Sure, it’s impressive and I’m not saying it’s easy. But even the greatest magic on Earth… It’s lost on me.
I think it’s because even if I don’t know the actual machinations of the trick, I know it’s not actually magic.
But writing a killer introduction to a customer success story… Now that’s magic.
It’s magic because your reader has no idea what’s going on. They’re just gliding along, enjoying the ride, like they’re not even reading—they’re just getting a story beamed into their brain.
Even after, they still don’t know what happened, but they are kinda staggered by the fact that they actually finished reading something. So how do you do it when you’re writing a customer success story?
The Contrast Lead (With Examples)
By no means is the contrast lead the only way to introduce a customer story. But I challenge you to find one that’s as effective while still being relatively easy to learn. Ruby Paulson over at BlogVault defines the contrast lead this way:
“This lead uses two different thoughts or two sentences that are exactly opposite to each other in the opening paragraph to make a strong statement.”
Here’s an example I lifted from an online Journalism course from the University of Pennsylvania:
Ten years ago, Mark Z. was a college sophomore sleeping through his college days while staying up all night coding his little-known website, “Facemash.” Today, Zuckerberg is worth $46 billion dollars, that website, now called Facebook, is one of the most popular social media sites in the world.
Can you see how this type of lead will work really well with a customer story? If not, try this example, from a customer story I wrote (names changed):
Even at the age of 12, Robert Key spent most of his days hunkered over intricate drawings. 40 years later, he’s still hunkered over those drawings.
Only now, he’s in the corner office on the top floor of a Midtown high-rise. And those drawings are a tangle of steel and concrete, etched against the skyline of every Manhattan sunset.
As the principal of R. Key Architects, Robert Key…[Insert Story]
Notice the contrast from Rob as a 12-year-old dreaming about his career as an architect, then him becoming a giant of the industry?
The key (pun intended) for this intro to be as compelling as possible is to make the contrast between young Rob and old Rob as stark as possible. The starker the contrast, the more curious the reader is to fill in the gaps.
And they can only fill in the gaps one way… by continuing to read.
One more example before I tie this back to the customer success story:
Less than 3 years ago, two college friends decided to build a website to exchange their favorite videos.
Today, YouTube is owned by Google and gets over 25 million unique visitors to the site each month.
A Quick and Dirty Formula for a Customer Story Introduction
As you may have noticed, the contrast lead is actually pretty formulaic. That’s great for you because it’s easy to use over and over.
The hard (and most important part) is finding the thread of the story that transforms from beginning to end and is the main message/story you want to get across.
Otherwise, you may hook your reader, but you’ll hook them on the false pretense that the entire story is going to be about filling in the gap you created. And if you’re not going to fill in the gap, you’re going to have a dissatisfied reader.
It’s like telling a long joke with no punchline.
For example, if you start with the introduction that I just referenced about YouTube, then you proceed to tell me the story of how Google acquired YouTube, I’m going to be annoyed.
I dove into your story with the rational expectation that you were going to tell me how—in the space of 3 years—YouTube went from two college friends’ pet project to an internet powerhouse. And that’s what you must deliver.
Otherwise, your intro just made me angry.