You’ve started a customer reference program, and found the perfect customer to feature. The draft has been through all your organization’s approval layers. After the customer approves the draft, it’s ready for publication. Approval should be a breeze. A day or two seems reasonable, doesn’t it? After all, the customer did agree to participate.
Actually, it should take between one and three weeks, sometimes a little longer at organizations with bureaucratic structures (like universities, government entities, and huge companies). Unfortunately, sometimes approvals processes can take forever. And by forever, I mean as long as six months. You want to avoid that, and by getting the approval process off to a good start, you can.
A B2B marketing writer experienced with approvals can help by managing the process. At Content Bureau, we’re pretty good at keeping these things moving forward. But we do work with clients who prefer to handle the approval process themselves. If you find yourself having to manage an approval, don’t fret. There are several easy things you can do to keep case studies approvals from getting bogged down:
- Week zero: Ask the customer to agree to review the story quickly during the interview. As you review next steps with the customer, ask them if they will be able to review the copy within two weeks of receiving the draft. You should also try to get any release forms your organization requires signed in advance or as early in the process as possible.
- Week one: Suggest a review time frame when you send the case study. And then, ask if that time frame will work. (When you ask a question, you are more likely to receive an answer.)
- Week one: Call to see if the customer has any questions the day after you send the case study. I know it seems old-fashioned, but pick up the phone early in the process. This is the step that’s most likely to result in a very speedy approval—making all my subsequent tips irrelevant.
- Week two and beyond: Follow up frequently. If the customer doesn’t respond to you, contact them again. And again. You don’t want to seem like a complete nag (at first), so do give them a reasonable time to reply.
- Week three or four: Get the account manager to help. Reach out to the account manager, especially if the customer is unresponsive. The account manager may speak to the customer regularly, and may be able to move things along.
- Week four and beyond: Become a complete nag. Often, procrastinating customers will say they will review the copy by the end of the week. And then they won’t. When a customer says she will review the case study by Friday, follow up on Thursday to see if you can “help facilitate the review.”
Very rarely, you’ll have a customer who is responsive at first and then just seems to fall off the face of the earth. Who knows why? Perhaps a higher-up changed his mind about doing the case study, and the customer is too embarrassed to email you about it (I had that happen). Perhaps the customer got swept up in an exciting and mission-critical project that involved frequent trips to Dubai. You may never know, but if you follow the steps above, you can be confident that a lack of persistence was not to blame.