Case study and testimonial management
The power of customer endorsement should never be underestimated in both retaining customers and developing new ones. Within B2B markets customer endorsement through the use of a case study, customer testimonial and the availability of reference customers is vital to the success of the business as they are essential tools in formal bids. So how can companies identify and manage these customer endorsements to add value to their sales process?
Within most companies there needs to be a centralised customer endorsement database that supports the standardisation of generating and maintaining case study, testimoinal and reference customer information that is accessible company-wide.
Our own experience shows that there needs to be a single point of contact that has overall ownership for this information but, depending on the size of the business, probably has an informal network of colleagues to help identify and manage this rich vein of information. Typically these individuals would be members of the sales and marketing community.
The owner would primarily be responsible for the development and up keep of a framework, with their network of contacts owning the maintenance and generation of the material contained within that framework.
Identifying the Requirements
The following are identified as the key audiences for use of such a database, and should be asked to participate in identifying their needs and also gaining their support to generate future customer information:
1. Corporate marketing: likely to revolve around needs such as the development of the annual report and its associated reporting, and the provision of standardised information that could be used within CXO presentations
2. Divisional marketing: to support target market communication and the provision of evidence to both current and targeted customers
3. Sales teams: standardisation will also facilitate a jigsaw-building approach so that any Sales team can build ‘unique’ presentations by simply using pooled standardised marketing information
4. Bid teams: to enhance proposals and meet RFP requirements
5. Product teams: to enable them to standardise presentations around their products which includes relevant customer endorsement material
Identifying Potential Endorsements
Whether it is case studies, testimonial or reference customers all of this material needs to be generated, and there are two primary groups of employees for this within a typical company:
1. Sales/Account Management
2. Project Management
These two groups have contact with the customer at key touch points during their customer journey. The probability of gaining support from the customer to the provision of this information is greatly increased where there is trust and where they have recently shared a positive experience with the company. We would therefore propose that the following additions are made to existing processes:
1. Sales/Account Management:
When a bid has been successful the customer should be asked to agree in principle to providing support for the development of a case study / testimonial / reference site. If this expectation is established at the beginning it is likely to receive their support, with the caveat that the project will be delivered against expectations. It may be appropriate, depending upon the nature of the project, to agree some significant milestones being achieved which would then trigger the development of appropriate customer endorsement. This could even form part of a win review.
2. Project Management:
As the project manager will be responsible for the delivery of the programme and the achievement of milestones, they are in an ideal position to request the customer provides the endorsement that they agreed to in principle at the beginning of the project. It would be the responsibility of the Account Manager and Project Manager to agree who is best placed at that time to approach the customer and gain their approval.
The additional source for identifying customers who potentially would provide endorsement is independent customer research. Both quantitative surveys and qualitative forums or executive interviews will highlight which customers are providing the most positive feedback. If levels of recommendation are being captured through the use of, say, Net Promoter Score this may also be a source worthy of consideration. All of these should be reviewed to see if they have already provided endorsement, or whether they should now be approached.
Generation of Material
To ensure there is consistency of the level of material that is generated, we propose that a form is used across the whole company.
In order to make it as easy as possible for a customer to give approval, the recommended approach is that as soon as the customer has given their go ahead in principle a draft version for them to edit is offered. This will spare them the effort of developing something from scratch and also enable the company to ensure consistency of approach, and place emphasis on particular elements that they wish to promote. It is strongly recommended that the Marketing team is involved to develop this draft.
Process for Gaining Approval
In order to formalise the process and gain maximum value out of any type of customer endorsement we would propose the development of an authorisation form. This may be a physical document or created as an electronic form that clearly stipulates what information is being authorised for what use. It should be noted that the management of reference customers requires greater control than other uses.
If you would like to receive a copy of what Customer Champions believes should be on that form just get in touch with us.
Take the next step
If you would like to discuss how Customer Champions may be able to help with developing and executing a customer endorsement programme please get in touch.