When a new home builder or remodeler approaches me to write about one of their projects, they often aren’t sure what exactly they want. Some call it a “feature article,” while others say “case study” or “project story.” They just know they want an article written about one of their successful projects to use in marketing.
It is part of my job to help my contractor-client figure out the type of writing we’ll ultimately end up with. But the truth is, it isn’t up to me or the contractor – it is up to the homeowner and level of participation he or she is willing to provide.
The difference between a project spotlight and customer story lies in the participation level of your homeowner.
In a project spotlight, I gather the information about the project from you only. The story is told from your perspective because we never interview your homeowner. In a customer story (often called a customer success story), the homeowner is interviewed, and we tell the story of the project from their perspective. It is perceived as less biased and therefore is trusted by those who read it. People figure that if your customer is satisfied enough to participate in a customer story (either written or video), you must be good!
A Project Spotlight over a Customer Story
If customer stories pack more punch (credibility and trust) than project spotlights, why wouldn’t you always write a customer story? There are a few sound reasons why you may elect a project spotlight over a customer story:
- Security. In order for customer stories to be truly effective, customers need to provide their name and location, and professional photos are taken of the home. If you customer lives alone, they may not want to provide that information for security reasons.
- Modesty. Whether it is a new home build or remodeling project, the projects you want to highlight are often absolute show-stoppers – and usually cost your customer a lot of money. Although the dollar amount spent never has to be revealed, people can decipher the cost from the wow factor – from the square footage and sheer beauty (and detail) of the project – and this can make your customer uncomfortable (there are ways to address the “modesty factor,” which will be seen in a future blog post).
- Timing and Inconvenience. Perhaps you want to shine a spotlight on a particular project sooner rather than later (because you want more of those types of jobs), but your customer is unavailable for a few months because the homeowner is out of the country or tied up with a huge work deadline. In these situations, you can write both. Write a project spotlight now to meet your immediate needs and a customer story down the road when your customer is available for the interview.
- Not-So-Smooth Project. We’ve all have them – those spectacular projects that simply didn’t go as smoothly as we’d hoped. This doesn’t mean that the customer isn’t pleased (although, this, too, could be the case), but because there were a lot of “hiccups” in the project, you simply don’t want to “bother” the customer by asking them to participate in a customer story.
Of the two, by far a customer story is much more powerful than a project spotlight because your customer is recounting their experience with you. However, if you can’t gain the participation of your customers (for whatever the reason), don’t let that stop you from showcasing your beautiful work.
Tess Wittler, Customer Story Writer