Lead Generation 1 Comment

How to Leverage Word of Mouth in a Global Marketplace

Greg Poirier

December 5th, 2016

The power of testimonials, case studies, and client videos

CloudKettle is a boutique consultancy and we spend a lot of time working with clients on how to improve sales. The mix of methods depends on the customer of course, but one way that works consistently for both ourselves and our clients is word of mouth. In our case, leads generated by referrals have generated 76% of our 2016 revenue. The second largest contributor is speaking engagements at 15%, leaving only 9% of sales being generated by organic search, social media and paid advertising.

While looking at these numbers, it’s important to note that this isn’t reflective of our sales funnel. Like many of our clients, disproportionately our leads come from organic search, then paid advertising and social efforts, then speaking engagements, with referrals at the bottom of the list.

Intuitively this makes sense, but it’s more powerful when you break out the numbers. Referrals close at a much higher rate, are worth more in ARR and convert into customers more quickly than any other source of leads.

How to turn Current Clients into new Leads:

So what does this have to do with testimonials, case studies and client videos? Well, buyers have become increasingly cynical and no longer put as much stock in your salespeople or website as you wish they did. Often they need some sort of third party validation; particularly when engaged in a long, complex sales cycle.

If you are a young organization or scaling quickly, you won’t have enough referrals to base your business on. However, you can get great testimonials, case studies and customer stories – which is the next best thing. They are in essence, a proxy for referrals.

Why Testimonials Matter

CloudKettle is a company of quants – we like to analyze everything about our Sales process. One thing we’ve dug in on is how our potential clients treat our proposals and quotes. Using Proposify we can see how many minutes and seconds are spent on each section of every proposal we send out. The results initially surprised us.

We’d like to believe that potential clients spend their time pouring over every line of the Overview, Goals and Scope we so carefully write. However, what we now know is, many only peruse those sections. Instead, on a per page basis, they disproportionately spend time reading the Testimonials section.

Before putting pen to paper (or e-signature in our case), people want an extra piece of reassurance. For that reason, we’ve peppered key pages on our site with testimonials and even have a whole page dedicated to them, which we feature in the top level navigation.

Often we are engaged by potential clients who aren’t in the same city as us and have yet to meet us before they sign off on our first project. Testimonials provide those potential clients that reassurance that they “aren’t the first” and demonstrate our history of expertise.

How to get Testimonials

Work them into your contract

Some larger clients may redline these sections out, which is fine, but most won’t. At the end of the day, permission for testimonial and logo usage should be included in every proposal you send. Obviously you still need to wow the client and then ask them to provide a quote – but this covers what’s often your biggest hurdle: legal.

Be proactive

When we ask most clients why they don’t have more testimonials, the answer is quite simply their customers aren’t providing them. Meaning, customers aren’t phoning them up and offering amazing quotes.

If you want testimonials (and you should) you need to request them. Obviously it’s important to be courteous, but if you’ve done a great job, there is no shame in asking for a referral. This should be done on a call or in person, with a follow up email after you make the ask.

In addition to a quote, we also request a high quality version of their logo with a transparent background and a headshot (we often offer to use their LinkedIn headshot – this is what most people end up doing anyways). A quote is powerful. A quote with a headshot makes a person “more real.” The logo is the icing on the cake.

When requesting a quote and logo, be sure to notify the client where this will appear – ensure they’re never surprised. At a minimum, request permission to use their testimonial and headshot in your proposals, website and printed collateral like product one sheets.

Timing is everything

The request needs to be made while the client is still actively engaged with you, but a project has been completed. If you wait too long it seems like an afterthought. Ask too early and you are requesting they provide feedback on something they can’t give context to.

Do a good job

Don’t take on project you can’t do an amazing job at. There is a fine line between running an organization at capacity and taking on more work than you can execute on. There is also a fine line between taking on a stretch client and taking on one that you can’t possibly service properly. Don’t be greedy.

Serve your clients well and they’ll be happy to advocate for you and help grow your business. You’ll know you’ve hit your stride when they start referring new business to you.

Case Studies

How to ask

Begin by introducing the idea of a case study in terms of how progressive a client they have been, how well their project went, and how perfect that project would be to feature in a case study. In short, make it about them and make them the hero. Yes, you are going to benefit from it. But focusing on a use case that demonstrates your client’s success is going to make them happier and produce a story that is more likely to resonate with a potential client.

What to write about

The most common mistake we see companies make when producing case studies is to make them too broad. Choose opportunities to highlight a very specific success. Explain how it was done and demonstrate quantifiable execution. Don’t approach a case study as needing to be so broad it applies to every possible prospect you may ever have. Instead show how a very distinct success was accomplished and celebrate your client’s success, not your own.

General rules for case studies

There is a fairly well known structure for case studies and you can find templates to help online. At its heart though, the case study should follow the formula of Problem, Solution, then Results.

  • Problem – Be specific about the challenge or goal.
  • Solution – Discuss how and why your product/approach worked.
  • Results – Specific metrics: time, cost, improve/reduce.

When writing all of this, be specific. Talk about the problem that was solved or the opportunity that was created. Describe how success was achieved and offer metrics and quotes to support your case.

Client Videos

Client videos are a powerful medium and they don’t have to be expensive. In your earliest stages, they can be as simple as someone using a high quality smart phone camera. The key is to make sure you have great lighting and the audio is clear. Most other things can be fixed with some creative editing.

Keep it short and to the point. While you might interview a client for 30 minutes (be sure to provide questions in advance), the finished product might be as short as two minutes. If you are lucky, there are also key quotes that can be highlighted in a composite video outlining multiple clients.

Wrap Up

Videos, testimonials and case studies often get shortchanged because they aren’t seen as lead generation tools. However, when used effectively they are extremely powerful at enabling sales. Once you have a lead convinced they have a problem, you need to start selling them on the fact that  your organization is the credible solution to their problem. Videos, Case Studies and Testimonials are how you do that.

About the author

Greg Poirier

Greg Poirier is president of CloudKettle, a company that specializes in scaling Sales, Marketing & Customer Success for B2B SaaS Companies. A former manager at Radian6 (acquired by Salesforce) and executive at two other startups, Greg's also a sought after speaker at Accelerators and Incubators.

  • Word of mouth allows you to turn existing clients into new lead opportunities. If you know that your customers love your product or service, they’ll naturally want to share it with those in their circles. This presents new opportunities for you.

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