Customer Reference Program Management: Using a Case Study Matrix to Secure More Strategic Stories

When deciding which customer case studies to produce, our clients typically take one of two approaches:

  • Opportunistic: Ask salespeople to recommend customers who might like to do a story, OR
  • Strategic: Determine which products, industries, and other case study attributes might best attract the company’s target customers to the company’s “best” products and services. Then, ask the field to refer appropriate case study prospects who meet those characteristics.

Given the limited time and money you have to spend on your customer reference program, the strategic approach is, of course, the way to go. Whether you’re starting a new reference program for your company or division, or refreshing your site’s portfolio of customer stories, we recommend using a matrix to help ensure your site’s stories meet your company’s marketing objectives.

Here’s a sample case study matrix:


As you can see, we show target industries across the X axis, and target products along the Y axis, with existing stories included in some of the boxes. Highlighted boxes indicate gaps—where new stories are needed.

The matrix should reflect your strategic goals, so think carefully about which attributes to include on your axes. For larger reference programs, we recommend creating a spreadsheet with multiple tabs, color-coding your highlights, and using other visual cues to help you determine which stories you need to produce. Attributes we’ve seen our clients put on the tabs and axes include:

1. Products/Services. Which products/services does your company want to feature in your reference program: your cash cows, highest margin, most attractive to new customers, those that represent your best cross- or upsell opportunities?

2. Industries. Which customer industries should you feature: Those where you currently have the greatest number of existing customers? Fewest? New industries your company is targeting?

3. Geographies. Again, consider creating stories that feature the geographies your company currently serves, as well as those you’re targeting. Use this thinking to consider other attributes, such as:

  • Customer sizes (enterprise, SMB)
  • Types of customer (customer, partner)
  • Buyer roles (CEO, CMO, line of business lead)

4. Keyphrases. Which keywords and phrases will help boost your search engine optimization (SEO)? This is just one more way to think about producing the ideal mix of stories.

A customer case study matrix helps you go after stories that meet your strategic objectives, rather than just produce the stories that come to you via sales. The matrix helps you remain intentional—rather than opportunistic—when you’re deciding how to spend the time and budget allocated to your customer reference program.

Call us if we can help you refine your matrix—or produce some great stories to fill the gaps.

By Stacy Crinks