In our previous article we saw that to leverage your past customer successes you need to develop a focused and repeatable way to generate powerful customer references that educate and convince new clients of the value you can offer them.
To showcase your client successes there are various techniques that companies use, each with its own set of merits and practical challenges:
Customer Reference Lists – An easy but overly basic inventory
- Advantages – Customer lists are usually quick and easy to make, requiring the least information from your past clients, such as who they are, the products and services they use, and since when. Of all the client reference types this one requires the least cost and effort to build and manage, making it an attractive starting point.
- Challenges – While simple to create, a basic customer list usually lacks substance into the real client story. A list usually offers little or no insight into the customer’s context, the benefits realized from working with your company or their overall satisfaction. To be convincing you should really offer prospects more details into these and other issues as they relate to each reference customer case.
Brief Written Customer Testimonials – A somewhat effective endorsement
- Advantages – Brief customer testimonials usually provide an easy to understand, first-hand account of a client contact’s experience and/or their level of satisfaction using your company’s products and services and doing business with you. They can usually be organized and published relatively quickly and cost-effectively, simply requiring an upfront agreement from your customer contact.
- Challenges – Given the brevity of such testimonials, many lack information about your client’s business context and other details allowing a new prospect to appreciate the similarities of that case to their own, as well as the likelihood that they too will realize the same benefits from working with you. In many cases, obtaining a written customer testimonial also requires getting their corporate authorization prior to publishing.
Customer Video Testimonials – The face and voice of the customer delivered in a flash
- Advantages – Video has become an engaging and effective way to quickly communicate ideas in context, while conveying genuine emotions. Used for customer testimonials, video offers prospects an easy to consume, first-hand medium for learning about your customers’ real experiences with your company and its products and services. In particular, creative and professionally produced video testimonials can boost the impact of your customer success stories.
- Challenges – The more professional the video, the greater the time, cost and other resources needed to plan, organize and produce it. As a high-visibility, high-impact medium, producing a video testimonial will definitely require obtaining your client’s corporate authorization prior to usage. It should also be noted that, according to a recent study from The Economist – Missing the Mark: Global content survey of brand marketers and their B2B audiences – over 85% of the global executives surveyed said that they favour text over video when making business decisions.
Customer Case Studies / Success Stories – Valuable insights into your customer’s success
- Advantages – Given the preferences of most business executives, a detailed customer case study can give your prospects a broad yet deeper view into your client’s business challenges and their experiences, as well as a fact-based appreciation of the value derived from using your products and services. If it is well researched and articulated, it can also be used to provide them with distinctive and timely perspectives and valuable insights into emerging customer challenges and ways to overcome them.
- Challenges – Compared to other types of client testimonials, a case study requires significantly more time and specific resources to plan and develop. In particular, to be trustworthy, convincing and to deliver innovative perspectives, it needs to be carefully planned, researched and produced. As a commercial asset with high impact and reuse value, it will also require securing your client’s approval prior to use.
Live customer testimonials – Customers advocating to your prospects
- Advantages – Getting an existing client to promote your company and its offers in person is invaluable. Potential customers can learn about the benefits and experience of partnering with your company through their first-hand account. The more relevant and respected the speaker, the greater the impact to the audience. A live testimonial also provides the opportunity for non-scripted exchanges between your existing and future clients, which can be crucial for generating new business.
- Challenges – The key to assuring a strong client testimonial is in identifying a respected and proficient speaker-advocate, which can be both challenging and costly. In particular, they will have to make the trip to attend in-person, requiring significant organization, time and expenses compared to other types of testimonials. If done as part of a webcast or webinar the testimony might loose part of the live show value.
Unsolicited testimonials – What your clients say when you’re not around
- While increasingly used on consumer website, unsolicited written testimonials are not yet widely adopted by B2B companies. At the same time, many industry professionals, including your customers, increasingly provide unsolicited testimonials – both good and bad – in specialized industry forums like Light Reading or more general ones like LinkedIn, Glassdoor. While the views given are personal, and do not represent a company’s official stance, in many cases they do sway the decisions of prospective clients and should therefore be considered too.
Marketing leaders in most B2B organizations will likely need to use more than one format of customer references to address their clients’ specific needs as they progress through their decision-making process.
Regardless of the formats used to showcase your company’s customer successes, what is certain is that to be successful, marketing and other business leaders need to focus not only on creating products and services that deliver discernible value to customers, but also ensure that their experience is top notch along the full customer journey, generating successful and satisfied customers along the way.
To see how we can help you create value for your customers and generate added growth, visit us at: merkadoservices.com