Case studies are among your best and highest value content, serving as useful lead gen tools, for education at the beginning of the sales cycle, and again are critical at the final validation stages of the sales cycle. Yet getting client buy in can be very challenging for the vendor. Here are our recommendations on how to get customer participation.
Don’t Leave it Up to Sales
Sales will never want any outsiders to “bother” their client, and at almost any time marketing or PR asks for an introduction, the answer from sales will be “this isn’t a good time. We have”…. Fill in the blank… “a sensitive renewal… had a troublesome product release… haven’t given them their requested feature”.
Marketing or PR needs to be introduced into the relationship early on so that they have a direct, non-sales relationship. This will keep the case study conversation and approval process completely outside of the sales realm and prevent that request from being used as leverage in a negotiation. It also lets the sales people keep their heads and strategy focused on the deal at hand.
Too often a case study request happens too late in the relationship, perhaps even several years down the line. The original champion may have moved on, or newer, more conservative players are too low in the organization to want to stick their neck out.
Make it clear up front that you want to partner with the client and work with them to develop the story. Get the Marketing and PR introductions made right away. Put together a timeline and outline of desired outcomes. Gather relevant baseline information and hold a preliminary “interview” to get their viewpoints on the facts of the story. This also let’s your client feel like that have control of the output. Then be sure to keep in touch at milestone points to continue to gather information and keep track of your contacts.
Make it a Win for Them
The ideal candidate to work with on a case study is either an internal champion or a company that has growth ambitions. There are true-blue standards that will NEVER agree to letting their name be used. Ignore them. However, there are many companies who would love to have some extra press, and internal champions who would like a little visibility and career boost around a winning project. Look for companies who are on fast growth trajectories or cutting new paths and who are already doing a lot of their own PR and you’ll find they are more likely to want to be featured as doing something “smart” in their industry. Similarly, there are rising stars in companies who are eager for a little limelight and would appreciate being named as part of a successful initiative.
Make it Easy for Them
Making it easy for them ties back to making it a win for them. Be willing to do the leg work, write content drafts, work with media, and craft award submissions for them. Some of the best forms of case studies are awards since you have a chance for follow-on stories, social media, etc. The trick is to submit your customer as the starring role. Remember, it’s about them. Your company only has a supporting role. Hardly anyone will turn down the opportunity to be a start in THEIR industry. The good news for you is that once it’s published, you can congratulate them publically.
Make it (almost) impossible to say “no”
Case studies don’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. A named case study is always ideal but the fall back could be a generic case study (if you didn’t already get them to agree to be interviewed, participate on a panel, or be submitted for an award). Industry relevant stats and benchmarks are always useful to sales and interesting to prospects.