Finding success in developing customer success stories
Major cloud database management platform company uncovers customer innovations that support marketing to high-tech startups.
Produce a handful of highly-technical use-case success stories for trade show season in 9 weeks.
Hire Zack Self for his background in IT sales to uncover interesting use-case benefits and develop ready-to-approve copy within weeks.
5 new customer success stories in 6 weeks approved for distribution by the March 1 deadline.
The full story of how one client uncovered 5 new use-case value propositions to support their brand & product positioning statements.
The challenge of getting customers to articulate IP value from a technical solution-- on record.
If you think cold-call response rates are challenging, try setting an appointment to interview fast-paced entrepreneurial customers who are happy with you because your technology powers their high-tech innovation.
My client, a large, well-known company that sells a big-ticket data processing platform, was behind in getting new customer success stories for public distribution. They were short-staffed. The communications director hired me to produce as many new customer stories as I could interview and write before the conference content deadline three months away. He gave me a target list of 12 customers selected for key industry, size, and market criteria.
Soon, though, there was a more pressing problem. Members of the sales team responsible for the target list all said the same thing: “The customer bought the solution because their former system and alternatives were slow. They bought us for our speed — period.”
Just imagine the enormity of this challenge. (For the moment, set aside the fact that the sales team believed “speed” was the sole selling point.)
The project scope was no longer limited to scheduling a virtual call and simply re-casting a transcribed version of the recorded conversation in under 2 months.
We would have to probe deeper into technical challenges and their effect on specific business processes and the operating environment.
We may need to talk to more than one person in the customers’ office, not just the person we sold to, but those who knew details and could speak to strategic issues.
And, most important, we would have to be overtly protective of customers’ intellectual property. Our stories would need to be interesting without being too specific about customers’ innovations. Our customers would need to believe we could strike that balance and they had to be willing to cooperate.
So, given those circumstances, how would you interview all those customers? How would you get their attention long enough to talk about you? How would you find someone who get past the sales team's limited view of the value prop?
You probably want an outsider who understands people and business processes to hear the story, ask questions, and listen for bits of human interest or unique circumstances. You’d like someone with an ear for customer experience and emotion who can translate that into a narrative about your brand value, and who won’t forget to ask for and get hard facts and numbers that will support the claim.
At least, that's what my client wanted.
The results were better than expected.
We were able to interview nearly all of the 12 target customers. While many weren’t yet ready to reveal their results, some were. And we were able to develop 6 fresh, interesting, and powerful stories the sales team were eager to put to good use. Some of the stories made it to the public website, some became technical case studies and white papers, and two became feature presentations at prestigious leadership conferences in London and Los Angeles.
Perhaps more important: my client uncovered new ways to position speed in marketing campaigns and sales presentations -- straight from the customer's mouth.
If the purpose of business is to make a customer, then customer-centric marketing must be paramount. These customer stories are a critical part of my client's marketing successes.