In 1976, my grandparents opened a restaurant and made it a full family affair by employing their nine children in its operations. To this day, my family has a deep-rooted connection with preparing and sharing meals. I happily inherited the cooking bug, a 45-year-old cast-iron skillet, and boxes of recipes like the one shared below.
One recipe I love is my Nana’s tapioca pudding; it is that comfort food that makes me think of happy childhood memories. This recipe easily serves 17, tastes different from anything you can buy in a store, and still stands out as a customer favorite nearly 50 years later.
Like my Nana’s tapioca, Forrester’s recipe to create business-value case studies has been a staple favorite for over 20 years. Now, I don’t recommend taking a bite out of these studies (they are fiber-forward), but I do admit that our Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) studies help future customers make informed data-driven decisions by highlighting the benefits, costs, risks, and flexibility around a technology investment.
I’ve had the opportunity over the last three years to cook up this TEI recipe more than 50 times — I know where to add extra salt, but I’ve also seen where things can get messy. So I’m here to spill the beans on five ways to cook up your TEI project without getting burnt.
- The mise en place: Start by getting all your ingredients (customers) ready.
Even before you have your kickoff meeting, I encourage you to begin engaging with customers early to gauge their interest in participating in the TEI study. Think about it: You’ve already purchased the TEI study, so you know that you will need to find customers to speak to Forrester. Why wait? Make soft asks and gauge interest. Think about who you want your end audience to be, and recruit customers who look like them.
Two ways I’ve seen projects spoil:
- Clients wait to ask customers to participate until interviews are set to begin. The longer you wait to recruit customers, the longer it takes for us to schedule and interview them. If you wait to engage clients until “it’s time,” you risk pushing out the delivery by four to five weeks.
- Clients only consider customers with sexy brand names. Remember, Forrester will anonymize all the customers we speak with for the TEI study. Even if we interview Elon Musk, we will not put his name on it. Instead, focus on the impactful “before” and “after” stories, not just ones from the Fortune 100. To keep with the cooking rhetoric, sometimes the juiciest fruit isn’t always the biggest.
- Avoid too many cooks in the kitchen.
The adage that too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the broth applies to TEI projects too. I’ve seen projects become significantly delayed because everyone and their uncle wants to weigh in with their feedback. As a result, the responsibility gets lost because no one person is responsible for the final product. Instead, think like a restaurant and designate one trusted employee to be the final taster. Trust that person to provide a single source of concise, targeted feedback for the direction of the study. Follow the experts: Dreyer’s ice cream employed an official ice cream taster who used a golden spoon to ensure quality. Whose taste buds (or, in this case, editing skills) would you insure for $1 million on your team?
- Don’t set it and forget it.
No offense to Ron Popeil and his rotisserie oven, but make it a priority to come to check-in every week. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “oh, this meeting isn’t needed this week,” but I assure you, a regular cadence is a good thing. We’ve all seen those cooking shows where someone steps away from the stove only to realize they burned the sauce. This is your reminder not to do that.
Continue to stir the pot with the consultant and keep a watchful eye on the project. These check-ins allow you not only to look at a timeline every week but also to get to know your consultant better, which in turn allows the consultant to get to know your company better. Every touchpoint will educate the consultant and help us write about your organization better.
- Add your own flavor.
When reviewing the case study, feel free to make any edits you want. I’ll repeat: When you are reviewing the first draft of the case study, feel free to make any additional edits you want.
You know your audience best. You know that your salespeople use this specific piece of jargon to connect with customers. You know your company’s stakeholders and tone. Clients hesitate to overedit because they don’t want to offend me as the writer or overstep Forrester’s objectivity. My job as a consultant is to ensure Forrester’s independence and objectivity, and I’ll decide if what clients suggest can stay or go. So why not bring all your spices to the counter? We will tell you what will complement the study and what flavors will clash with Forrester’s independence.
- Improvise by customizing your order.
Over 20-plus years, Forrester has delivered thousands of these studies. I can guarantee that no two are identical. Some are wordier, some have diagrams, some are written in iambic pentameter — the takeaway is the studies are written to work for you, so feel free to suggest extra pickles.
We have guidelines, and consultants have the freedom to work within those guidelines. I like clients who come and ask, “Can we do this webinar differently?” or “Can we add a picture here?” Push the boundaries and challenge us to do things differently; sometimes those are the recipes that stick!
When you first read a recipe, everything sounds so easy, so you decide to tackle it head-on alone. It’s only when you are knee-deep in eggs that you realized you overmixed. Sometimes, you need a good sous-chef to help you get things right.
A TEI study is a partnership between Forrester and your company. We are here to support you and create something useful. Make sure you bring the right ingredients to the table, continue to stir the pot, add a little spice, and maximize your engagement. And, since I’ve talked about food for an entire blog, here’s my Nana’s tapioca recipe for you and 16 of your closest friends. Enjoy!