Traits of the Perfect Success-Story Interviewee
"I could sell this for you."
That line, coming straight from the mouth of a happy customer, is music to a company's ears. Not only is the customer satisfied with the solution, but the customer has become a true evangelist.
I heard this just a couple of weeks ago while interviewing an IT manager at a hospital about their new help desk system. He was genuinely a fan, and in the heat of talking about what he loves about the software, added the line above. He went on to give me powerful quote after powerful quote.
If only all customer interviewees could be so pumped. That's the kind of customer you want for your stories. The interviewee's enthusiasm should reach out and grab the audience from the customer case study or success story.
So how do you find these ideal evangelists for your stories?
Here are a few tips:
1. The customer shares his excitement with your sales and/or account reps. As the front line contacts with customers, sales and account reps often hear the customer's expressions of satisfaction first hand.
Remind reps that, for customer stories, you're on the lookout for customers that are genuinely enthusiastic - beyond just satisfied.
2. Truly committed customers refer your company to peers. If customers are already telling their peers at other companies about your cool new solution, then you know you have an evangelist on your hands.
Do what you can to maximize that relationship by keeping the customer happy and engaging him/her in marketing activities.
3. Evangelists are relatively talkative on pre-qualification interviews. Spend maybe 15 minutes talking to a potential case study candidate to scope out the customer's story - and the contact's personality - before deciding whether to feature the customer in a full story.
Is the contact relatively talkative, if not effusive, about the solution? Or, does the contact answer reluctantly in as few words as possible? The former option will result in the best quotes and information for your customer stories.
Look for personalities, not just strong stories.
4. The customer says yes to more than just a case study. When discussing featuring a customer in a story, don't just ask for the story.
If the customer agrees to a story, find out what else the customer is willing and able to do: a press release, speaking at an industry event, or taking one-on-one calls from a prospective customer.
Just make sure you note the customer's preferences and don't go beyond that. Otherwise your evangelist could start to sour from overuse.
If given various customers to choose from, always go with the one that "could sell this for you" and then let that customer do the talking for you in a story. It's much more credible coming from a customer than from your own sales reps.