The case study is a proven business tool used by businesses for decades. Properly written it can serve as editorial for print publications, valuable digital content, and compelling copy for sales literature.
The most common hurdle to developing a case study is getting a customer to agree to participate. There is an art to getting a customer’s permission, here are five rules that will greatly improve anyone’s success.
Rule #1 – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
The majority of case studies are never written because most people don’t want to risk upsetting a loyal customer by even asking. However, done in the right way, there is absolutely no reason why any customer should be upset by being asked to participate in a case study. Keep in mind, this piece will also serve to promote their business as well.
Rule #2 – Find the Right Contact
Often the day-to-day contact for a business is not in a position to make a decision about participating in a case study. In this situation, a common response is “the company has a policy and doesn’t participate,” but this is typically just a ruse to avoid any further conversation on the topic. Politely ask to speak with someone in the marketing, communications, or public relations department. In many cases, they will jump at the chance for free publicity.
Rule #3 – No Trade Secrets
After finding the right contact, the first thing to communicate is that absolutely no proprietary information will be revealed. Guarantee they will have final approval of all materials prior to its release. This should alleviate any fears the customer may have about losing their competitive edge.
Also, be sure to detail exactly how you want to use the case study. Will it be pitched to the media? Sent in an eNewsletter? Offered as a digital download on the company website? Added to sales proposals?
Rule #4 – Seek Out & Handle Objections
If a potential participant is hesitant, ask for specific objections and work to creatively find solutions. While this may seem obvious, many times people miss subtle clues to the real objection. Most companies concerns are fairly simple and easy to overcome when you identify them properly. Keep (politely) asking questions until you find the root cause.
Rule #5 – Make the Customer the Hero
Finally, it’s important to communicate that the main purpose of the piece is to make their company look great. The goal is to showcase how innovative and forward thinking they are, and how they were able to improve their sales, production, or daily operations. Were they able to boost the quality of their product? Did they shave precious seconds off of their production time?
It requires a lot of finesse, but done right, the return on investment in a good case study is exponential.