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Marketing Your Business by Telling the Story

The Application Story

If you’ve ever found yourself considering a new purchase for something you have never used and wished you could read an article about how someone else successfully used it, you have wished for an application story, and you are not the only person to do so. Most people ask around for first-hand advice when considering a significant purchase. That’s why an application story for what you sell is such a handy marketing tool.

The purpose of an application story is to tell potential customers how a company or individual has used a product or service to solve a problem. Application stories go far beyond testimonial statements by defining a challenge, stating the solution and, most importantly, quantifying the potential return on investment (ROI).

A truly useful application story will have one additional element; it will explain the implementation or installation process required. In other words, when creating an application story for publicity, always include a section detailing what resources it took to put the solution in place – including time, money, personnel and materials considerations.

Five Crucial Questions to Answer When Developing an Effective Application Story:

1. What problem is the user solving with the implementation?
2. What was previously used, and why was there a need to change?
3. How was the technology or service implemented (Where was it purchased; how was it found; what did it take to install/implement it; what training was required; how long did it take to become productive)?
4. How is the subject using the technology or service to solve the problem? Include features and benefits as used in the application.
5. What is the subject’s quantifiable ROI or success as a result of using the product or service (time and/or materials saved, out-of-pocket costs cut, etc.)?

Believe it or not, the most common mistake made in writing an application story is to leave out application examples. Statements of features and benefits must always be associated with the subject and the application. Helpful Hint: Ask “How” and “Why” throughout the entire exercise.

Do’s and Don’t in Publishing an Application Story:

– Do pitch into several, non-competing publishing categories, ex: local/regional news, vertical trade media, business or technology media.
– Do provide or make the offer of providing graphics to accompany the story, including component photography, screen shots, photos of the product in use, etc.
– Do consult the selected publication’s editorial calendar in pitching.
– Do follow up your pitch with emails or phone calls to verify interest.
– Do offer it as an “exclusive” to just one publication in each non-competitive category (or make it clear you cannot promise exclusives).
– Do use reprints of the story as sales hand outs.
– Don’t post it to your company’s web site until after it is published elsewhere.

Write your application story in prose starting with an introduction followed by several paragraphs outlining the application. Wrap up the story and the ROI in the closing paragraph.

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Want help promoting your business? Donna St. Jean Conti, APR, is the owner of St. Conti Communications, a marketing communications consultancy in Mission Viejo, Calif. St. Jean Conti has published hundreds of application stories in a variety of outlets. She can be reached at 949-290-0622 or dconti(at)stconticommunications.com.

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