Several times a week, an appeal for funds from a charity (or alma mater) arrives in my mailbox or inbox. The same organizations contact me over and over.
It’s annoying, but if they don’t ask for contributions, they usually don’t get them.
That’s just how it works. We have too much going through our heads. If you’re in an asking position, you have to be in the audience’s line of sight often if you hope to get a response.
The same goes for the quest for case study or success story candidates and reference customers. Marketing and reference managers are constantly looking for stellar customers to include in reference activities.
You have to remind teams inside your company and out – employees, partners and customers – what you need.
1. To start, make sure your wish list is current and specific.
Evaluate your inventory of references and case studies to ID what you need most. Maybe that’s financial services companies using your new Product M, or education industry customers that have recently migrated to your SaaS offering.
The point is, always know what you need.
2. Then, take your requests to all your communication channels that touch employees, partners and customers:
- Sales meetings
- One-on-one meetings
- Employee newsletters or intranet
- Partner/reseller newsletters and online communities
- Customer newsletters
- Social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
- Partner events
3. Next, make it easy to submit a candidate or themselves. Ideally, direct everyone to a short online form to collect a few key details.
Then a marketing or reference manager can follow up to pre-qual the candidate.
Just remember, be specific and make it easy – and you should up your response rates.
What has worked for you in getting case study candidates?
For those who doubt the draw of a customer case study online, here's your proof.
One Microsoft case study, posted online just four months ago, has racked up 86,552 total views.
Listed among its most viewed case studies, the Outback Steakhouse case study describes how the restaurant chain used a Microsoft solution for a Facebook campaign.
Other cases in the "Most Viewed" tab have more than 50,000 views. (On each online case study, Microsoft actually lists the number of total views.)
That many eyeballs should be a clear case to companies that case studies and success stories shouldn't just be online somewhere; but they should be prominently displayed and easy to find.
Here are a few tips for organizing your case studies online for maximum exposure:
Tease them on the home page
How-to stories about other companies' success with your solution is a top draw for prospects.
Feature a case study somewhere on your home page or devote a space to scrolling teasers for several case studies.
Include them with product information
Anywhere that you talk about specific solutions, feature a case study right there that shows that product or service in action.
Make them easy to find!
Allow site visitors to search or browse case studies by industry, product or other categories that might matter to them, such as business need.
Include a Retweet button
Make it easy to share your content on social networking sites like Twitter. Include a Retweet button or other social media sharing icons.
The most important rule: Don't let valuable customer stories go to waste! Leverage that content anytime and anywhere that you talk about the value of your products and services.
Share your own examples of companies that organize their stories well online.
Sales isn't what it used to be. Prospects are more overwhelmed than ever before.
They're pulled in a dozen different directions at any time, challenging them to actually get anything done.
They don't have time to listen to a sales pitch, even if they know they need to make a change.
That's the basis for Jill Konrath's new book, SNAP Selling.
Since reading Jill's first book, Selling to Big Companies, I've been a fan. I even interviewed her for my book, Stories That Sell.
Unlike many sales gurus, she focuses on buyers' mindsets and how to work within them.
In SNAP Selling, Jill introduces four factors that need to be at the forefront of sales reps' mind when working with crazy-busy people - those with "Frazzled Customer Syndrome."
Today's prospects evaulate you on these four criteria, which Konrath calls SNAP Factors:
Simple: Your ability to eliminate complexity and effort from your prospect's decision-making process will improve your chances for sales success.
iNvaluable: In a world of copycat products and services, the value you personally bring to the relationship becomes essential.
Aligned: You must stay relevant to your client at all times; they don't have time for anything else.
Priority: With an ever-changing business environment, you can't afford to have your prospect deem your services non-urgent.
For more on how to leverage these factors in various stages of the sales cycle, check out SNAP Selling.
(P.S - I'm not an affilate for Jill; just a big fan.)
About three years ago, a conversation between an American and an Australian - who have never met face to face - planted a seed.
The ideas of marketers Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton led to a project with 100 bloggers from nine countries, and has now evolved to a third collaborative effort, a printed book with 171 authors all talking about putting online marketing and social media best practices into practice.
Age of Conversation 3: It's Time to Get Busy, now available on Amazon.com for $19.95, features 171 marketers sharing their insight on social media as a must-have in the modern marketing toolbox - a "who's who of the world's leading marketing bloggers."
I was fortunate to have the chance to contribute. Here's an excerpt from my section, titled, "The Stories Customers Tell: 4 Ways to Boost Your Positive Online Buzz."
"Whether that big purchase or decision is about a dream vacation, a financial planner, or enterprise software, the stakes are high. To reduce perceived risk, today's buyers look to the experiences of others - increasingly documented online on forums, blogs, discussion groups, vendor websites, Twitter, and other social media sites."
The best part of Age of Conversation 3? As with previous AOC projects, profits go to charity. This year, proceeds will be donated to an international children's charity of the authors' joint choosing.
Check it out. In the process, pick up hundreds of social media and online marketing tips while contributing to a great cause.
"Content is precious. Repackage existing content into different formats, such as blog posts, podcasts and webinars to drive more leads."
You can easily repackage customer case studies and success stories into valuable, reusable content throughout your sales and marketing communications.
Here are just a few ways:
An estimated 77% of active web users read blogs. They've proven to be powerful drivers of search engine traffic.
Even better, those following your blog are interested in your particular topic, giving you the perfect target audience.
Share your best customer stories on your blog - either in full or linked back to the full story on your website.
Focus on the customer's experience and path to success, not just tooting your own horn.
And finally, be sure to get the customer's permission before you publish anything with their name on it.
2. Contributed articles
For editors, it's all about the compelling story. They're constantly looking for ideas and contributed articles that tell stories their audiences want to hear.
Many websites and publications take contributed articles.
Try submitting a story about your new product and see how that goes. Then try submitting a story about how a specific customer has succeeded with your product, and it changes things.
With just a little editing, you can turn a customer case study into a contributed article, preferably by-lined by your customer.
Just make sure it focuses on best practices and approaches without heavily talking up your product or service.
3. Press releases
The same thing goes for press releases as above.
When you announce news, such as a new product offering, pull an anecdote into your press release that ties the news to a customer's success.
Ideally, you have some beta customers with early experiences of your solution that you can share.
A customer example makes a dry release much more interesting.
4. Industry awards
I'm big on awards these days - after seeing some Fortune 500 companies jump at the chance to tell their stories for awards opportunities.
Why? We all like to be recognized for our efforts. Your customers are no different.
If they're doing cool, best practices things, and your solution helps with that, find relevant awards programs and ask their permission to submit them.
You might be surprised how on board they get for an awards submission when they might not publish their story as a case study.
If your customer wins, their story gets natural publicity through the awards process.
Also, once you have all the juicy details, ask if you can make that public on your website.
Feature a different customer success in each newsletter or e-zine that goes to customers, prospects and even employees.
Show all your audiences how you help customers solve their problems.
It will likely be the most read part of your newsletter.
But that's not all. Check out 25 Ways to Build Trust (and Sales!) with Customer Success Stories.