Walking through the Denver airport last week, I couldn’t help but notice the cute dog on this wall ad. After admiring the dog, I realized the Xerox ad features a customer, Target.
Xerox showcases its relationship with Target, indicating the company provides customized direct mail programs for the retailer.
While Xerox uses what I would call customer marketing – featuring customers – the ad doesn’t quite achieve Success-Story Marketing.
1 – Tying the major Target name with Xerox adds credibility for the vendor, and educates us just a bit on how Target entrusts Xerox with its direct marketing.
For this reason, it works on some levels, but doesn’t go as far as it could.
2- The ad actually lacks results.
I believe, to be truly effective, the ad has to show a successful resolution or outcome for the customer – or validation.
I’ve seen customer-focused ads that tell stories. It’s possible to do it in the small space of an ad – or even encourage people to see the full story online.
Here’s how SAS featured the results of 1-800-Flowers (not sure where this appeared):
Granted, the graphics aren’t as engaging as the Xerox ad.
What do you think? Maybe in the brisk, walk-by airport setting, an ad can’t convey much, and the Xerox ad accomplishes at least credibility. Or, do you think Xerox should have gone a step further and mentioned a specific result?
When it comes to customer success stories and case studies, real research comes few and far between. Not many have tried to measure the impact of stories on the sales process.
Yet, Eccolo Media is about as close as anyone gets. For the past three years, the organization has spearheaded a B2B Technology Collateral Survey, basically asking buyers of B2B technology what marketing materials they consume during the decision-making process.
Out this summer, the 2010 survey report offers insight specifically on how influencers and decision-makers use five different types of collateral: white papers, case studies/success stories, podcasts, video, and brochures/datasheets.
At the risk of throwing a bunch of stats at you, I'm providing highlights of the customer story related parts of the survey here. It's just really good stuff!
Not only does this insight help companies plan collateral accordingly but also guide writers in what audiences want today.
67 percent recently consumed customer stories - Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said they consumed case studies/success stories in the preceding six months, coming in #2 after white papers
Nearly 80 percent say case studies/success stories are influential - Seventy-nine percent said case studies are moderately to very influential.
More prefer written - Sixty-five percent said they prefer a written case study while 33 percent prefer video and two percent audio testimonials. Savvy companies today create both to appeal to different audiences and different times in the sales cycle.
Longer stories are trending - In 2008, respondents preferred two-page case studies. This year, 37 percent prefer four pages, 35 percent said two pages or less and 28 percent said six pages. Clearly, they want detailed stories.
"In general, the larger the company, the longer they prefer their case studies to be, with the largest percentage of respondents from small companies (33 percent) preferring two-page case studies, the largest percentage from middle-market firms (40 percent) and large enterprises (39 percent) preferring four-page case studies."
More download/print customer stories than last year (vs. reading online) - In last year's survey, 84 percent said they read case studies online. This year, however, 74 percent say they read online. The rest download/print them to read.
They share case studies with colleagues - Eighty-seven percent share customer stories with at least 1 other person, with some sharing them with up to five or more.
Video and audio are being embedded and clicked in written case studies - Sixty-six percent said they have consumed case studies that have video and audio links embedded in them, which is higher than for any of the other collateral types in the survey. Moreover, 93 percent said they clicked to that content.
Corporate websites are the #1 source for case studies - The greatest percentage of respondents indicated they obtained case studies from company web sites, compared to receiving them from colleagues, sales reps, a direct response campaign or through social media.
They consume case studies early in the cycle - Forty-nine percent consume customer stories for the first time during the pre-sales exploration phase, with 34 percent during the initial sales process.
Pretty impressive, huh? In short, buyers evaluating technology B2B purchases find customer stories valuable in their decision-making and they share them with others.
If case studies/success stories are not in a company's marketing mix, but in the competitors', then the company may be at a disadvantage.
What are you seeing? Similar trends in your business?
"I'm so glad we're finally doing this interview because maybe I won't have to take as many calls."
That's an actual quote from a customer being interviewed for a case study. Across all the projects I've done, I've heard this several times from customers. Imagine how many thought that but didn't say it?
Add this to the list of motivators for customers to be featured in case studies.
Customers, even the ones that love the vendor the most, have their limits when it comes to taking time to be a reference. The customer above agreed at some point to take calls from potential new customers for the vendor, but has now grown weary. It's "reference fatigue."
Smaller Vendors, Bigger Risk
Large companies aren't at such a risk of overusing their satisfied customers. They have hundreds of customers to choose from, ensuring no one is called too often.
And admittedly, they usually have more resources to track the frequency that customers are being contacted.
What can smaller companies or early-stage companies do, those with fewer satisfied customers?
Simple. Document their experiences in a case study.
Think a case study can't assuage a prospect wanting to talk to a live person? It actually can.
A case study, preferably with the customer's name on it, serves as a close second to a call.
Answer Prospect Questions
More importantly, create case studies that answer the questions that prospects typically ask current customers and sales reps. Chat with reps to understand prospects' concerns and biggest objections.
Then ensure the writer is equipped with that information. He or she can then tailor questions to gather those points and write the story accordingly.
It's what customer stories are about - giving prospects insight into another customer's situation without the need for a call.
A Carrot for Participating
Honestly, requesting a case study can go over very easily with customers that have taken prospect calls in the past. If the company pushes back, remind them about the time-savings of fewer calls in the future.
Vendors still may not be able to get customers to go on record, but it doesn't hurt to try this route. Add this to the list of reasons why it's valuable for the customer to be featured.
Have you ever "sold" a case study to a customer by promising it will reduce live reference calls?