Customer Success Programs: Tools to Close Deals

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1 Customer Success Programs: Tools to Close Deals Integratedcreativecommunications

2 Integratedcreativecommunications contents: CUSTOMER SUCCESS LEADS TO MORE SUCCESS...4 SUCCESS PROGRAM BENEFITS...4 CENTRALIZED DATA IS ESSENTIAL FOR EFFECTIVENESS...5 THE 1 IN 10 RULE DEFINES PROGRAM SUCCESS...7 CONSTANT LEAD FLOW GETS COMPLETE COVERAGE...7 BEST PRACTICE: GET IT IN WRITING...7 TIPS FOR GETTING MORE CUSTOMERS TO SAY YES...8 REPURPOSING CONTENT MAXIMIZES IMPACT...8 THE TEST OF A GREAT SUCCESS STORY...9 KEEPING REFERENCES FRESH... 9 THE PROGRAM EVALUATION CHECKLIST CENTRALIZED MANAGEMENT BOOSTS EFFICIENCY METRICS MEASURE SUCCESS OUTSOURCING MAKES MARKETING MORE EFFICIENT... 11

3 FEW MARKETING PROGRAMS MATCH THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A COMPREHENSIVE CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAM. Just ask your sales reps. The stories told by successful customers overcome skepticism, shorten sales cycles, and help close deals. Despite these benefits, many companies struggle to maintain a customer success program. This white paper describes the best practices many leading technology companies use for their customer success programs lessons your company can leverage. CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 3

4 Customer success leads to more success First, be realistic. The people who matter most are busy just like you. Because thirdparty endorsements are instantly credible, well-crafted customer success content is the cornerstone of effective high-tech marketing. It compels new prospects to learn more and buy more. However, execution isn t automatic. Capable professionals, management time and direction, and extraordinary attention to detail are required to produce customer success content. Poor execution is the primary reason why companies have difficulty leveraging customer successes in their marketing efforts. Plus, willing customers are a limited resource talking with customers takes time and each reference customer can only take so many calls. But when a customer success program is thoroughly planned and run well, your company can efficiently build and maintain a library of customer-centric content case studies, quotes, press releases, podcasts, video testimonials, webinars, and more so sales reps can present several examples of customer success to prospects in the pipeline, and new prospects can learn about the success of others. To be most effective, the program design should align with business priorities and reflect how your company approaches geographies, industries, product lines, and customers of different sizes. Comprehensive customer success programs enable salespeople to spend more time selling and less time searching for the best supporting proof points for pitches, proposals, and events. This way, your sales reps can simply select the most relevant success stories for a given sales situation. Success program benefits Showcase the breadth of your success to attract new customers Produce customer success content for other marketing uses press releases, podcasts, video testimonials, animations, presentations, the Web site, advertising, and more Improve sales effectiveness by arming your reps with the most effective sales tool: customer success stories Provide widespread access to your best customer proof points Avoid burning out your best references with one-on-one calls Reserve access to key customers for those special situations where they are most needed CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 4

5 Centralized data is essential for effectiveness The central tool for organizing any customer success program is the customer success database. A single view of the customer is essential even for small success programs because multiple people will need to update or access the program information. And in large organizations, the customer success database is crucial. Too many requests from multiple departments can overwhelm and alienate your best customers. By funneling all requests through a centralized system, you can combine, prioritize, and schedule a limited number of interactions with the customer. This increases program efficiency and avoids customer burnout (Figure 1). Wins Data Entry Customer Success Story Qualification Success Interview & Writing Repurpose Database Success content stored in database for others to access Production Print PDF Web Flash Video Ads Book Figure 1. Overview of customer success program CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 5

6 Your customer success database should be searchable and include the following information: Customer background Short description of the business need and the solution Customer industry List of products or services involved Business partner or reseller involvement List of activities approved by the customer (accept a call from another customer, accept a call from the press, be included in a company presentation, and so on) Field person responsible for the account Last date that the customer was re-qualified Current status and upcoming milestones The customer success database (Figure 2) is the operational center of the customer success program. The effectiveness of the program hinges upon data integrity, timely updates, and completeness. Flawless execution prevents mismanaged customer relationships and missed opportunities. Success Stories by Industry Sales Influenced by Success Content Success Stories by Region 37% 13% 28% 15% 7% Internet Transportation Education Healthcare Banking and Finance Customer Success Database Figure 2. Customer success database reports and tracks program effectiveness Often, even basic information captured by sales force automation systems is incomplete or inaccurate and requires effort to correct and complete. Ultimately, having an accurate, up-to-date source of new customer wins and resulting program activities is a key driving factor behind program success. CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 6

7 The 1 in 10 rule defines program success Typically, only 1 in 10 customer story leads results in a published success story. Therefore, many new story leads need to be qualified to fuel even a modest success program. Customers fall out of these programs for a variety of reasons: Product or service problems may put a temporary hold on participation Organizational changes result in the original contacts moving on No one checked with the approvers before committing to the story; approvers can include the management chain above your contact as well as the PR, marketing, and legal departments An acquisition or merger may change your relationship with the customer Constant lead flow gets complete coverage Candidates for potential customer success stories come from a variety of sources. The recent win report from sales is the place to start, but additional lead generation is usually needed. If your company has a customer advisory board or pre-existing list of showcase accounts, you can proactively tap those customers for stories. For a particular segment that is underserved, you can also use targeted direct mail and marketing to generate more story leads from specific geographies, partners, or industries. As these leads arrive, the customer success program should qualify each one to assess the potential value of the story. This qualification step should answer a number of important questions, including: Does the story fit the program s coverage need for geography, product or service, industry, or company size? Does the customer have a recognizable brand? Is the customer willing to be published? Besides a success story, would the customer be suitable for a video? Is the story so compelling that it could become the basis of a great ad or Flash movie? Best practice: Get it in writing The attrition rate in success story programs can be limited by asking candidates to sign a written consent form before the interviews begin. The formality of written consent gives the customer a reason to check with those people who will ultimately approve the completed content. Getting approval before investing in the success story development process is critical to running a cost-effective success program. Some companies include a clause in their sales contracts that obligates the customer to participate in the success program once the deployment is complete. This is useful for getting the sales rep and customer thinking about the success story up front. CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 7

