Customer Success? Tell Us a Story!

141103-O-ZZ999-002 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 3, 2014) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter conducts approaches the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) for an arrested landing. Two joint strike fighters are conducting a series of test aboard Nimitz. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Andy Wolfe/Released)

The Exponential Benefits of a Customer Success Story Program  

Top Gun instructors are famous for sharing engaging lessons with their fighter pilot students, often beginning each classroom session with a colorful tale of a successful dogfight or mission.

Business development professionals know as well that solid “success stories” or case studies can be powerful tools to establish trust and confidence with prospective new customers and clients. Many organizations, however, wait far too late in the customer lifecycle to begin creating a success story. This brief article will suggest a Success Story approach that begins even before the deal is closed with new customers.

A solid success story program can exceed well beyond the obvious role of sales enablement. Customer success stories can:

  • Create quantitative and qualitative documentation for your customers, validating their decision while enhancing the relationship and potential for further engagement
  • Improve the accountability and focus of implementation teams and account managers, setting the bar at a quantifiable achievement level with each new customer
  • Engage the marketing team in the entirety of the customer lifecycle, enhancing their insights into your marketplace and how the customer employs your products
  • Provide real time marketplace feedback to product development teams, creating strategic insights into existing and evolving product development
  • Demonstrate to customer prospects, during the buying cycle, that you are visualizing their personal success with your company’s help, and planning on the publication of that success

Creating a Success Story program can be relatively easy for most organizations, regardless of industry.

  1. Assign a marketing team member as Success Story Manager, with the role of leading and assisting in the creation and documentation of success with each new customer as early as possible in the sales cycle or implementation process. This person will work closely with the Account Manager and/or Implementation Team leader, supporting their success and accountability.
  2. Consider including your Success Story Manager in the buying/sales cycle with your prospective new customers, if or when appropriate. Leverage their role and your vision for “where we expect to be in x months” as part of your sales process.
  3. Determine the right performance metrics for which your customer is expecting improvement, and gather baseline information and data. Don’t be afraid to capture additional baseline data for which the customer may not be anticipating success. (you know what these may be)
  4. Hold “Year 1 Progress” update meetings with your team and key customer stakeholders several times during the first 12 months of the engagement.
  5. When expectations are met or exceeded, gain agreement on your mutual success and create the story. Edit, update or revise the story as often as necessary throughout the lifecycle of the relationship.

Proactively planning for Success Story creation will make the process much easier, and improve the quantity and quality of your documented and published customer accomplishments. In instances where success is difficult to measure or document, this approach will allow for an accurate accountability and understanding of where things may have gone wrong (a debrief opportunity), and how to remedy the problem with your products, people, or customer.

Smart Success Stories eventually blossom into even more benefits for suppliers and their customers: Published papers, symposium presentations, collaborative product/service development, strategic alliances and many more.

A strong Success Story program and culture could be the marketing strategy or tactic that takes your sales and industry reputation to the next level. It’s too easy and cost effective not to begin today!

Jack Liles flew combat missions in the Navy F-14 Tomcat after graduating from The Citadel, and successfully transitioned into a sales and marketing career following his naval service. He’s held leadership roles at the ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola, UPS, several start-up tech and consulting companies, and is an occasional military analyst on CNN. Jack is a Partner at TechCXO, an executive professional services firm that provides C-level leadership and consulting services for clients seeking accelerated growth and revenue. Reach Jack at


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