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Sharing success stories


Everyone loves a good story. When it comes to winning new business, there’s probably nothing more compelling than the endorsement of a happy customer; and reference stories are a great way to capture this opinion.

Really positive customer references aren’t always easy to come by. Pressurised sales teams may struggle to find time to approach their customers, while customers don’t always want to reveal too much about what’s driving their success. So when you do find a good story, it’s like gold dust. You need to make the most of it. That doesn’t just mean writing and presenting it in an engaging way — important though that is. You also need to use it as broadly as possible and make sure it’s accessible.

Ian Harcus, Marketing Manager in the Global Document Outsourcing division at Xerox, understands the challenges of creating compelling case studies. He’s established a customer reference programme that aims to raise the bar — delivering a greater number of higher-quality case studies, and using them in a variety of ways with different audiences. He’s chosen HN Marketing to support this initiative.

Focusing on the customer

“Plenty of B2B agencies are strong on creativity or can discuss DM response rates, but what makes HN stand out is their B2B marketing knowledge,” he says. “HN truly understands service propositions and proposition marketing; they get that solving customer challenges is at the heart of what we’re trying to do. It’s refreshing to collaborate with people who ‘get it’ in a way that lots of other agencies really don’t.”

Many vendor case studies fall into the trap of telling the story from the point of view of the vendor, rather than of the customer. “Working with HN has been an important factor in helping us maintain a strong customer focus in our case studies,” says Ian. A shared vision of what should be in a case study allows Ian to focus his energies on identifying and qualifying contributors to the reference programme, while HN manages the asset creation. “I can simply let HN get on with it, and rely on them to produce what’s needed,” he says.

Raising awareness

It’s all very well creating a great customer reference programme, but you have to make sure the references get properly used. For starters, that means giving employees, especially sales teams, visibility of the programme and making it easy for them to find the right stories to share with prospective customers.

To help do this, Ian decided to bring 50 of the company’s references together in a single publication. He worked with HN to refine the concept and specify the information to be included for each one. He then turned the writing over to HN.

“We had a limited budget for the project,” recalls Ian. “We needed to get the best, most consistent result from source material that varied enormously in quality and level of detail. So we decided to spend the money on HN’s consultancy and copywriting skills, with the design work handled in house.”

The case-study compendium is serving many purposes. It gives new Xerox starters a real flavour of just what Xerox can do for its customers. Sales teams can quickly find the right references to support their efforts. And customers get to see just who Xerox has helped and the range of industries where Xerox services are proving invaluable.

Coaching and learning

Case studies are designed to help attract more prospects, shorten the sales cycle and increase customer wins, so they’re usually aimed at an external audience. But adapting them for an internal audience can also be a powerful way of driving sales — by highlighting how and where success happens and motivating the sales team. To do this, the traditional customer-facing case study often needs to be taken a step further for the internal audience, focusing more on the sales or implementation process. Xerox’s customer reference programme takes this into account.

For example, Xerox identified executive sponsorship as critical to winning a number of deals. This involved a director or other senior executive putting their weight behind the bid, maybe by helping the sales team overcome hurdles within the company; or by strengthening a peer relationship within the customer organisation.

Xerox decided to run an internal programme to raise awareness and understanding of how senior Xerox executives can support the deal pursuit process. As part of this programme Ian asked HN to develop a number of case studies that would capture the executive sponsor’s role and demonstrate their contribution to sealing the deal. These case studies proved a successful knowledge-sharing tool, and Ian has now asked HN to work with him to create internal case studies for sales that offer more
insight into the deal and its implementation.

Ian wants to arm sales with enough information about important wins to be able to have an in-depth discussion with prospects and, ultimately, win more deals. He wants to ensure that when a customer conversation based around a case study really gets going, sales don’t find themselves unable to answer questions such as: how fast was the payback? how much did the customer have to do during the implementation? how long did that take?

“I talked through with HN what I wanted to achieve,” he says. “They put forward a considered proposal for creating these internal knowledge case studies that meets my objectives, and we’ll be starting on the project in the very near future. HN was so instrumental in the success of our executive sponsorship project that I’m confident they’ll do an equally great job on this new initiative.”


  • Maximise the value of customer success

  • Publicise references internally and externally

  • Help sales to replicate customer wins


  • Understanding of B2B service marketing and case study best practice

  • Advice on how to raise awareness of successes and communicate successful sales strategies

  • Expertise in information design and persuasive copywriting


  • Strong reference programme communicating Xerox service propositions

  • Popular sales tools showcasing Xerox customer successes in a compelling and consistent way

  • Successful use of case studies internally to raise awareness of effective sales behaviour

It’s refreshing to collaborate with people who ‘get it’ in a way that lots of other agencies really don’t … I can simply let HN get on with it, and rely on them to produce what’s needed.

Ian Harcus, Marketing Manager, Global Document Outsourcing, Xerox.