Have you ever thought that sharing your mistakes might grow your customer base and increase loyalty?
We often only see the scrubbed and filtered experiences of our favorite companies. They trumpet the success of their finest customers and leave you believing that business is easy if you only knew how to create the endless win-win relationships they have seemingly mastered. This might be why the misuse of case study data for promotional proof has garnered some backlash recently.
The traditional case study typically shows Company X helping Customer Y solve a problem and highlights the resulting benefit to Customer Y. While I am a fan of customer success stories (and not just because I write them), they can often seem far too promotional and not very educational.
Highlighting an educational success story is great. Pretending that your product is the perfect solution for everyone is just dumb.
It’s Not Always Perfect
In a recent article in INC magazine, 37signals founder Jason Fried shared the company’s experience with the launch of the new Basecamp product. While it sounds like thousands of success stories are being created, the refreshing part of the story is the admission that 37signals would have done something different.
In fact, for those of you that live in a world that isn’t afraid of admitting imperfections or fearful of handing “ammunition” to competitors, you could even say they admitted a mistake. The mistake was encouraging classic Basecamp users to migrate to new Basecamp.
Although this sounds like a logical step after investing a year improving an already popular product, it resulted in an unexpected consequence. In hindsight, Fried admitted that Basecamp users in the middle of projects were slightly disoriented.
He compared the experience for current users to “walking into your living room, only to find that someone had changed the wallpaper and rearranged the furniture.” You might like the changes but it takes time to get acclimated to the initial disoriented feeling.
Refreshing Honesty Builds Fans
You might not currently be a user of any products created by 37signals but after reading the article written by Fried (and I hope you have for proper context), let me ask you this question…
Are you more or less likely to use their products after reading the article?
For me, it’s a no-brainer. In fact, I would look for reasons to use their products (I do not currently use them).
Because they easily could have hidden a minor problem in an otherwise successful launch to convey the perception of perfection. Instead, they chose to share their learning experience to help others and opened a window into a wonderful philosophy.
Relentlessly pursue excellence even at the expense of the perception of perfection.
Obviously, it is much easier for a company with millions of users to admit to a correctable mistake than it is for a new company to admit it botched the launch of a cornerstone product with zero traction in the marketplace. However, the opportunity from a content marketing standpoint is to abandon old-school marketing tactics and decide if transparency might create an open dialogue with your customers about their true needs.
By opening up about some of your company “secrets”, you build trust, loyalty and the opportunity for honest feedback.
Isn’t that what you ultimately want anyway…to find out the true needs of your customers and fill that need with your solution?
You can start by showing how you learned to create your current product or solution through the trial and error process. If you need any help, let me know!