Customer testimonials have become the “holy grail” of marketing content. According to the 2018 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends survey report, 73% of the respondents use customer case studies as part of their content marketing strategy, second only to social media posts. Case studies were also rated as the second most effective B2B marketing content, next to eBooks and white papers. And customer testimonials are not just about good will, they drive value you can take to the bank, with 92% of B2B buyers being more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review.

Most of you already know that gaining quality customer testimonials can be extremely difficult. However, a well-planned strategy for effectively capturing and enthusiastically conveying your customers’ successes can make all the difference

Here are three best practices for uncovering the gems that will allow your customers to shine as leaders in their fields, and highlight how your contributions helped get them there.

Choose the Perfect Moment

It’s only natural to want to “ring the bell” and immediately announce closing your latest customer sale. However, that does not mean it’s the best time to share your collective story with the world. It’s often best to wait for the dust to settle and get your new customer solution into production before expending precious time creating a customer testimonial. Many times, a customer deployment may get off and running, only to come to a screeching halt when something goes wrong, also putting your customer testimonial plans on hold.

Giving your customers a good three months to see how indispensable your solution is to their success is time well spent. At the same time, giving customers a heads up that you would like to work with them to produce a testimonial strategy that both your companies can leverage is always a sound idea. It also allows you to capture the tangible business results you are providing the customer in measurable ways. Nothing says, “mission accomplished,” like hard metrics on actual revenue gains or a lower total cost of ownership!

Offer Freedom of Choice

Numerous customer “asks” can give most account executives cold feet, resulting in their refusal to work with marketing to secure customer testimonials. This is why we recommend using a menu-style strategy that provides multiple options for marketing content. We find that sales reps and customers often feel more comfortable hopping onto this step-by-step approach. Offer choices such as a customer-to-prospect referral, case study or a professionally-produced video. You may find that some customers will balk at doing a press release, especially if they are a public company, but are more than happy to co-author a joint blog post about your collective achievements. The main point is to show a progression of marketing content assets that you can both make the most of over time.

Key safety tip: Many B2B firms are eager to follow the huge success experienced by B2C companies with customer videos and want to delve right into developing one as the first customer asset. We highly recommend including customer videos in your strategy. But first, get the full story from your customer in a more relaxed, informal discussion, without the pressure or expense of trying to make a good impression in front of the camera.

Ask the Right People the Right Questions First

Prior to compiling any questions, first go to the customer’s website. Dive into its customer and partner testimonials to fully understand how they prefer to message and market their solutions and business value. And if there is a co-selling or reseller partner that helped your company make the sale, do the same. The more you know up front about their marketing agenda, the more you’ll build trust and gain the insights you need in your discovery calls with the customer.

The next step is to get as much information as possible about the customer from the people who made the deal happen. This could involve setting up discovery calls with your internal account team members (both business and technical), business development organization and/or co-selling partners. Any information you gain from those folks about the customer’s business goals, challenges and the ultimate solution will help you develop the right questions for the customer. This is essential to give you what you need to steer the customer conversation toward the specific benefit and value metrics that go into a winning customer testimonial.

Next, develop questions for an interview with the sales/account team and any partners that participated in the sale to the customer. Then develop your customer questions. The goal is to hear both sides of the story:

The main thing to remember when interviewing your customers is that there are hidden gems in their answers that you need to uncover. For example, if you are a technology company and a customer tells you that their organization improved the performance of its product or service delivery, dig deeper to find out how your company helped the customer do that. Did your solution help the customer reduce application response time? Did you enable your customer to delivery greater business continuity or disaster recovery? Or did you help resolve a security issue that was plaguing your customer’s ability to protect its company’s or customers’ data, or maintain compliance? Always remember that there may be at least two or three answers to a single question.

Once you have the right information you can plan out how to present it in various marketing content with your customer’s prior approval. And if a video is on deck next, then your customer will have already been through a successful “dress rehearsal.”

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