How can you increase the number of your B2B case studies that get signed off?
As a B2B marketer, one of your key goals is to use thoughtful storytelling to create success stories that demonstrate your product or service’s power. Particularly for B2B marketers in the technology and professional services sector, success stories are key as a sales enablement tool. They are also essential for reinforcing credentials within the education phase of a demand-generation program.
However, such success stories can take a long time to create, from the initial conversation to the published video or written piece. Despite investment of time and effort, many success stories never see the light of day, for simple – but frustrating reason – because they are never officially signed off.
With the emergence of Gen Y into the workforce, we’re seeing desk research play a more prominent role in B2B buying decisions. In addition, habits from the B2C world are starting to trickle in, particularly in the importance of peer-led references and recommendations.
This means that success stories are now more important than ever. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the steps that can be taken to ensure that your B2B success story gets signed off – and is ultimately a successful marketing tool for your business.
Lay the Groundwork
Step 1: Educate your sales teams
Securing the participation of key people on the client side is the crucial first step and sales teams play an important role in this part of the process. Educating your sales teams on what makes a good story and the process involved in creating one will prevent them from over or under-promising to everyone involved, both internally and with the customer.
Step 2: Explain the process
It’s important to have workflow documents that outline the process involved in creating a success story – this helps everyone involved understand their role and what to expect. This should map out the journey from the initial kick-off conversation all the way through to sign-off and going live. This can help prevent delays and ensure that the final story meets everyone’s expectations. We recommend creating a suite of explainer documents tailored for both your internal team and for the customers involved.
Step 3: Qualify likelihood
Before embarking on creating a success story, it’s essential to have a direct conversation with stakeholders to help you understand whether the story is likely to get signed off or not. This can help prevent wasting time and resources on a project that won’t be approved.
Step 4: Qualify stakeholders
You need to understand who needs to be involved in the process and who will ultimately need to sign off on the success story. This will help you involve the right people from the beginning and avoid delays or miscommunications later.
Step 5: Understand seniority of stakeholders
It’s essential to understand the seniority of stakeholders involved in the approval process, as they may have different insights and expectations. This understanding can help you tailor your approach and communication style.
Step 6: Identify the sales stage
Understanding where the potential client is in the sales process can help you tailor the story to their needs. For example, if it’s a new deal, the story may be used as a sweetener to justify a discount. The downside, from a storytelling perspective, is that there may be very little impact to show. On the other hand, if it’s a long-term customer, there may be more opportunity to use the success story to showcase the results of a long-standing relationship.
Step 7: Ask for stats with examples – in advance
It’s important to have data and statistics to support the success story. Asking for this information in advance can help prevent delays and ensure that the story is backed up with concrete evidence.
Discovery and Storytelling
Step 1: Conduct a thorough interview
The success story should be based on thorough interviews with internal and external stakeholders to explore all aspects. Good interviewing can help prevent having to fill in gaps in the final story.
Step 2: Co-create
Remember it is the customer’s story. Co-creating the story with the customer can help ensure that it’s told accurately and avoids any sensitivities. Ensure that during the interviewing process, you explore if there are any sensitivities or topics that shouldn’t be broached.
Step 3: Seeking rights release forms
If the success story includes photography or video, it’s important to seek rights release forms at the point of the shoot to avoid any legal issues later.
Step 4: Select the most suitable format
Working with creative and varied formats allow the story to be told in different ways. However, the format should depend on the strength of the story. It also depends on speed; certain formats can be quicker to produce than others. It’s important not to promise a specific format until the story has been fully explored.
Step 1: Don’t hang about
It’s important to move quickly. In a climate of workforce reduction, there can always be a risk that the changing of the guard may occur.
Step 2: Request sign-off
Requesting sign-off at specific gates throughout the process ensures that everyone involved is happy with the final product. Even better, try and work in a small number of ‘soft sign-offs’ before the end so that the final sign-off runs even more smoothly.
A great customer success story can have such a huge impact for a B2B marketer. We hope our learnings help you increase the likelihood of your hard work getting signed off and circulating on your channels.