Challenge: Getting prospective customers to understand exactly how your solution will help them or their company
Companies will purchase your solution for the benefit it provides to them. A live demonstration is great to show how the solution works. However, what benefits will this give to the customer? Nothing shows this better than customer success stories. Certainly companies have used case studies for years to show the impact of their solution.
Today, with increased emphasis on reduced spending and faster ROI, showing how your solution will provide these benefits gets you noticed. What is different is that now customers expect success stories in their industry and expect them in a variety of formats. They also want to ‘read’ these case studies in a format of their choice. Therefore the vendor needs to publish these as video testimonials, traditional PDF case studies, podcasts, presentations, webcasts and more.
Customers believe most vendor produced materials are biased. (After all, don’t you read marketing brochures and take everything in it “with a grain of salt”?) Having your case studies written by a reporter and published in trade magazines tends to be the least biased, most believable endorsement because it’s a customer’s story told by an independent source, rather than one written by the technology producer itself. Journalists are known for their fierce independence and separation from the advertising/publishing side of the business. They report on news and facts. (Aren’t you more likely to be impressed by a positive article about a new type of computer application or big-screen TV than a marketing brochure or advertisement?)
Selecting the right vertical trade publications, horizontal trade publications and general media will help you get these success stories in front of your potential customers. These customer proof points provide a reality check for publications so their readers can learn about technology and how it is put to use in the real world. Editors clamor for case studies because very often, they get great product news but no customers willing to spend the time to tell them about actual deployments, experiences, and results.
Once you’ve successfully landed a few of these, your lead development and sales teams should use these case studies actively in their positioning with potential customers. Creating 30-second summaries by industry vertical for your team will help them give real-world examples of the benefits your solution provides. Your front-line reps need to have these stories at the ready throughout the sales process to legitimize the claims they make.
Finally, maintaining a database of customer references is critical as potential customers will want to speak to existing customers. Creating a process where your sales team has easy access to these customers and is updated for those that are currently referenceable will simplify the process (and eliminate those frequent ‘all sales’ emails looking for references.
Lesson: Stories provide ‘truth in advertising’ to the vendor claims and show potential customers the benefits they can likely expect.