The 5 Things Small Vendors Do to Get Big-Name Case Studies
It can be tough for any company to get big-name customers to be references and case studies. But it’s usually even more challenging if you’re a little vendor.
Why? Big names like to play together, to showcase their alliances. A global, household name doesn’t have as much incentive to publicly show its connection with a small, lesser-known name.
Yet, there’s still hope for small vendors.
Kraft, Dow Corning, Time Warner Telecom, Coca-Cola Bottling, Vail Resorts, Proctor and Gamble, Southwest Airlines, Sprint, Dell, Alltel, IBM, Campbell Soup Co., Janus, Robert Mondavi Winery, Cargill, Lowes Home Improvement, Domino’s Pizza and SAS.
They’re all names we know – and all have participated in a public case study with one of their SMALL vendors. It can seem daunting to go after big names, but it’s possible to get permission.
What do small vendors do to hook a big fish?
Over the years, I’ve observed firsthand how small vendors pursue customer case studies. While every situation is unique, those that succeed typically do a few specific things right.
Here are the top factors involved for small vendors to land big-name, public case studies:
1. They forge and maintain solid, close relationships
Vendors that succeed often start out with a very tight relationship with their customer contacts. Account managers or representatives have a personal relationship with these customers.
On calls and interviews they start out catching up on how the family’s doing or what they did over the weekend. Representatives check in often, even after the implementation or service delivery.
When they ask about the case study, the customer is thrilled to support the vendor in this way because they’re so pleased and invested in the relationship. That supporter can be a powerful force in getting the overall company to agree.
2. Their customers are motivated
Companies participate in public case studies for many reasons, with positive publicity at the top. But publicity can be internal or external.
Perhaps the big-name client wants to show the world that it just implemented something innovative and ground-breaking for its industry. Or, maybe your contacts want to help advance their careers with some PR among their peers inside the company.
Feel out where possible motivators lie and use them as your door-opener.
3. The internal champion is high up
The better the title, the more pull a contact has in the big-name organization to get permission to be a case study. A VP or other executive that’s motivated and loves the small vendor can be all you need.
As small vendors build relationships, engaging the highest-level person in the department or group on some level will help the cause. Plus, it’s just good business practice come renewal time anyway.
4. The case study is not the focus
In getting big-name stories, the case study is NOT what the small vendor originally asked for. Huh?
Customer case studies and success stories are one by-product of a solid reference relationship with customers. Small vendors that succeed get a case study as part of a bigger plan.
- A high-level contact at a big-name company approached its vendor about submitting for industry awards. Along with the information-gathering process for the award applications, they created a case study.
- The customer company participates in a video first, which is then culled for info for a case study.
- The small vendor finds a speaking opportunity for the big-name customer contact at a major industry event. The vendor then creates the case study as a handout for the event, or afterward based on the presentation.
In these cases, the customer was “warmed up” to the idea of sharing the story, making the case study ask easier.
5. They set the expectation early
Companies that succeed often include the case study in the original contract. If the customer is happy, they will participate in a public case study.
While that’s not binding, it does make contacts more likely to follow through – as long as they’re satisfied.
Those are the five top traits. It seems the more of these you can check off, the better your chances. In short, build those relationships, “sell” the idea and think creatively in your approach.
Casey Hibbard is president of Compelling Cases Inc., and author of the award-winning book, Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset. For more free tips, follow the Stories That Sell blog. Find me on Twitter at casey_hibbard.