Letting your customers do the talking, endorsing you by describing their application of your product or service, is the best way to help prospects in your market to “visualize” themselves as a user of your technology, then start asking questions or participating in discussions on-line.  The more complex the technology, and the more varied the applications, the more important this becomes.

Enterprise Linux innovator Red Hat (Raleigh, NC) is a prime example. When your business is built around Open Source, the openness mode tends to pervade everything you do.  Thus, according to Leigh Day, Red Hat’s senior director, Global Corporate Communications, cultivating Customer References (a.k.a. mini case studies) is a major thrust of Red Hat’s marketing effort.  The company solicits this participation via their newsletters, home page promos and by other means.

I talked with her about the benefits of this program to all involved…the user (customer), Red Hat, and the industry at large including proponents of Open Source platforms.

The Customer Reference is a highly well-oiled machine, with dozens of case studies on-line.  A PDF brochure available on their site outlines the benefits of doing a case study. First of all, it’s all part of a mission that is broader than just a showcase for Red Hat and the user; the philosophy and practice of Open Source is continually reinforced via successful implementations.

Red Hat marketing focuses heavily on Customer References

Red Hat lines up the writers (using both internal and external sources) to craft the story based on information from the customer, and Red Hat’s PR department will help set up media interviews and other channels to promote it.  Some stories get a video treatment.  Collaboration is the fundamental element.

I’ve noticed that the quick-read “fill in the blanks” format, including the headings “Challenge,”  “Solution,” and “Benefits” is becoming the preferred template for most BtoB case studies, and it works well for Red Hat. Their case study summaries are available under“Customer Success” (within the “Company” main nav tab), each with a link to the full story with more details.

The latest tools are brought into play.  “We also tweet news headlines and notices about our user events, such as JBoss World and the Red Hat Summit” Leigh added.   “And our news blog is a source for new trends and Open Source developments.”  Cloud computing is a hot topic.

Red Hat has been riding high.  The have been named the #1 software vendor for value and reliability in the CIO Insight Vendor Value Study for the fifth time.

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