No Case Studies? No References? 7 reasons not to blame marketing

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If you are in marketing, sales or customer success, the term ‘case study’ is likely to generate some definite opinions, which may or may not be accompanied by finger-pointing (and let’s be honest, it’s mostly at marketing). It’s something that plagues nearly every company, big and small, and becomes especially acute at certain phases of the customer acquisition cycle – awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchase… well, when you think of it that way, it’s really all of it.

The frustration and finger-pointing that typically occurs (raise your hand if you’ve experienced this) is caused by a lack of clear lines of delineation of roles and responsibilities, an inconsistent process, lack of resources and/or misalignment across departments.

So, who is responsible for customer advocacy (in general) and customer advocates (specifically)? Marketing is an obvious answer because it is tasked with the development and dissemination of case studies. And, what happens when sales need a case study, reference, or any other proof point? They turn to marketing and if marketing does not have fresh, relevant or compelling case studies the frustration begins. Any guesses as to what happens if this happens enough times? (Hint: it’s not good).

Here’s the thing: marketing can’t produce case studies (or references or referrals) unless happy and successful customers agree to tell their story.

And a happy and successful customer is shaped by the entirety of their experience – from sales to implementation to support to results to scaling. If any one of these is anything less than a B grade, the odds are long for a case study, etc. Marketing alone can’t make that happen.

Below are seven considerations why case studies, reference, referrals and other “voice of the customer” content may be in short supply:

  • The product (or service) doesn’t work or does not meet expectations
  • The actual customer experience (once the ink is dry) does not measure up to the sales experience
  • Adoption is low and leads to a low ROI
  • Lack of coordinated and consistent process across customer lifecycle to cultivate happy customers willing to share their story
  • The implementation is painful
  • Lack of customer communication and feedback loop
  • Customer support isn’t trained or equipped to cultivate long-term relationships that yield voice of the customer – the company may not yet have made the jump from Customer Service (a transactional mindset) to Customer Success (a relationship mindset).

So, back to the million-dollar question: who is responsible for customer advocacy? The short answer is: Everyone.

If the customer experience falters at any stage, then the much-needed case study or reference is compromised. And unless the rest of the experience is so stellar that it washes away the bad, it’s unlikely you’ll have an advocate at the end.

What does this mean? That everyone is on the hook to create a great customer experience that leads to advocacy. Product can’t do it alone, nor can Customer Success, nor marketing nor sales. It’s a team play.

With so many groups busy focusing on their own thing, there are two critical components necessary to provide a steady stream of case studies and references:

  • A cultural commitment and focus on the customer.This comes from the very tippy-top (yep, the CEO) and must be organically woven into everything the company does if it is to be sustainable. It becomes part of the DNA and how you do what you do. Otherwise, it begins to fall apart at some point in the lifecycle. It doesn’t matter where the fraying is, if there is a weak link then you can say goodbye to case studies.
  • A process to ensure happy customers turn in to more happy customers. Advocacy starts in the sales and negotiation process and continues through implementation and adoption, where Customer Success becomes an extension of both sales and marketing. Each step of the Customer Journey has an important role in Customer Advocacy that should be well defined and documented and becomes part of how you do what you do.
  • A designated “owner.” While everyone is responsible and accountable for customer advocacy – which is really an amalgamation of product, services, customer success, marketing, and sales – there has to be an “owner” – a point person coordinating the process so that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. There are times it makes sense for marketing to take the lead and others where it is a natural extension of Customer Success. The reality is that growth companies may not yet have made the jump from Customer Service (a transactional mindset) to Customer Success (a relationship mindset), which likely means advocacy falls under marketing as a Voice of the Customer effort. The point is this: a ringleader is required and who takes that role depends upon the company stage and structure.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: developing customer advocacy isn’t difficult, but it does take some focus. Most companies want to get to a place where they have a steady stream of case studies and references but don’t have the time or resources. The good news is there is help readily available; you just need to ask for it.