Sales is always begging you for more case studies, but you just can’t seem to get any of YOUR customers to agree to a case study. Sales is right: case studies are among your best content options, serving as impartial proof points of the value you bring to your customers. They can be used early in the marketing funnel for lead generation and are also key late in the sales cycle to provide evidence needed to close a deal. But they can be tricky to get buy-in for, particularly in highly competitive environments. Here are our 5 no-fail tips on how to get customers to participate in a case study, and make you a marketing hero.
1. Don’t Leave It Up to Sales
Sales never wants outsiders to “bother” their client. Any time marketing or PR asks for them for an introduction once the deal is in progress, the answer will be something like this, “it isn’t a good time. We have…” Fill in the blank… “it’s not a good time… there’s an issue with the new feature… we need to wait before we clean up an issue.”
You can avoid this situation by Marketing or PR getting introduced into the client relationship early on so that they have a direct, non-sales relationship. This will keep the case study request and approval process completely outside of the sales discussion and prevent that case study from being used as leverage in a negotiation by the client. Once you start doing this as a matter of course, it will feel natural to sales and they’ll be comfortable that you’ll keep the sales and marketing worlds separate in the client’s eyes.
2. Start Early
Too often a case study request comes along very late in the relationship, even several years down the line. The champion may have moved on, the original reason or benchmark for the purchase forgotten, and the new day-to-day users and point of contact are too low in the organization to want to stick their neck out. What we see most often is that without the original value prop and data, the ROI is hard to back into several years down the road. Starting early lets you build a clear “before” and “after” picture.
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 lets your client feel like that have control of the output. Then be sure to make contact at specific milestone points to continue to gather information and keep track of your contacts.
3. 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 some big ambitions. It’s much harder to get a “yes” out of someone who is low risk. However, there are many category leaders or innovators 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.
4. Make it Easy for Them
Another form of a case study is the award. Often that looks like a better option to a client, but the end result is the same for you – a piece of content connecting your name and a customer’s. Take the work off your client’s shoulders when it comes to the writing. Be willing to do the leg work, write content drafts, interview participants, collecting up the details, and work with media. Awards also give you opportunity for follow-on stories, social media, etc. The trick is to submit your customer as the starring role. Remember, it’s about them, not you. And that increases the likelihood of winning. Hardly anyone will turn down the opportunity to be a star in THEIR industry. The good news for you is that once it’s published, you can congratulate them publically.
5. Make it (almost) impossible to say “no” when you ask customers to participate in a case study
Case studies don’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. A named case study is always preferable, 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.
If you do all 5 of these steps, you’ll have more “yes’s” when you ask your customers to participate in a case study and sales will love you!
Our Guest Blogger is Kathleen Glass, founder and CEO of Oinkodomeo.