If you don't have a story, you don't have much as a company, right?”
Newforma developed project information management software that helped architects, engineers, and contractors deal with the massive amount of data generated in modern construction projects, and when its six co-founders were on the road making the pitch, Newforma found lots of receptive prospects, and its client roster and revenues steadily grew. But when those co-founders opted for roles with less travel and handed sales off to the sales team, growth stalled, because that sales team wasn’t as effective at telling the Newforma story. That’s why they reached out to us for help telling their story. We encouraged them to identify customers who had succeeded thanks to Newforma, and let them tell their stories. In our first year working together, Newforma grew 38% over the previous year.
Finally, a Way to Manage All that Project Data
In the digital age, building construction generates a massive amount of data — 3D models, digital photos, project schedules, field reports, change requests, product data, drone footage, and hundreds of thousands of emails, between architects, engineers, contractors, sub-contractors, permitting agencies, and more. And because digital tools now make it possible to change drawings on the fly, share real-time images from the job site, and instantly update the entire project team, project owners are applying greater and greater pressure on that team to deliver projects faster and faster.
But while deadlines have decreased, expectations of quality have not.
That’s why Newforma, project information management software that helps architects, engineers, and contractors manage all that project data and quickly find the right information when they need it — even if it’s buried deep in an email attachment — has proven so valuable. As Steve Ross, CIO of structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, said, “If I tried to take it away, there would probably be a revolt.”
When Newforma’s six dynamic co-founders were on the road connecting with prospects and customers and touting the software’s benefits, its sales grew consistently, and its year-over-year subscription renewal rate hovered around 98%.
So as the co-founders one by one opted for roles with less travel, they figured the growth they had established would continue.
They were wrong.
Why Not Let the Customers Tell Their Stories?
Without those co-founders on the road, growth stalled. “Our sales team was struggling with the story,” said co-founder Bob Batcheler (better known as Batch). “I could go out and I could tell the story. Some of my co-founders, they could go out and cast the vision, tell a great story. But we were now 220 people, and we all needed to be able to tell a quick, simple, compelling story—especially our sales and marketing team. We really needed to simplify the story and make it more compelling, make it more repeatable by others.”
Talking with Newforma’s leadership team, it became clear that the sales team, and their materials, had been focused on product features — wonky stuff that always sounds great in the demo. But when the co-founders sat down with a prospect, they listened. They uncovered the prospect’s pain points, then told a story about a Newforma customer who had struggled with a similar problem, but was able to solve it with help from Newforma.
Rather than continuing to push the product features, we asked, why not let those loyal customers tell their stories?
There's nothing more powerful than that.”
We then told the story of three Newforma customers who had used the software to collaborate on a successful renovation in Chicago’s iconic Sears Tower.
In a matter of minutes, the video we produced made the case for Newforma, through the first-hand stories of people who benefited from using the software. Suddenly, the sales team had a tool that spoke in an authentic customer voice to the software’s value and impact, not just its product features.
That year, “we grew 38 percent year over year. I do believe that that video campaign was a key contributor,” Batch said. “And it awakened in us the continuing necessity to tell our story, more simply, more effectively, always focused on relating to our customers in ways that customers want to relate to us.”
The success of that first customer story inspired Adrian Scholes, Newforma’s VP Marketing, to invest heavily in more storytelling. “As with any kind of marketing and any kind of product, the best way to tell the story — the success of using your product — is through the customers themselves; customers actually advocating and telling the story on your behalf,” he said. “There’s nothing more powerful than that.”
With Video, Viewers Want to Learn More
Newforma hired Story First to interview 78 Newforma users from 34 different customers across the U.S. and U.K. That footage established a rich library of customer stories, and was edited into 48 different videos, which together speak to a wide range of customer challenges and use cases — and have been used to open doors to bigger conversations with prospects.
“We find video is a really great conversation starter for sales,” said Adrian. “Somebody comes to the website, watches the video, and wants to learn more — learn more about that particular project, learn more about the challenges that were being discussed in the video. It’s that simple, and you can’t really ask for more than that from a marketing standpoint.”
The videos Story First produced not only made the Newforma team feel good, they made the customers featured in those videos feel good, too. “We get glowing reports back from our customers,” Adrian said. “The moment that they see the video, they all make comments such as, ‘We never thought you’d be able to make us look this good!’”
But as an experienced marketer, Adrian knew that producing feel-good videos can make for a very expensive vanity project if they don’t deliver results.
These videos delivered results.
I certainly wouldn't hesitate to make an investment like this again.”
“One of the things I hear quite often is that this is a significant level of investment in both time and money to develop videos of this quality,” he said. “I’m often asked if it’s worth the investment, and I can give a resounding ‘Yes’ to that. I think there’s just something very powerful about customers being able to tell the story on your behalf. We know from our own statistics, from our own measurement and tracking of video, and its place in our sales and marketing process, just how powerful that can be. The numbers speak for themselves. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to make an investment like this again.”
As Newforma amplified the voices of its customers and shared their stories, the larger story of Newforma itself came into focus, helping make it attractive to investors, and setting the stage for the company’s sale to technology-focused investment firm Battery Ventures.
“If you don’t have a story, you don’t have much as a company, right?” Batch said. “I mean, story is how we experience life, it’s how we engage people to imagine themselves in where we want them to be.” With these customer stories, he added, “We engage them in imagining themselves as a Newforma customer. Because they see somebody that they recognize, doing something they recognize. They think to themselves ‘Ha! Wow, cool project! We did a project like that not long ago and man, it was a bear! I wonder how they solved the problem.’ In the course of the story you answer all those questions, but most importantly they can imagine themselves in that story. They see themselves in the people that were in that video. And that’s really powerful.”