Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Make your case studies FABulous

Things go in cycles, the cuts in marketing budgets caused by the recession have had a positive impact in as much as large organisations are thinking about value as opposed to volume (believe me, as a creative and a businessman there is nothing more depressing than being measured by the number if items you deliver for a client, it's like creating case studies by the gallon/square mile/cubic metre and not a smart business strategy long-term).

So what IS value when it comes to case studies?I don't mean cost. I reckon value = great stories that meet a genuine need from prospective clients, making our client's solutions real in a way no amount of marketing bumph ever could (fifteen genuine words from a happy customer must be worth 100 words of messaging, feeds and speeds).

This also means maybe NOT doing so many, or doing them later (when there are benefits to talk about).

Quantifiable benefits...hmmm

The fact is that anyone creating case studies for global organisations will be aware of the drive for metrics with everything (I like fries with everything but that's another story).

Do you know how to be FAB?

  • Feature
  • Advantage
  • Benefit
I never ceased to be amazed how many good marketers get confused about this; we all learnt it, maybe we forgot so here's recap:

Features provide Advantages, Advantages provide Benefits.

  • Feature - The Reference Geeks blog is online
  • Advantage - This allows you to access it from any Internet-enabled device, anywhere
  • Benefit - Which means that no matter where you are, if you read it you can stun your boss with your customer reference knowledge and gain the promotion you have always dreamed of (OK I'm dreaming here)
The benefit statement is the WIIFY (what's in it for me?) and once you start to think this way you will be amazed how rarely you see marketing that really nails this, people seem to get stuck at the Advantage stage (describing the features).

Of course you know this stuff, my next blog post is about sucking eggs...

Just for fun though, go back and read the last case study summary you wrote and see if it was as FAB as it could have been.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Webinars for beginners

We hosted our first customer reference pros webinar today. A really interesting experience as it's the first time we've set one up from scratch (we normally do these for clients using their infrastructure and support). The content and presenting was good, as was the turnout (39 folks from all over the globe) which was great and it was a learning experience for everyone, not least of all for me.

I learned:
  1. Even though it's a pain to have to register for an event, avoiding this step is not the right strategy long term. Better to make it as easy as possible and do all you can to ensure folks realise you won't spam them.
  2. Test the technology. We had a line drop a few mins into the event however we had tested earlier and so could carry on with just a moment of hesitation. Having 39 of your peers on the line certainly focuses the mind!
  3. Ensure people that ask questions state their names first (oops).Maybe use a 'hands-up' process or questions via email
  4. No matter how many ways and times you state the dial-in and code there will always be a few people that cannot see it. Have email support running during the event, on another laptop and run by another team member. 
I'm looking forward to gettting the replay online tomorrow and to doing the next one!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Out and About

It's been a really interesting couple of weeks; I've been lucky enough to work with some international marketing students, had dinner with another 17 Customer Reference Pros and also met a few other new people, including a specialist AR consulting company, an English freelancer in France and a very smart Spanish reference pro in England.

What have I learnt?

  • B2B marketing is not really covered by Degree courses, probably as its not as sexy as consumer
  • Think not just about what your customers may say to analysts, but how responsive they are (does it take ten phone calls to get hold of them? the analysts will give up before this point)
  • Marketing students can get enthused about what we do and see the value of advocacy very quickly
  • Before taking a film crew up a mountain check the customer actually uses your product
  • Automated Voice Recognition is being deployed to get reference content from salespeople
  • Online communities need a critical mass and nurturing. Just build it and they probably won't come
I've also been organising a series of six customer reference pro webinars, a first for me so fingers crossed the technology works!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Socially irresponsible!

Three years ago I saw Jeremiah Owyang and Ben McConnell speak about new tools becoming available and how the new fangled ‘social media’ and ‘citizen marketers’ were going to change customer advocacy. Forever.

They each spoke of a connected world where genuine peer opinion was still equally or more valid and influential than carefully-crafted PR, the difference was that this online opinion would shout louder and have more impact than any marketing we were currently doing.
This stuff would change what we do and how we thought about customer advocates. A seminal moment.

For me this was the first time I’d truly seen the connection between the ethereal world of the web and the day-to-day existence of the customer reference professional. Not everyone agreed and some did not want to agree as they could see the impact.

Three years later...I am annoyed about how things are working out. I'm optimistic too, even wondering if we should even consider giving marketing money away to another part of the the organisation...you can read it here

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Oracle case study test

At least this is how I remember it (I told someone today that it was Adobe, sorry I now stand corrected).

During a presentation at the Customer Reference Forum in March this statement was so good it's been at the back of my mind ever since.

It went something like:

“When you are deciding whether to publish a case study, if you remove your company and product names, insert those of your competitors and the case study still makes sense then you have not highlighted what makes your company or products different.”

Food for thought.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Doing the big stuff in a 'need it now' world

How do you find time to concentrate on the important as opposed the immediate?

Allocating time for thought and creativity is something that does not easily fit a standard business plan or weekly agenda when there is always going to be more 'need it now' than you can manage.

This year is a case in point: it's March already, how did that happen? A lot achieved (interesting client work, a research project, team growth, new clients, masses of planning and our 2010 Customer Reference Forum involvement) yet five or six of around ten important long-term development projects are waiting for action.

I'm sure it's the same for you, the issue is that some of these projects are the self-created 'what-if's that no-one is going to chase yet these are the ones with the capacity to change everything.

There is a lot of 'need it now' that is not real; sometimes deadlines are ridiculous due to poor planning, other times we put pressure on ourselves by over promising and sometimes the 'need it now' is simply not real.

I'm making rest of March about the big stuff, the long-term, the potential game-changers. They may be sitting on the 'hard pile' but these projects are the art and the fun as well as long-term business and career critical.

Do you have some 'big stuff' ideas and projects just like this? We need to get into the routine of allocating big-stuff time in a 'need it now' world.

Monday, 4 January 2010

New Year, new philosophy, new Godin's Linchpin

2010 finds this reference geek back in a newly-organised office, no idea of the feng shui impact but the room seems to flow much better than before. I'm really excited about the possibilities for this year and reckon it's going to be a breakthrough year on many levels both professional and personal.

With this in mind I've just finished reading the advance 62 pages of Seth's new book, Linchpin; exactly the right thoughts and energy for taking a new year head-on.


Can't wait for the full book to be available in the UK.