Avoiding Case Study Catastrophe (Part 2): Fixing a Flat Tire

In the previous issue of The Bite-sized Bulletin, I discussed the number one scourge of content marketers everywhere: the dreaded “case study catastrophe.”

What is this scary beast? It’s an all-too-common scenario: your company has a compelling customer success story just waiting to be told, featuring the perfect match between a well-defined business challenge and your solution, a seamless implementation, and juicy, quantifiable results. Your client is beyond ecstatic and willing to share their love with the world. They agree to participate in a customer case study and… you’re off to the races!

The problem? The case study project stalls midway through thanks to other people getting involved.

Legal. Compliance. Marketing and communications. The executive suite.

Last time, I shared a few tips on how to avoid this race-ending catastrophe. A quick recap:

  1. Create a case study pitch packet;
  2. Train your internal sales team;
  3. Gain the trust of your client;
  4. Explain the benefits; and most importantly:
  5. Get pre-approval from key stakeholders.

(The article contained a lot more detail, so if you haven’t read it I encourage you to check it out, here.)

These are tried-and-true, highly effective techniques. But the case study project is a long race, with many opportunities for error. Even if you follow these best practices consistently and diligently, there is still no guarantee that your project will reach the final turn without blowing a tire.

But fret not; even in the most dire circumstances, many case study projects can be salvaged. Here are a few approaches to try when despite all your best efforts, the case study project is headed for a race-ending collision:

  • Revisit the benefits: If your customer resists publication of the success story, remind them of the benefits. The client receives free promotion via your website, social media channels, email lists, press releases, and marketing campaigns. The client’s employees involved in the service implementation are recognized for their success, a powerful reward and motivational tool. Lastly, remind your client that your sales team will use the case study in prospect engagements, reducing the need for those annoying and time-consuming reference calls!
  • Negotiate “anonymous” approval: If your client still won’t budge, try to obtain their approval to publish the case study anonymously. Although not as powerful as a named case study, most organizations are fine with this approach. Assuming it presents a strong narrative and includes quantifiable results, the story can still serve your original goals and be highly effective.
  • Use it as a “campfire story:” Sometimes your client just won’t approve the project. All is not completely lost, however. Nothing prevents you from using the story for internal training purposes or as unnamed, anecdotal evidence in informal conversations with prospects.

Customer success stories are powerful vehicles and should be a fixture in every content marketer’s garage. It’s reassuring to know that even if the case study project blows out on the final lap, you have a spare tire available.

Write well and be well!

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