Certain things you never want to hear from people. When a sales manager explained to me, “I’m a numbers guy and judge a lot from the dollar results I see,” I knew I was in for harangue about my poor performance. And when a boss asked me, “How can I help you,” I could see that this was the kiss of death in our relationship.
When you are managing and creating customer evidence, you never want to hear a customer ask, “What’s in it for me?” Sure, you can try to answer the question. If your brand is strong, customers might like to be associated with it. They might enjoy telling their story and seeing it published. Although, if that were the case, they probably would have thought of it themselves. If you hear this question, you are likely talking to the wrong person at a bad time.
I have managed a lot of evidence projects and written many case studies myself, as you can see in my portfolio. If customers don’t feel so enthusiastic about your product or service that they will gladly offer to support a case study, a video, or whatever it is you want to produce, they should not be in your evidence program. More often than not, the projects will fail. They never really get off the ground, stall in reviews, or the customers will have so many change requests that the result is watered-down and worthless. Really, you only want to produce evidence with customers who would never even think to ask, “What’s in it for me?”
I know life isn’t really like that. Too many evidence managers are under pressure from their bosses, the marketing group, or the sales organization to produce a certain number of case studies, videos, podcasts, or what-have-you, often within a short timeframe. They get barely qualified evidence leads from the field or the channel partners. They may not have time to have an in-depth conversation with the customers, who don’t always know what to expect. Then it’s time for the case study writer or video producer to start working, and there is the question you don’t want to hear. Consider the project over. Find a graceful way to let it go without making the customer feel bothered and bewildered.
Companies spend many millions of dollars on producing customer evidence that doesn’t pay off because the results are just not all that interesting, credible, or fun to read and watch. Some enterprises make participation in evidence projects part of the sales contract, but that does not necessarily mean the outcome is any better. It’s just more difficult for the customer to turn down a request.
You really want evidence only from those customers who see so much value in your offerings and the relationship with your company that they will love you for asking them to support an evidence project and can’t wait to meet with your case study writers or video producers. It’s much better to have one or two credible, enjoyable evidence pieces than a dozen that lack strong proof points or sound like PR releases. If you’re an evidence manager, your job satisfaction will go way up. The customers will be even happier than before. And your company saves the exorbitant costs of producing poor evidence.
It’s not a dream, is it? We’ll talk more.
One response to “Qualifying evidence customers: When the love isn’t there”
Having been the evidence manager on many of your projects Chris, I have to agree with much of this perspective. I do try to focus on the rare gem that will occasionally nose it’s way to the surface through the process of uncovering a great story and great product advocate.