Sales and marketing are fast-moving functions of any business. The faster the case study is completed, the appointment made, or the press release out, the quicker you just might make a sale.
Enter the customer. Your customer has objectives and deliverables all its own.
Your case study, while it might be important to the customer, is likely not the top item on the customer’s list.
At times, that makes for long waits…
…in obtaining permission to feature the customer
…in getting the interview on the schedule
…in securing the customer’s approval
How do you cope?
Enter the 2 must-haves of the customer-story waiting game:
This week, a customer canceled his phone interview for a case study for the third time. Each time it was scheduled and he canceled shortly before or just didn’t show up.
Now, it’s scheduled for the fourth time. Crossing my fingers…
It’s hard to be patient, but essential. Never let the customer see your frustration, or they could decide to bail on the whole project.
In this case, my client is driving the rescheduling because they also need the story for PR purposes.
However, in most cases, after two cancellations, I might ask if the customer truly has time for this project right now. If not, how about in a week or two, or when?
By asking about their availability, you open the door for them to tell you that now is just too busy and get realistic – so they don’t keep missing appointments.
Whether you’re trying to get an interview or secure approval, being persistent – in a nice way – is the only way.
That means contacting customers regularly and leaving friendly messages regarding your request.
Take those opportunities to remind the customer what’s in it for them to participate in the story – the value to them of the joint promotional opportunity.
Sometimes you might even ask, "how can I help make this easier for you?"
Beyond patience and persistence, it’s always important to set expectations with customers as the project kicks off. But even that doesn’t guarantee a smooth ride.
What strategies do you have for dealing with the inevitable delays in case studies projects?
Or, if you’ve ever been on the customer side of a case study project, any tips to offer to vendors and writers trying to capture your story?
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We have all experienced the power of a story - learning a lesson as a child, being moved by the plight of a disaster victim, or listening to a grandparent reminisce.
Great stories have similar traits. But what makes a customer case study or success story - designed to influence a buyer - compelling to the audience?
An effective customer story has three dynamics at work:
We hear lots of sweeping promises in sales and marketing. By showcasing a happy customer, you go beyond promises or mere name-dropping. A story provides evidence that you deliver what you promise to a specific customer.
A true story reassures buyers that you are a real company providing valuable, reliable solutions to customers.
Sure, you understand exactly how your solutions work. But prospects need help seeing how a product or service will work in their environments. They must be able to visualize the "solution in action" in their own setting.
A customer story becomes your "for example," an anecdote that shows instead of just tells.
Buyers need to know, is it worth the time and money to invest in this product or service? Even if the status quo is problematic for a customer, you have to show that making the switch will pay off in the end - and hopefully sooner rather than later.
Every customer story you create should hit on all three dynamics. Stay tuned for more discussion here on each of these areas!
They're the Holy Grail of any case study or success story project.
Prospects want to know specifically how your product or service made an impact at another organization. Show that you can deliver a better return on investment than the competition and you've made a strong case to a potential customer.
Yet, measurable results do not mean the same thing to all prospects. A writer and case study manager I know recently made this very valid point. At his organization, a global technology company, they use percentages to represent return on investment information.
Here's why: Dollar figures do not hold the same meaning for all prospects. An annual savings of $30,000 is very significant for a small business, but may be peanuts for a mid-size or larger company.
If your audience is uniformly one type or size of organization, maybe specific cost savings will resonate with all equally. But most companies target multiple types of prospects.
Always present measurable results in the way that will make the biggest impression on the reader - whether that's an amount of money, amount of time, percentage increase/decrease, or factor of ("4 times, 1/2 as...").
Just another reminder about writing and presenting information relevant to your audience.
Share your own tips on presenting measurable results in meaningful ways.
Rarely do I include dates in a customer story. Numbers such as dates or specific product release versions can make a story look outdated more quickly.
However, if you want to show longevity or durability, go ahead and include dates. In that case, the older the date, the better.
I just included an install date of 2004 in a success story on a green technology product. The fact that the system still runs, with very minimal maintenance, demonstrates its longevity and ease for the customer - one of the messages the vendor wants to convey.