Customer success stories are great lead generation and sales tools, but they shouldn’t be confused with application notes. Application notes aren’t success stories. For sake of argument with some, I’ll yield to them being a cousin.
Technology companies, in particular, are fond of application notes — and for good reason. A typical application note briefly describes how a product or service is configured to support a particular use. For example: An IT hardware or software manufacturer or service provider may have an application note showing how their gear supports branch banking. On one or two pages the application note would highlight features and functionality of their solution in a branch banking scenario, including a diagram or two to show how things connect and operate.
Application notes are effective marketing and sales tools
Application notes are very effective at showing how your solution can be used. Occasionally, an application note will include a real customer’s particular configuration and may include a customer statement in support of the solution. But again, application notes aren’t customer success stories.
The obvious difference between application notes and success stories is the focus of the document. Application notes are about the vendor: their products, services, features, and functionality. Customer success stories are about the customer: their original challenge or opportunity and how their condition improved as a result of their relationship with you and your company.
Success stories are just that, stories. Application notes are the vendor’s view of the solution.
Good news is this isn’t an either/or topic
There are good use and space available for both case studies and application notes to work side-by-side — they just shouldn’t be confused. In fact, both documents work well together and can make each stronger. I like the idea of combing the two into one compelling story, with the ability to re-purpose the content as two standalone tools.
For every solution you provide, look for opportunities to create application notes to help prospective customers understand how your complex products and services work in real-world environments. And tell the story of how a real customer took that application and created something great from it.
What is your experience with application notes and customer success stories? Do you prefer one versus the other? Has one been more successful in your market than the other? Why?