8 Tips for getting more customers to say yes : Include the success program clause in your standard sales contract Compensate your reps and business partners for helping get a success story completed Create program brochures that show the benefits of your success program to customers, partners, and salespeople Make the experience valuable to the customer find out how they would like to promote the project within their company or within their industry Make your customer look good for having participated in the success program Provide a framed copy of the completed success story for those customer employees who helped make the story happen (the plaque not only recognizes the value of the deployment but indicates your appreciation for the chance to tell the story) Offer other incentives to the customer besides the success story, you may generate more good will (and perhaps more sales) in return Repurposing content maximizes impact Once the customer agrees to participate in your program, you will have tapped into more than just a case study. Following the interview, the story, layout, and approval routing should follow quickly to maintain momentum for the project. And once approved, the success story will ideally be added to the customer s record in the customer success database, where it becomes the source for other uses because each success story should be viewed as the basis for other marketing content. Quotes appearing in success stories can be used in press releases, proposals, and advertisements and placed strategically throughout your Web site. These customer quotes can help substantiate your marketing claims and dramatically improve their impact. Results and business benefits uncovered by the content creation process can also strengthen white papers, direct mail pieces, and industry-specific solution briefs. Additionally, facts and figures revealed about the ROI of your products and services can be used in sales pitches and investor relations activities. CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 8

9 Ideally, these materials address the needs of specific steps in the sales cycle. For example: Testimonial-based ads and direct mail can generate new leads Web-based success stories, podcasts, Flash movies, and videos can add credibility when prospects first try to get a sense of your company and its products Printed success stories can be door openers and conversation starters for salespeople In-depth success stories can help customers adopt best practices for their deployments Webcasts can increase interest in new applications from existing customers (to help up-sell and cross-sell your installed base) Beyond generating materials, your customer success program should also provide opportunities for your most supportive and articulate customers to present their success to their peers. High-impact events can include conference calls, webinars, site visits, user group talks, and industry-wide conference keynote speeches. To avoid customer burnout, these activities should always be managed through the customer success database. The test of a great success story The use of technology makes a difference the bigger the impact, the better it ideally improves the position of the customer in the marketplace The writing is interesting, compelling, and most of all, informative The design is engaging to attract readers, and the photos and graphics are directly relevant to and reinforce the ideas described in the story The benefits are quantified, bringing the value of the product or service into focus The inescapable conclusion is, Wow, that s impressive. I want to do that, too! Keeping references fresh In the world of sales and marketing, nothing is more predictable than change. Customers who were once great references can quickly become less enthusiastic. That is why it is important to periodically validate your references. By including the date of last validation and the contact information for the person in charge of the customer relationship in the customer success database, all users can be assured of a positive viewpoint when they reference the customer. CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 9

10 The program evaluation checklist Do you have enough customers willing to participate? Are you generating leads and producing content in the highest-priority segments? Do customers back out before the story is approved? Are the stories engaging and compelling? Are you repurposing customer successes in multiple ways? Do you have success metrics for the program? Are you sure that all of your references are still valid? Are you replacing outdated stories with new ones? Are your sales reps and partners using the references or success stories, and have they been trained on how to use them? Centralized management boosts efficiency A single, centralized organization can help optimize cost-effectiveness and minimize the impact on customers. For many companies, this makes outsourced customer success management vital for reducing the amount of time and resources spent managing the program from end to end. Outsourced providers can begin by identifying and qualifying potential participants, and then schedule interviews, write and produce stories, and secure approvals from all involved. Metrics measure success Customer success programs should have built-in measurements to capture how their materials generate leads and shorten sales cycles. Techniques used to gather this data include reports from sales force automation systems, surveys of field salespeople, and Web tracking mechanisms. Useful metrics include: Coverage of key industries and product categories within the customer success database Use of customer success materials in marketing deliverables Materials used by salespeople to gain leads and close sales Number of downloads of materials Press and analyst coverage resulting from customer successes The ability to consistently meet milestones depends on the team having real-time access to the day-to-day activities of the program. In fact, selected information about program success and status should be readily available to stakeholders so they do not have to ask where their stories are in the process. Online access can also encourage constructive feedback that can strengthen the program. CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 10

11 Outsourcing makes marketing more efficient Outsourcing the legwork involved in success programs allows marketing departments to concentrate on strategy and direction instead of spending resources to develop tactics. As a result, many companies outsource customer success programs in the same way that they rely on vendors to deliver advertising and public relations services. The partner you choose must understand your broader marketing objectives and business goals, and operate the customer success program in lockstep with your priorities and strategy. What should you look for in an outsourced customer success management service? A track record of success with high-tech clients An understanding of your business Credibility in providing strategic direction, spotting repurposing opportunities, and infusing best practices End-to-end services, such as lead generation, qualification, all content production, and database management Examples of compelling writing and engaging design Real-time status reporting An understanding of the importance of measuring results If all these elements are in place, then you may well be ready to get the most sales mileage from one of your company s most important assets: your satisfied customers. For more information about custom publishing, customer reference programs, and other strategic marketing services, contact TDA Group at or visit us at CUSTOMER SUCCESS PROGRAMS: Tools to Close Deals 11

12 tda group 800 W. El Camino Real, Suite 380 Mountain View, California t f tdagroup.com

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