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.
A sales rep I'm assisting with a case study has two objectives: sell network management software to other U.S. divisions of a major account, and sell to other companies like the featured customer.
The customer contacts are willing to be much more open about what they share with other divisions in the same company than what they'll divulge to the public and competitors. So why not create two versions of the case study?
Version 1 of the case study, for internal-only use, has frank discussion about the challenges this customer faces in managing its network. The internal-only version also doesn't have to go through the same rigorous approval cycle as the public customer story.
Version 2 of the case study, for external audiences, has less detail about the customer's internal issues and practices.
That allows this sales rep to have the story he needs--quickly--for a big meeting with multiple divisions of this customer company, and then what he needs to penetrate the industry.
It's a little extra work, but it's worth it to reach the right audiences with the right information.