Incorporate your customer’s customer’s experience in your B2B case studies

May 13, 2010

When I was writing my last post – where I encouraged my B2B readers to incorporate their customer’s customer’s experiences in their development and commercialization efforts – I had an interesting “a-ha” on a place to do this: namely building them into the customer/client case studies that we B2B companies (yes, PDC fits here) develop as marketing materials. We all write these success stories to use with our direct customers and prospects and routinely post them on our websites, include them in the brochures we stack on tables at trade shows and conference booths and publish them in trade journals. There are even case-study writing white papers and books to tell us how to put them together.

But most B2B companies (PDC included again) usually don’t do this in any systematic way. As a data point I checked out a bunch of stories on the Fujitsu US website to see how they did. (If you read my last post you’ll remember that I highlighted them as a company committing major resources to understanding the needs of their customer’s customer.)  Well I found only a handful that mentioned the customer’s customer’s experience in any meaningful way and the ones that did it was more of an aside rather than being at the heart of the write-up.

Yet there are companies that do this routinely and do it well. In particular I ran across what I consider a “best-practice” example in a company called Zebra Technologies. (Zebra makes a range of portable bar-code tracking devices and printers.) The case-study I read that really stuck out was of Zebra’s work with the Vail ski resort and was all about how they helped the resort improve the on-slope experience of their skiing customers. The skier’s experience improvement being targeted was woven throughout the Zebra Vail story but most impactfully the case-study concluded with a quote from Zebra’s direct customer (Vail’s senior IT director) on how Zebra’s offerings helped him win with his resort’s customers:

“It’s been a home run [with our skiers]. Families with children don’t have to unzip their jackets or drop poles to scan passes.” Shenberger said. “We positively changed the dynamic of how ski resorts interact with guests – and more importantly, we gave our guests a way to focus on why they’re visiting our resorts – the experience, the epic skiing and the scenic beauty of the mountains – rather than on the scanning [process to get on the lift] and the lift validation process.”

There are two plusses I see from us B2B companies doing this routinely. First is that it can significantly improve the impact of our case-studies on our direct customers and prospects by showing them how we are able to help them win with their customers. And second it will force us to more fully understand what we are doing to impact our customer’s customer (otherwise we won’t be able to meaningfully write the case study) and so will help us see where we might improve.

My challenge to you B2B readers (and one that I am going to work on myself here at PDC) is to see if you can meet the Zebra standard.

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