Nothing’s better than a customer who absolutely adores you.
This customer is constantly singing your praises, talking about how he couldn’t live without your product or service.
Naturally, you ask if he might share his experience in a customer case study or success story.
He replies, "Of course! Why not now?"
Seems like a dream scenario, but if you’re not careful, it could turn into a nightmare project.
Your valuable and well-meaning customer contact may have the authority to agree to share a story about his company, or he may not. And it can be a bit delicate to question your contact on the matter – especially if that contact is at a high level in the company.
But I’ve seen even VPs don’t always have final say on a case study.
It’s absolutely critical to make sure you’ve taken the right steps before moving forward.
Before beginning a case study project, you need to know exactly who will need to review and approve the story later on.
Here are few tips for handling – and helping – your best customers as you seek approval:
Broach the subject – You may say something like, "It’s been our experience that sometimes legal or corporate communications departments need to review and approve customer case studies. Before moving forward, we just want to double-check with everyone who will need to approve the story later on."
Do the homework for them – Your contact is busy. Offer to reach out to corporate communications about the request. Communications groups usually know the company’s case study protocol and can be your ally in capturing positive PR for both sides.
Keep your contact informed – Update your contact as you seek permission. You might even need that contact to help sway internal powers in his organization. Perhaps he can see the benefit to the company while the legal department cannot.
Have a plan B – If the company does not agree to participate for whatever reason, you still need a way to harness your happy customer’s enthusiasm. Maybe the customer can serve as a reference on live calls from prospects.
It can be tough to move beyond your customer to get all the proper permissions, but if you don’t, you risk getting shot down well into the process.
At an event yesterday, I talked with a marketer who mentioned a case study challenge. Seems his firm has a big-name client that is willing to go on record publicly, but the company won't release many details about the work or results.
I've certainly seen this one before.
A big-name is a big deal, but how do you leverage that without the ability to talk about much?
We discussed a couple of possible options:
- Use the big name but create a shorter story that simply talks about the strenth of the relationship and perhaps hints at some business benefits, but doesn't reveal more than the customer wants.
If you really can't say much, then perhaps just testimonials are the answer.
- Create a story detailing powerful results but do not name the customer. Use general terms to describe the company without identifying information.
Sales reps might still mention the name in one-on-one opportunities, but that information is never public.
Ultimately, you have to decide which option will be better for your sales and marketing needs at the time?
Name-dropping might be powerful in getting in the door with a prospect, but measurable results are what close deals.
What choice would you make, or are there alternatives?
SoftwareCEO.com is the richest source I know of for advice for growing software companies. This week, Gordon Graham's Tips and Tactics feature includes an excerpt from my book, "Stories That Sell."
Even if you don't work in or write for software companies, you'll likely find value in "Seven ways to get customers to agree to a story."
You'll pick up tips on how to improve the chances that customers will say yes, and even alternatives if your customer just won't agree.
But check it out quickly. The article goes into the site's Members Only area after 2 weeks (March 17).