My post today is about the relationships between customers and vendors and between alliance partners, using an analogy of the dynamic duo – Batman & Robin.
Customers & Vendors: I find that often when I talk to a new client about increasing the value of their success stories, there’s an initial tendency for them to want to be the main superhero in each case study. Essentially, the client wants to be Batman and they want their customers to play the lesser role of Robin. In some ways it makes sense, as a key goal of any good success story is to paint the client’s product or service in a very positive light. That said, I think it’s a short-sighted approach because when you think about the prospects - the target audience for the success story - they all see themselves – and thus the customers they want to relate to - as Batman.
From the prospect’s perspective, the featured customer is the one who recognized their company had a problem. The customer discovered or chose our client’s offering as the solution that most closely matched what they needed. And the customer is the one who oversaw the implementation, got the internal buy-in required, directed his or her own employees, ensured our client did a good job, coordinated the training, etc. To get a prospect to truly relate to a success story, the customer highlighted has to be placed firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to the Batmobile. It may take awhile to get over it, but as the provider, it’s better to be Robin in this case. It’s still an extremely worthwhile role.
Alliance Partners: When it comes to partners, in many instances it’s probably safe to assume that both parties in any alliance feel that they play the role of Batman. “They need us more than we need them” is not an atypical perspective, particularly for individuals who are not directly involved in managing the alliance itself. While that may actually be the case, it not likely the best approach to creating a productive alliance. If the alliance actually has strategic value for both companies, then each of them has the stronger role in at least one aspect of the alliance.
So, my key points are:
1. In a customer success story, it’s best to capture the story such that the customer plays the lead role in driving the solution. Take the credit where it’s deserved but recognize that your company’s offering was part of a larger solution that the customer was responsible for.
2. In an alliance, keep an eye out for instances where individuals at your company or your alliance partner are making assumptions about their higher level of importance to the success of an alliance and consider what effect that may be having on the alliance itself.