40 case studies in 2 weeks? Is that even possible? Jeff Robertson, Director of Marketing at NAVIS, takes the mic to reveal how they ramped up their case study output and achieved some seriously impressive results in an interview produced by Sweet Fish Media founder, James Carbary. Listen to the podcast here, or scroll down to read the (slightly) abridged transcript.
James Carbary – Today we’re going to be talking about this surefire method for quickly arming your sales team with customer successes. You play a huge role in collecting success stories so sales can close more deals and close them faster. Before we get into that, could you tell us what NAVIS is all about, and what you and your team are up to?
Jeff Robertson – NAVIS is a SaaS technology provider for the hospitality industry. We focus on two main verticals — hotels and resorts. We also professionally manage vacation rental companies. Our software and services are geared towards helping these entities convert more of the existing reservations demand that’s already coming into their property. We call our system a revenue performance platform and it really is that. It helps our clients generate quite a substantial amount of incremental revenue from the demand that’s already coming in.
JC – Can you describe the problem you were faced with?
JR – I think it’s a pretty common problem. We have a salesforce of about 18 people spread geographically in the US. I can’t tell you the number of times my team has fielded requests from our sales people asking for more client content. We’ve got a really robust program that puts together white papers, eBooks, blog posts, and social posts—all kinds of really good content that’s gotten us great traction. But meeting with existing clients, crafting their story, and presenting it in a way that’s meaningful to our sales people was a huge time suck.
As a result, we had a couple of really good case studies but they were few and far between, and they did not fully represent the growing portfolio of hotels, resorts, and vacation rental companies that we work with around the country. Marketing’s support was really lagging behind what our salesforce was needing.
Having been a former member of the sales team, I know how incredibly powerful it was to have those client stories in helping convince somewhat skeptical prospects to make this rather large investment in a partnership with NAVIS.
JC –The solution you ended up finding is incredible. I’d love to hear your journey to that.
JR – We found our solution almost accidentally. One of our other challenges was finding a good objective measure of client satisfaction. We decided to adopt the Net Promoter Score methodology of surveying our customers. The surveying we had done in the past was somewhat ad hoc. It had not been done in a very persistent and consistent way. So I was looking for a technology partner that could help us set up regular surveying of our clients, and in the process discovered a company by the name of TechValidate that certainly provides a really good surveying platform—but their approach was from the content creation perspective.
I had never heard of TechValidate before, and as I dove in, I realized that we could kill two birds with one stone here. We could deploy a survey solution that would help us address this customer testimonial, case study, reference challenge that our organization was facing. So while we ended up partnering with TechValdiate to survey and score our NPS (which we found to be incredibly positive and very meaningful for us as a company), along the way we’ve been able to generate a significant amount of client testimonial content. The biggest, most meaningful way was through these case studies.
With the first survey, in a matter of two weeks, we were able to auto-generate 40 case studies across our two industries and arm our sales people almost instantaneously with insights, client quotes, and quantifiable results—like ‘you’ve helped us improve our revenue by $2.5 million in the last year.’ That’s truly significant. It was an overnight success for us.
We were able to publish these case studies and distribute them to our sales force through Salesforce. They’ve got a great integration with Salesforce and we were able to auto-publish through that and put them in the hands of our sales people overnight. It was a huge success.
JC – So you guys were already in the rhythm of sending out an annual survey to each of your customers?
JR – We had sent an annual survey in the past, in a rather manual way. Part of our culture shift in moving from a start-up to reaching midsize is recognizing if we invest a little bit of money in partner technologies to be more efficient, we can also be more effective along the way. We were able to bridge that chasm and move to this area where we now send quarterly surveys. We only survey each client twice a year, so we’ve broken our database into two cohorts. The whole purpose behind that was to increase the frequency of fresh content creation. And now we publish on a quarterly basis, so the sales team feels like marketing truly has their back. We’re sending them fresh content each quarter and giving them new things to talk about with prospects who maybe are a little stubborn and aren’t coming to the table as quickly as they’d like.
JC – So you send out the survey with TechValidate, they respond, and then it’s totally turnkey in that it automatically turns it into the asset your sales team needs? Or is there some kind of massaging and editing that needs to happen from marketing?
JR – TechValidate helps automate much of the process, but we do maintain some level of control – which I prefer – over the branding, over the exact wording of some of the various content assets. What’s really important is that you phrase your questions in a way that’s going to enable the outcome to be very usable from a sales and marketing standpoint. Part of the service from TechValidate is time with one of their Customer Success Managers, who review the survey to make sure after it’s been fielded—and your clients and customers respond—that you get some really usable content.
That content can be in the form of a case study, which in their system requires you ask three different types of questions. Much like any case study, you want to identify the challenge, the solution and the channels/methods of how they went about doing that, and ultimately the result. It’s really cool, you can denote each type of question as one of those three required to auto-publish these case studies. Their system will automatically pull those together and then as a marketing team we review those assets and correct any spelling or grammar mistakes (they pull directly from the survey and sometimes it’s just not completely perfect). We maintain that control over it, and then correct it, publish it, and then it gets hosted publicly by TechValidate in the form of an asset we can use.
One of the things TechValidate brings to us, particularly with skeptical prospects, is validation that these are comments or feedback directly from our client base and not from an overzealous sales person or marketing team that may be stretching the truth a little. They provide that level of validation and assign each asset a unique identifier that we can then use in our marketing to help make the proof point even more salient and more believable in our marketing.
JC – When your customers fill out this form, do they know that it’s going to be used as a public asset? Is that something they check off on?
JR – Yeah, exactly. One of the other benefits of this was being able to quantify the number of client references and those that were securing their permission to sign their name to their comments. This survey automates the collection of that permission, if you will. So rather than with each comment having to work through an account manager and calling the account, getting a quote, and sending them a form to solicit their permission – all of that’s done right in that 10 question survey. We even ask, and it’s a standard part of the TechValidate questionnaire, ‘are you willing to serve as a reference?’ If they check yes, it asks them to select the different ways. Are they willing to talk to the media? Are they willing to be interviewed by an analyst? Are they willing to be filmed and be on video around a case study?
In our first study, we were able to quickly identify 77 of our clients who raised their hand and gave us permission to use them as a reference. And we had another 55 on top of those who gave us permission to attribute their comments to their name and their company.
Just quickly, overnight, a way to collect, collate, compile and create a library of all of these wonderful comments that our sales people could use at the various stages of their lifecycle.
JC – Say that number again—the last survey yielded 40 of these assets?
JR – That was just the case studies, which are much more involved and detailed. We were able to publish 40 case studies in the first two weeks after fielding our survey. That was to about 2,500 people. So we’ve had about a 20% response rate to our surveys overall, which we feel really good about. We have a raving fan base of clients, which the company’s worked really hard to cultivate over the years through our high-touch service in addition to this great technology. We have an NPS of +41 right now, which is excellent.
Seeing this, it’s a wonderful asset as a marketer to really tap into that interest in helping us be successful, and the TechValidate platform has just been awesome. It’s not cheap, it was kind of a big hump for us to get used to writing a check for that amount each month, but oh my god has it helped us become so much more efficient and helped us advance the volume of content that our sales people can use more effectively to close more business.