the complete guide to success story marketing

6 Steps to a Strategic Shortlist of Featured Customers

Author: ; Published: Aug 18, 2014; Category: Uncategorized; Tags: None; No Comments

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"We have tons of happy customers. How do we decide which ones to feature in case studies?"

When it comes to customer case studies – and business in general – too many happy customers is a great problem to have.

After all, having satisfied customers is the first and most important ingredient for creating strong case studies.

But how do you decide which customers to feature?

These 6 steps will help you narrow your pool of candidates and get started:

1. Choose the products and services you need customer stories for.

Maybe you need case studies across all your solutions, or just a few. Perhaps a competitor is introducing a product and you want to show your edge. Or maybe you have a product or service with a number of new capabilities not represented in current case studies.

These might be the first targets for case studies. The goal: have several strong case studies for every solution you offer. Or, you can include multiple solutions in a single case study in cases where customers use several.

2. Define your top TYPES of target prospects.

Quite simply, what types of customers do you want more of? Small, midsize, large? Retail, financial, technology, government, education, etc.? In the Americas, Asia or Europe? Maybe it’s a mix of all of the above. Decide what “boxes” you need to fill across your various offerings.

Your customer case studies should mirror the type of customer relationships that you're looking for. Like attracts like. Look among your current base of satisfied customers for perfect examples of customers you're trying to bring on.

3. Time it right.

If you pursue a case study with a customer too early in the relationship, they may not have strong results yet. If you wait too long, they may not remember what life was like before you came along, or be able to measure before-and-after results.

For each solution you want to feature, when do customers usually see results? How long does it take? That's the perfect time to ask them about a case study.

4. Assess the strength of results.

If measurable results are important to you – and they are for most organizations – then you don't want to get too far down the path with a customer case study and THEN discover the customer doesn’t have strong results to share.

Plan a short prequalification call with a customer to explore the types of results/benefits they have experienced so far.

Also consider building in ways to assess customer results throughout the relationship. It's not just a good idea for a case study, but also for your company to understand exactly what benefits customers experience – and when. Ask customers a set of questions that gather metrics early in the relationship and again every quarter or a couple of times a year to understand the impact. That way, you can easily spot stellar results.

Even better, try to get metrics BEFORE the customer deploys your solution so you can compare later on just how much the solution has made a difference.

5. Get the green light.

By now, you should have a more refined list of customers to approach. When you feel good about a candidate, move forward to get the customer's permission to be featured. Make it clear how much time the interview process will take, what's involved and how the resulting story will be used.

Ask who will need to approve the story once it's drafted. Get that person's buy-in or don’t start your case study project. All too often I've seen the interviewee agree to move forward, only for the story to be shot down by the customer's legal or PR team after it’s 95 percent done.

6. Choose your interviewees.

Finally, decide who to interview. Who are you trying to reach at each prospect company? An executive? A business unit manager? Or both? Decide what titles you’re targeting at prospect companies. Then try to interview those same titles within happy customer companies.

C-level people respect other C-level people, and likewise for business unit managers or front-line users. If multiple people will consume the case study, interview a couple of key contacts. One person may have made the decision to buy the solution and another uses it day in, day out.

Once you’ve narrowed your pool and recruited customers to be featured, get going while customers are still happy, willing and able to share their stories.