Never doubt the power of a single case study or the positive impact for the featured customer.
Last year, United Airlines racked up five major awards – and countless resulting PR – for its CRM and direct marketing efforts for the MileagePlus loyalty program:
• 2012 Gartner and 1to1 Media CRM Excellence Awards – Silver
• 2012 DMA – Marketer of the Year
• 2012 1to1 Media Customer Champion
• 2012 DMA Innovation Award
• 2012 Travel Weekly Magellan Silver for Loyalty
What fueled every application for the award entries was a single case study, initiated by United’s data partner, Acxiom Corp. United teamed with Acxiom for data integration, enhancement and segmentation, helping bring together 90 million records for the United and Continental Airlines merger, as well as for United’s companywide CRM initiative.
I worked with Acxiom to help the company and United document the story. From there, we used the case study to populate the dozens of questions throughout the award entry forms.
When awards were announced, and press releases drafted, I saw that same copy appear again and again in various publications. Best of all, it was in language that United and Acxiom had approved, giving all positive exposure in the perfect pitch they desired. The internal champion for the project at United also got recognition within the company for his efforts.
It’s a powerful but often-overlooked way to get more mileage out of a customer case study.
Companies build goodwill with their clients by submitting case studies for relevant industry awards. In this case, Acxiom took on the award submissions so United didn’t have to. It’s a big benefit for customers. You can even put awards in the list of benefits when approaching a customer about participating in a case study.
Over the years, I’ve helped several clients use case studies to apply for and win awards, but this is the most successful outcome ever.
How about you? Have you used a case study to apply for awards?
A glowing customer success story is a coveted piece of marketing collateral, but case studies are not always easy to create. If you manage case studies, or write them, you know the challenges: getting a customer to agree, conducting interviews, writing and editing the story, and getting customer signoff.
After all that work, how do you use the heck out of a case study to engage prospects and customers?
Nearly every organization posts a completed case study on their website. But how do you get traffic to it?
Companies today are using case studies in multiple ways to pull prospects to their websites, from traditional print media to social media to digital advertising.
Here are some fresh examples of success stories in action:
I recently caught a Dell tweet about the success of one of its customers, with a link to the full version of the case study. It was engaging and specific, encouraging prospects to click.
LinkedIn and Facebook
Last year, I featured PostcardMania.com for its extensive use of case studies. The company helps organizations market effectively with postcards. I also learned the company mentions its customer successes on LinkedIn and Facebook.
In the course of a conversation on LinkedIn, the company's social media manager might point a dentist, for example, to a gallery of visual examples of other postcard campaigns or to a video and/or written case study showing how another dentist brought in new business with postcard marketing.
For marketing to existing fans, PostcardMania posts teasers to its success stories on Facebook. But it's critical to be specific:
"Find out how this landscaping company, ABC Lawn, brought in $15,000 from just one postcard mailing."
While perusing Wired magazine this week, I came across a full-page ad from HP featuring its customer, NASCAR. NASCAR and HP teamed to create a way to measure NASCAR's impressions and success across its media channels.
After a brief summary of the story, the ad then shares the URL to find the full, engaging customer case study with all the momentum worthy of NASCAR.
Digital Display Advertising
EarthLink runs digital display ads that link back to a landing page featuring a specific case study. The landing pages include engaging images, a summary of the story, a link to read more, and a call to action.
These are just a few examples of how companies use case studies to bring eyeballs to their websites. Seen any great examples lately? Share them here!
A guest post by Val Stephen
Many things can motivate a customer to be a reference for your company. "Free PR" is just the beginning.
Customers are increasingly seeing other answers to the question, "What's in it for me?"
Reference activities can help customers communicate with a number of audiences – internal and external, customers and investors, superiors and budget approvers, employees, and peers in other industries.
We all know we need to understand the kinds of reference activities a customer likes to do. Some customers love the live action of a media interview or speaking engagement, others want the defined parameters of a case study, and still others prefer private discussions or networking with industry analysts and peers where details can go deep but remain under NDA. These are personality-type choices, individual preferences.
But what about the customer's objectives? It's not about the kind of activity, but what the customer wants to achieve by participating in a speaking gig, media interview, etc. Who do they want to reach, and what do they want that audience to take away?
Don't underestimate the ripple effect of reference activities. Use it to your advantage – and your customer's.
Does it work? Yes, resoundingly yes. We've seen 50% more big brands doing named case studies by positioning them as us helping customers tell their story, versus asking customers to talk about us. And significantly more participation by the most senior customers in speaking opportunities, awards, and media and analyst interviews.
Customers appreciate the partnership – more than one has called me their own personal PR person – not to mention all the legwork I do vetting and qualifying the opportunities.
