My husband spends a lot of time on horseback. He’s often a 2-hour drive from civilization. And every so often, he comes upon something secret!
One day he was moving a herd of cows through a stand of trees.
As they came out into a clearing, he saw them —
Over half an acre of pristine marijuana plants.
Plants carefully cultivated. Plants his cows trampled through.
My husband waited for a shout from the pot farmers. He knew this many plants were most likely guarded.
But no shouts — or shots — came. Instead, the cows, and my husband, passed on through. Then he heard loud yelling and swearing.
He tried to move the cows a bit faster. Then he heard the sound of an engine start. Luckily, no one followed him.
Ranching is dry, dusty work. Most of the time, it’s boring. But every so often, something odd happens. And my husband never knows what he’s going to uncover.
Discovering customer stories is like chasing cows.
You never know where they’ll go. Or exactly what you’ll find. And this is why you need a zucchini pipeline.
What is a zucchini pipeline?
A zucchini pipeline is a system for gathering customer stories that’s easy, flexible, and produces a lot of “fruit.”
Why use a zucchini pipeline instead of a marijuana pipeline?
I started this article talking about pot – because marijuana is exciting, controversial, and flavorful. (Coming upon half an acre of zucchini plants isn’t a story.)
A marijuana pipeline is exactly the opposite of what you want. It’s hard and illegal to grow.
You want something easy. A system like a zucchini patch. One that’s bounteous, simple to grow, and can be used in many ways.
A zucchini pipeline gives your sales department the materials they need.
For example, consider the case of Jill. She was talking about her software solution to a potential customer one day. This prospect asked how customers in her industry had customized Jill’s software. So Jill told her she’d send her a case study.
Then she discovered her company didn’t have a case study from that industry. The marketing department scrambled to find a suitable customer. Needless to say, Jill lost that sale.
Don’t be like Jill.
Instead, have as many case studies available as possible. You never know what you’re going to uncover.
Or how a specific case study will fit into your marketing. So develop a pipeline that is continuously filling those needs.
Where does a zucchini pipeline grow?
The most fertile ground to harvest case study candidates is within your sales department. Your sales team hears firsthand about the problems customers have. They have a vested interest in keeping customers satisfied and happy.
It’s just a matter of helping your team identify these stories.
Why sales reps don’t point out these stories naturally
Sales reps are protective of their relationships with clients. They don’t want someone to come in and break their trust with valued customers. So they may be hesitant to turn over customer story leads to marketing.
You can overcome this hesitancy by building trust.
Planting trust is the first step to building a system.
It takes a bit of time to build trust. It’s like growing zucchini – first, you plant the seeds, water them, and fertilize them. Then they produce.
Just like gardening, you want to cultivate your sales team. Maybe they need a faster turnaround on marketing materials. Perhaps they need a brochure developed for a specific audience.
Whatever you do, plant those seeds.
Watering and fertilizing are essential as well
Discuss with your sales team how having a bounty of case studies will help them make more money.
And ask for their help recommending enthusiastic customers as case study subjects in return. This makes your job, and theirs, easier.
Harvesting is the next step.
Setting up an easy reminder system is also essential for having a case study referral system.
Reminders can be as easy as asking for any potential customer success stories in a weekly email. Or during regularly scheduled sales meetings.
If salespeople are still leary about handing over their customers, you can invite them to be a more significant part of the process. But, again, trust is crucial between marketing and sales.
Need help setting up a zucchini pipeline for your case studies done?
Contact Me. I’ll take your case studies from customer to conclusion. And I can create a system to collect them on a regular basis.