads to landing pages like never before, allowing you to build targeted marketing lists and solicit feedback from existing clients.

When you make the user the hero, your product wins. In turn, your brand wins. And when your brand wins, you win.

So, truth time: what’s inspiring you in this article? What seems out of reach? We’re speaking to you to serve you and this market. Give us your thoughts.