Reference Success: Customer Marketing Strategies and other topics

Guest Post: Ask and Ask Again – A Strategy for Extracting Customer Results

We have a new post today written by Casey Hibbard of Compelling Cases Inc. Casey has created and managed nearly 500 customer stories for companies over the past decade. She is author of the book, “Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset” and publishes the Stories That Sell blog. Enjoy…

Buyers have always needed help justifying purchases.  But today, they are pressed harder than ever to make the case internally before investing in a product or service.  And the higher the risk, the greater the need to validate.  That puts the burden on companies to draw out measurable results from customers – rarely a simple process.

What does it take to consistently collect the return on investment data you need, while still making it easy for you and your customers?

A specific, repeatable approach.

Collecting customer results is largely a matter of benchmarking, but most organizations don’t formalize the benchmarking process.  They may ask the questions, but don’t consider the timing of their information-gathering.  Here’s an approach to collecting the evidence you need to support your customer marketing efforts:

Ask Before You Deliver Anything

Measuring is mostly about the differences between “before” and “after.” Therefore, your first benchmark is before the customer ever uses your product or service.

Thoughtfully create a set of questions that assesses the customer’s situation at the very start of your engagement with them.  They should be the exact same questions you want to ask later on to measure results.

Ideally, the sales or account rep goes over the questions with the customer to collect the answers.

Pick Your Next Q&A Points

When does a customer typically see results with a specific product or service? That might be right away or it might be six months or a year down the road. And maybe the results just keep getting better.

Select at least another one or two specific times to go back and ask the very same questions you asked pre-delivery. Hopefully, the answers to those questions have improved because of your solution.

Identify the person for each customer who will own this process. Use your CRM solution or calendar to remind yourself – or whoever is collecting the information – exactly when to follow up with each customer at the right time.

Don’t Ask Because You Want to Publicize Results

When benchmarking with your questionnaire, don’t do so with the sole intention of using those results publicly. In fact, do it first and foremost for your own internal knowledge.

It’s extremely valuable for teams throughout your organization to see that information – even if you can’t ever publicize it. That rich data can help you help the customer get more out of the product or service, or even uncover problems.

During the first Q&A session, let the customer know that this is the first of a few benchmarking points to assess results and success.

Publicize If and When It Makes Sense

If you perform this process with every customer, it will uncover those that are experiencing the most powerful results. If those customers match the types of reference and case study customers you need, then approach them about sharing their results publicly.

Always confirm your findings with the customer and ask which measurement points they are willing and able to make public. If they are uncomfortable, negotiate other ways to present results.

If you can’t publish specific numbers, then how about percentages or factors of (one-third as, 4 times as many).

Most importantly, as much as you can, make this Q&A part of your regular process with every customer.


  • Sean W Red Hat on said:

    Great insight! Would love to know more about how you implement this for each new customer, especially for companies with thousands of new customers annually? Or would you set parameters for customers of a certain size?

  • Casey Hibbard on said:

    Hi Sean, Thanks for your comment/question! Ideally, this process would be with all new customers, and really should not take much of the rep's or customer's time. So the benchmarking questionnaire would need to be short - 5-7 key benchmark areas maybe. It has to be a regular step in the new customer ramp-up. There's value well beyond the reference and marketing teams. If you ID that a customer is not seeing results at a specific timeframe, then it's an opportunity to proactively step in and ensure a positive customer experience. But if it's not realistic to do so with all, then yes, it makes sense to select a segment of customers where you will benchmark - all those of a certain account value. Or, assess on the types of customers that you need for reference/case study purposes (by size, industry, type of solution, etc). I hope that helps. Casey

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