In a recent survey, 78% of purchase decision makers cited case studies as key in their research process, beating out white papers, webinars, and analyst reports. Clearly, B2B buyers are looking for a reason (or three) to believe marketers’ claims.
The challenge for marketing is to deliver fresh, relevant, and compelling case studies for consumption. If you’re a marketer, and you’re fortunate enough work for an organization with a person or (dare we say it) a team dedicated to sussing out and creating these nuggets, the rest of us are very jealous. As for the remainder, the task lands on someone’s already heaped plate in the marketing department. No doubt these folks have developed their own resources and processes for finding the best content. I’ve been one of those people and would like to share some of my methods. This article isn’t about how to craft an effective story, but rather about how and where to find them.
First, Know What You’re Asking For
Casting about blindly for stories to share can net you some interesting examples, but might not serve your larger marketing strategy. Before asking for customer stories, ask yourself these questions: What attribute am I trying to highlight? Who is my audience? What is the desired takeaway or perception change I want for the reader.
For example, in the past I have created a matrix with products, solutions or attributes I wanted to highlight on one axis and my market segments on the other. I could then easily visualize and communicate where the gaps were in order for the company to tell its whole story. Be sure and update this on a regular basis to meet changing internal and external circumstances.Knowing
Where to Look Beyond the Usual Suspects
Marketing, especially in the B2B arena, is often dependent upon sales for customer stories. It’s a definite no-brainer, but there are some best practices to keep in mind.
31% of B2B Marketers Also Stated They Couldn't Find Sufficient Content For All Use Cases.
Engage sales management from the start. Hopefully you already have a good working relationship with these managers. Explain the “ask” and work with management to communicate exactly what you’re looking for in the way of a good story.
Keep it going. In order to keep the quest for meaty case studies top of mind, I sat in on sales meetings once a month and would have a quick round robin to glean what I could from the field. It’s important to encourage participation and sharing – you be the one to decide (in private) if a customer story is worth following up on.
Offer incentives. I have also offered a $50 gift card for stories that met our criteria and were published. This always brings out the hunter instinct in the sales team.
Don’t overlook indirect sales. If you’re a multi-channel sales organization, check in with these channel managers the same as you would with the direct sales team.
Befriend the customer service department. There’s often no more enthusiastic customer than someone who has had an issue resolved in a way that went above and beyond their expectations. These are also the people who tend to be the most willing to sing your praises.
Partner with PR. These are the types of customer success stories that work well in a variety of mediums. The PR department is also positioned to hear about opportunities of which marketing might not be aware.
Make it human. Above all, tell your story from a customer-centric point of view. B2B case studies tend toward the strictly factual nuts and bolts. Try to inject some human interest into the example you’re citing. Always remember, your product or service not only solved a business problem, it helped the human beings behind the issue. This humanized storytelling will help you stand out from the myriad other case studies a potential customer will encounter during their research, and it goes a long way toward brand authenticity.
I’d love to hear from readers how they’ve created an active funnel for customer success stories.