It’s a safe bet that you’re familiar with Gartner’s hype cycle.
Originally used to depict the relative maturity of emerging technologies, its beauty is its ability to be applied to almost anything – even beyond technology.
One excellent example I learned from Will Gardiner at UK tech-PR firm CCgroup is how the hype cycle can be applied to the customer journey, and how it can help your marketing team to understand the best point in time to request a press release, case study or any other type of advocacy piece from a client.
The customer journey and the hype cycle
Consider how your customer journey maps to the hype cycle. The customer has a trigger; something that compels him to find a solution. He progresses through your sales cycle on an upward journey, being convinced at every stage by your sales team that your solution is a panacea to his problems. He reaches the peak of inflated expectations and signs.
What happens next is unfortunately all too common.
Missed delivery milestones, integrations that don’t run as smoothly as promised, and promised features that are still in Beta. At this stage, either the customer’s confidence plummets or he rallies internal support to save face. Either way, he’s heading for the trough of disillusionment.
Of course the outcome is generally favorable. Problems are overcome and the customer reaches the eventual plateau of productivity.
When to engage
Now, consider when your marketing team (or PR agency) typically engages with the customer to ask for a press release. I’m willing to bet that in 99% of cases it’s 2-8 weeks after contracts have been signed.
At first glance this makes sense; but have you ever noticed how press release requests made at this stage often fall on deaf ears?
Simply put, your customer could be on the precipice of a potential trough of disillusionment.
That’s why you need an alternate strategy.
- Start the discussion with the customer / prospect earlier in the sales cycle – ideally before contract signing and certainly before they pass the peak of inflated expectations.
- If your sales team is nervous about introducing marketing at this stage of the sales cycle, explain that joint marketing should be positioned as a value-add to show long term commitment to the prospect.
- Have the sales team make an introduction so that you can explain the process (and benefits to all parties), and gain a verbal agreement.
- With an agreement in place, have a draft of the press release with the client as quickly after signing as possible – ideally within one week. The customer will be more receptive during this time.
- You might even want to consider including a marketing clause as standard in the contract. This should compel the customer to participate in joint marketing activities within an agreed time period.
- Requests for case studies should only happen once the customer has reached the plateau of productivity. It’s at this stage that the customer will have a true, and balanced, view of benefits and ROI.
- The timeframe will vary between client and solution. For large-scale enterprise B2B solutions it may take 12 months to reach the plateau of productivity. For smaller SaaS solutions it’ll be much less.
Thanks to the excellent folks at CCgroup for inspiring this post.