What motivates customers? Here are three objectives that have grabbed the attention of some of the very senior customers I've worked with:
1. Talent acquisition.
A lot of companies are fighting to attract top talent. Getting those premier candidates to want to work for a company requires communicating the benefits to them. Not the "we have free food and ping pong tables" benefits – HR and corporate folks do a great job communicating that already. References can help customers demonstrate that their company uses the latest and greatest technologies and strategies, which is appealing to candidates who want to stay at the top of their game.
And companies in less popular regions and mature industries – think snowy North Dakota or the highly regulated (read: restricted) financial services industry – often need to convey their advanced technology sex appeal.
2. Demonstrating the value of an initiative.
Proving the impact and value of a project to investors and senior leadership can lead to additional budget and resources. It can also help with user adoption. We all know how common a challenge that is for technology deployments. If that's something that concerns your customer, you can find them reference opportunities that will help them reach, reassure and motivate that audience.
Perhaps it's a different segment of media that a customer wants. And while you may prioritize media that reaches IT buyers, an article in a vertical media outlet that's read by your customer's customers could be a terrific win for all of you.
3. Groom top talent.
Another customer objective that shouldn't be overlooked is the desire at the most senior levels of an organization to groom internal talent. I guarantee that CXOs have this on their radar.
Speaking engagements provide phenomenal professional development for up-and-coming talent, and the sheer variety of formats and audiences creates continual opportunities to refine and develop that critical leadership skill.
Ask customers about their goals and make sure they know you're there to help them achieve those goals. Understand their objectives – and evaluate every opportunity with that in mind.
Be strategic in tailoring reference recommendations to your customer's objectives. Develop (and position) reference activities as helping customers achieve their own goals. They'll appreciate the partnership, and give your recommendations a better look because they understand you're there to help them.
Be that resource for your reference customers and you'll get more participation and enthusiasm. When they look good, you look good. And that's a win-win.
Val Stephen is global customer reference pro who is passionate about tailoring programs to expand customer participation and reinforce credibility. She has developed and grown reference programs at billion-dollar companies such as Amdocs and Acxiom. She can be reached at email@example.com.
My husband does triathlons for fun - small, medium and the biggest of them all, the Ironman. It takes months of training and lots of planning and organization for race day.
"Where do I stash my energy gels on the run? Do I need a clean pair of socks before the run? And I can't forget my nipple Band-Aids!"
I, on the other hand, do not race triathlons. But sometimes, a day of freelancing feels like a triathlon.
Take last week for instance. In a single morning, I had three different phone interviews to conduct - back to back with no breaks in between. Worse, they were each for different clients with totally different products/services:
8:00 Talking to a water meter equipment company about its help desk software
8:30 Interviewing a consultant about a police department's e-citation system
9:00 Talking to a school bus contractor about its cloud-hosted IT environment
I'd call that a triathlon of freelancing. I had to fly from one interview to the next and hit the ground running on each call.
There's only one way I got through. If you've read some of my other posts, you know I'm all about preparation - really good preparation.
I've been writing for each of these clients for a while, but without prep, I wouldn't be able to flip the switch between each call just as triathletes move gracefully between swimming, biking and running.
How do I prep? Here's how I got through my morning...
- The afternoon before, I spent at least a couple of hours prepping for the next day.
- I reviewed my existing notes for each project.
- I reviewed the subject matter and key messaging for each client.
- I typed up detailed interview questions for each call.
- I made sure that the call # for each call was at the top of each list of questions so I could go from one call to the next quickly.
It was still mentally tough to switch among the diverse subject matter, but my interview questions kept me focused.
My "triathlon" of a morning wasn't typical, but it's happened before. The next time you're faced with multiple calls in a day on different topics, block out time ahead to prepare - and be grateful that at least you don't have to worry about nipple Band-Aids.
I've seen the influence that customer stories have on potential customers time and again, but a new survey provides validation straight from marketers.
Customer testimonials and case studies lead the list of most effective content marketing tactics, according to the newly released B2B Content Marketing Survey for 2013.
The survey asked members of the 50,000+ B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn about what's working, who creates content and what kinds, and how marketers measure results.
Not surprisingly, content that conveys the customer's voice won out over every other form on the survey, including in-person events, online articles, videos, white papers, demos and webinars.
It makes sense. While other forms of content are effective as well, the experience of a happy customer stands out for prospects trying to make informed decisions and reduce risk and uncertainty.
The survey also noted that 82 percent of marketers plan to increase their content production in the next year.
Check out the full survey here.
How about you? Are you planning more content in the coming year? How are you bringing the customer's voice into your content marketing?