Marketing, as we know, is a demand generation tool. It’s an offshoot of the sales function, or it is bigger, wider and more important than sales – depending on which side of the fence you are on.
Whilst marketing is often used to generate leads or acquire clients, what is mentioned less is the value that marketing can play as a relationship equity builder.
So what do I mean when I say relationship equity builder? Building equity into a client relationship is all about making the relationship stronger by putting in place good partnership foundations and growing trust and reliability as a supplier.
Account management can be harnessed for so much more than just generating new sales and managing the sales process with the customer. Many companies, in a bid to generate more and more sales, have lost sight of the fact that account management’s primary function is to build collaborative customer relationships.
I wanted to focus in more detail about how a marketing activity, such as a case study in this instance, can have a wider beneficial impact on the vendor and buyer than purely ‘generating new business leads’.
When approaching a marketing activity, we like to think about how much value we can extract for both us as the vendor, and also for the client. So we ask ourselves questions like, ‘What will make it matter for the customer?’ and ‘How could we make this activity of more direct value to the customer by tweaking or changing what we are doing?’
We believe that if we can work on a marketing activity collaboratively with a customer, in a way that benefits them as much if not more than us, then we are building a stronger relationship with the client in the process. The marketing activity in itself helps to foster a better relationship between us and the client, and we are also able in some way to add more value to the client’s business, over and above the product or service we are already supplying.
This mentality can seem quite ‘twee’ and cliché but actually in practice, it works and makes sense. Rather than a case study being an area of negotiation (“I’ll reduce my price if you sign up to a case study” etc), it is instead an added extra benefit to the service we are providing.
On the customer’s side, they receive the benefit of a marketing machine that they don’t have to pay for – which is the vendor’s marketing efforts in creating, promoting and sharing their case study. This is free publicity for the customer – and in a world where organisations are paying small fortunes to improve their SEO ranking or brand awareness, then can good quality, favourable publicity ever be anything other than positive?
Providing the vendor is either of a scale or position of expertise to put the client in a good light if any case study is published, collaborating on the marketing activity is almost as beneficial to the client as the vendor.
Beyond marketing – value for client
A case study gives vendors the opportunity to exhibit their best work, and written in the right way, provides recognition for the customer at both a personal job role level and at an organisational level. It is a way of demonstrating that they, the customer, are a company that is growing, investing and actively engaging with best of breed vendors to deliver better services. They are working with a supplier to improve what they currently do – they want to continue flexing and transforming to be more successful. This is a great message for the client – who doesn’t want to be seen as a successful company with big ambitions?
A case study enables organisations to differentiate themselves from those competitors who are standing still, who aren’t making changes and who are not promoting their business to the media in a meaningful and interesting way that attracts readers and new prospects.
The case study also provides the customer with free content that they can use for their own marketing efforts, whether that’s PR or content for blog posts and articles.
Additionally, a detailed case study can generate peer recognition from other organisations who are facing similar issues but unsure about which direction to take.
Perhaps most importantly, the act of researching, interviewing for and writing a case study makes the customer feel valued, as the vendor has invested time and money into creating a case study and marketing it effectively. The process encourages collaboration and allows the vendor the opportunity to find out just how the customer feels about the service that they currently provide. The client is also more likely to work with the vendor again in the future; after all, they have nailed their colours to the mast of sorts, and so obviously value the relationship strongly enough to be public in their approval of the vendor’s service.
For the vendor, the benefits are more obvious. Of course, it is great PR and the content can be used across all of their campaigns and marketing vehicles; from newsletters, e-shots and blogs through to events, video and thought leadership activities.
Case studies enable vendors to develop a reputation for delivering services into a certain sector, and creating the case study hopefully allows the vendor to become deeply knowledgeable about the impact of the sold solution on a client’s business, both the direct and indirect impact which probably weren’t clear pre-installation.
This type of mutually beneficial marketing can apply to other areas – such as the creation of whitepapers which can become a collaborative exercise between your most valued clients, and your blog posts which can be peppered with insights from customers.
Maybe in the future we will see more marketing efforts where the customer and vendor jointly engage on marketing activities; not just to promote the vendor’s product or showcase their product in use, but to drive the customer’s marketing and business generation activities; which in turn aids the vendor and invests more relationship equity into the partnership.