I’ve seen strategy misalignment upend even the best of Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) studies. Companies frequently want the pie-in-the-sky, best-case scenarios when the reality of their customers’ experiences are vastly different.

So when embarking on a TEI, how can your organization get the most out of the process? Set expectations internally, early and often. Bring in your organization’s necessary stakeholders, align their individual goals against an overarching TEI objective, and identify customers who can bring that objective home.

This advice might sound obvious, but the obvious is often overlooked. To avoid disgruntled stakeholders, underutilized content, and red-tape entanglements, ask yourself the following questions when thinking about purchasing a TEI study.

1. What Story Can Be Told Today?

Companies have five-year — even 10-year — plans. They see the horizon and navigate toward it. Your TEI, however, should focus on where your company is now.

I’ll give you an example.

I’ve worked with clients who were looking to expand to more enterprise-level customers. While that’s commendable, the customers that I spoke with for the TEI were their current customers (e.g., smaller-to-medium businesses). That means the data extracted reflected those organizations and not enterprise organizations. Despite my concerns, they were adamant that having an enterprise-level composite organization was best. But the reality was that this future state didn’t provide usable material for sales or marketing. Smaller businesses were still the majority of the client’s prospects, and because the numbers were skewed higher, it was harder for those prospects to picture themselves in the story.

Imagine a mom-and-pop business trying to emulate the benefits of a huge financial organization — it doesn’t work. The client’s sales team pushed back and fought for more realistic numbers (especially around the cost of the product), and luckily, the powers that be relented. We were able to reflect on their current state and drive more leads through the TEI as a result.

My advice: Make sure your TEI is meeting your organization where it’s currently at. The main objectives should be in line with your organization’s strategy today, not tomorrow.

2. Does Everyone Agree With The Story Internally?

Along the same lines of ensuring that your organization’s strategy is aligned, you need to make sure that you involve the right stakeholders at your organization from the very beginning. To identify the right people to involve, think about who will want to use the finished product. I also suggest that you think about who will have sign-off authority on the final product, as well.

This group of stakeholders is likely cross-functional and at various levels within your organization. Therefore, as individuals, stakeholders might come to the table with their own personal agendas. Ensure that they are ready for a piece of material that speaks to an aligned TEI objective. The best way to do that is to include your organization’s stakeholders early, allow them to make their personal goals for the study known, and discuss what is feasible together. From there, keep them updated at key delivery points so they know how to talk about it long before the study is delivered. Personally, I like to include them when discussing a high-level summary of findings. Ultimately, this will lead to a piece of content that meets an agreed TEI objective without any last-minute approval hurdles to climb on the way to utilization.

3. Can Your Customers Tell Us That Story?

Do you have customers who are ready to talk to Forrester about your organization? Great. Are they ready to speak to the narrative your organization is looking to tell?

That second question is far more important than the first. I’ve seen clients be adamant about certain customers being involved. And sadly, I’ve spoken with customers who — for whatever reason — didn’t have anything positive to say about the client, or even more common, their story wasn’t remotely close to the narrative and they didn’t experience any of the benefits the client was hoping for us to hear.

Chances are your organization has a wide breadth of customers who use your products/solutions in unique ways under infinite varieties of circumstances. At this point in the process, when you’re thinking about customer participation, you’ve already done all the good work of identifying a TEI objective and aligning all your internal stakeholders to that objective. It would be a shame not to include potential customers that can speak to that same objective. My advice is to do your due diligence here. Sometimes, the flashiest brand name, the biggest sales deal, or the longest customer relationship does not serve the TEI objective. Think about the customer journey you want to come out of the TEI study and identify customers who have lived it.


We’ve heard from several clients that a TEI study serves as a pillar piece of content that drives leads. To ensure that you get the most mileage out of the study, get your internal stakeholders and sales team in a room and ask: What is your company trying to accomplish today?