Have you ever struggled to get success stories from your customers? Does asking for testimonials, references, or case studies feel like pulling teeth?

There can be a variety of reasons for this, such as:

  • It felt awkward—it can be difficult asking customers to tell you why you’re so great
  • There wasn’t a formal process or strategy in place
  • The timing was wrong—a lot can change with a customer in a week!
  • A failure to follow-up if there was no response
  • The customer didn’t see a win for spending their precious time and resources to help you

Regardless of the reason, companies need to get this right. 77% of B2B buyers say case studies were the most influential factor in their buying decisions (hawkeye B2B Buyers Journey Research). With numbers like this, it’s obvious that every company (from startups to global enterprises), needs to learn how to turn satisfied customers into their most powerful sales and marketing tool.

How do you inspire your best customers to want to participate in a case study?

Here are five ways to get them on onboard:

#1 Offer increased access and deeper involvement

Customer success stories can go far beyond sales, marketing, and PR. They can be utilized to strengthen bonds with your top customers. The number one thing that customers value (besides your solution) is the ability to access senior leadership. Additionally, include them in your products and services roadmap to deepen their level of interest and involvement.

For example,

  • Invite your customer to be featured in a case study
  • Set up a call or meeting with your CEO and featured customer (they’ll appreciate the individualized attention)
  • Hook them up as an “insider” to receive insights and updates on your product roadmap, new developments, and industry trends.

#2 Partner up and create a win-win co-marketing strategy

Choose the customer success story you want to feature. Propose a few co-marketing campaigns that 1) showcase your customer’s success and 2) how your solutions were instrumental in their progress.

Here’s the mutual win:

  • Access to a shared audience
  • Cost-effective (pools resources)
  • Creates and fosters a long-term relationship
  • Capitalizes on shared distribution channels
  • Since this is relationship driven, making and receiving recommendations gives each of you an advantage

#3 There are two sides to every story-tell them both

It can be beneficial to highlight both sides of the customer success story. If possible, find a way to tell your story and the story your customer wants to tell in public. One of the primary benefits to your customer of being featured in a case study is that it is free PR.

I like to explore the featured customer’s website and current news to bring out key points in the story that will benefit them. For example, if their customer service is a point of pride, tell them, “In our case study, we will highlight your stellar customer service.” If they know they’ll be featured favorably, they will be more apt to agree.

#4 Create an ever-evolving customer relationship

Your sales and marketing efforts should be designed to move your best customers from a transactional relationship to a more meaningful one.  A strategic approach is helpful for moving them through access levels based on their relationship with you.

Here is an example of progressive access levels:

  • Invite Customers to Events (as an opportunity to interface with executives and key contacts)
  • User & Beta Testing (a chance to participate and provide feedback)
  • Advisory Boards (to be involved in your company’s direction and share their expertise)
  • Technical Councils (where their product suggestions can be heard, and they can share with their peers)

#5 Showcase your customer’s best practices

A customer’s best practices in their industry can be a terrific sales and marketing opportunity. Highlight how your customer has been successful in a given area by creating a targeted marketing campaign for them. They’ll love the publicity. You’ll love their happiness.

What about offering incentives?

Incentives, such as trading products and services to obtain case study participation can be awkward. For both sides, it can feel like you’re buying or selling an endorsement so I wouldn’t recommend taking this tact unless it’s a special circumstance. Even if your customers are thrilled with you, it can muddy the waters.

To summarize:

In addition to being one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools, case studies strengthen customer relationships.

I have provided five starting points for you, but don’t be limited by these as one size doesn’t fit all.

Here are the key takeaways for discovering how your customers can benefit by participating in case studies:

  • Identify whom you’re going to ask and why (does this story fit into your company’s key objectives and goals?)
  • Listen to your customers
  • Ask questions
  • Learn what motivates them
  • Come up with creative ways to collaborate
  • Seek to fulfill their needs
  • Enjoy the benefits of a mutually rewarding partnership

Here’s what I want you to do right now (this should take no more than 30 minutes)

  1. Simplify the process of getting buy-in from customer success story candidates by downloading my free EMAIL PITCH TEMPLATE
  2. Make a list of your top 5 case study customer candidates
  3. Customize the email template and send it!

Need help with the next step? Reach out at www.thecasestudycopywriter.com/contact.