5 easy steps to get a customer’s case study buy-in 

Good customer stories are the foundation of the “why” behind your product or service, and provide a powerful vehicle to assert your authority within your particular industry. CaseStudyNinja.com's Sarah Dillingham explains.

You have a delighted client who is actively using your product or service and you’ve done such a great job, that you think they will make an ideal case study. There’s only one stumbling block – you don’t know if your client is on board with the idea.

Case studies are undoubtedly one of the most effective types of marketing content you can create. The credibility of a strong customer testimonial or story is unmatched. No one can sell your services better than your customers. They offer cold, hard proof of your product success or expertise and provide real-world examples of how you have helped your customers to succeed.  Good customer stories are the foundation of the “why” behind your product or service and provide a powerful vehicle to assert your authority within your particular industry. They also provide a chance for your customers to do the same – cost and effort-free.

The ideal scenario is when a customer is fully on board with the idea of taking part in a case study and is happy to provide a testimonial, quantify the impact in positive terms and happy to associate their name publicly with your product or service.

This is important. Indeed, according to a Journalist Survey we carried out in October 2016 with 77 UK tech and business journalists from the national newspapers and trade press, the most important factor in a good case study is the fact that a ‘Named Organisation’ is cited in a case study.

So how can you get your client to buy into the idea of a case study?

First and foremost, customer case studies should be regarded as a joint initiative from the start – one where your customer is reassured that very little time or effort will be required on his/her part. Rather than approaching your customer as if a case study is a favour, make sure you impart the fact that the case study is a win-win project, which will enable your customer to reinforce their key messages and shout about their business successes.

Unfortunately, there are a few hidden things that can undermine this. The key to getting case study buy in is to identify these early on and get any issues ironed out as quickly as possible.

Clients typically say no to case studies for the following reasons: 1) They weren’t happy with the work delivered; 2) The case study request comes as a surprise; 3) They assume that it will be bureaucratic and that they will be too busy to participate; 4)They are worried that the case study will expose confidential information; and 5) There is no obvious benefit for them.

Here are a few tips to deal with some of these objections from reticent customers:

Find a happy client

If your client is unhappy with the product or service, then they are not a good candidate for a case study. In this situation it is likely that you will know that the client is displeased and you won’t bother asking them. So far – so obvious.

However, for some companies, there is a grey area where perhaps you have done a reasonable job, and overall it went well – but there have been a couple of miss-steps. In this scenario, it is natural to feel nervous about asking for a case study, and so you keep putting off the conversation.

The only way forward, is to bite the bullet, and just ask. A phone call is always better than an email. If the client is happy overall they are likely to say “yes”, and if they have some concerns, then it’s better to get that feedback out into the open in order to retain the relationship anyway.

No surprises – ask early

The most effective way to obtain case study buy-in is to ask at the very start of the project, when everyone is excited and enthusiastic. You can even build a clause into your contract, stating that if the client is happy with the delivered work, they will participate in a case study. This means that you will not be surprising them with a case study request at the end of a project, just at the point when everyone involved is exhausted and ready to move on.

You can also ask while the project is in progress. If it’s a complex project, you may want to write multiple case studies on different aspects of the delivery and start writing them during the project delivery phase.

Be clear about the process, talk to the right people and make it easy for them

Always assume that your client is time pressured, so think about how you can make things as easy as possible for them. Communicate clearly around timelines and scheduling and make sure that you have identified the right people to talk with.

You can gather case study information via a survey and/or interview. Choose the method that is most likely to work for your client and keep it focused. Use multiple-choice questions for surveys, and offer video call and phone options for interviews.

Make sure that you collect the relevant permissions during the survey or interview so that you don’t need to go back and chase these up. If you need additional assets from the client, such as statistics or images, ask for them in plenty of time. Remember that the person that you originally interviewed might not own them.

Build your case study in collaboration with your client

Your client’s biggest case study fear is that they will be portrayed in a negative light, and in a worst-case scenario, that you will publish their confidential information.

Be open with your client; let them review the case study during draft, so that they know how they will be presented.

If confidentiality concerns arise, talk them through these and explore the options.

For example, if the sentence ‘revenue increase of £20,000’ gives too much away, try using a percentage instead such as ‘a 50% increase in revenue’.

If the client doesn’t want to be named, ask whether they would be happy with a redacted version? While that particular case study might not be so appealing for the press, it will still have strong value for bids and client pitches as powerful evidence of your track record.

Always make sure that your client has final sign off on the case study before it goes public.

What’s in it for me?

The benefits on offer will ultimately depend on the purpose of the case study, but the opportunities are significant in most cases. Used as purely sales brochure collateral, a case study enables a customer to showcase its business offerings to potential new customers. If you are hosting the case study on your website, links back to their website, will also help boost their SEO. As a press article, a case study is a powerful means to raise your customer’s profile, reach new audiences and help position them as an industry leader or innovative mover and shaker. And it doesn’t end with just one press distribution, since there are often numerous press opportunities to capitalise upon for months and years to come.

Every one wants to be recognised for success. By positioning your customers as winners within their field, reinforcing their key messages and making sure the case study is all about them, not you, you will not only showcase your own talents and achievements in an authentic and sophisticated way, but you will be forging a stronger partnership with your customer to carry you into the future.

And who knows – that case study might just help you both win a coveted industry award.  Now that really is a sure-fire way to expertly enhance your customer experience.

Sarah Dillingham is the found of CaseStudyNinja.com.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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