Avoiding Case Study Catastrophe

Picture this. You have just helped a new client achieve his business goals. He can’t stop gushing about how thrilled he is with your product or service, and perhaps even offers a testimonial.

So, you cautiously ask your client to participate in a case study about his experience with your company. He agrees, and you’re on your way!

That is, until just a month later, after you have spent hours conducting client interviews, gathering background information, and crafting it all into a compelling narrative, the case study project abruptly stalls.

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

Somewhere, somehow the case study project hits a brick wall. Unfortunately, once this happens the project is usually DOA.

I’ve been there. As a content writer who specializes in case studies (also known as client success stories), I’ve experienced this exact scenario, multiple times.

The good news is, the brick wall is entirely scalable. With a little bit of pre-planning and “greasing the wheels,” you can ensure that every case study project will be a smashing success. The key is getting buy-in from all stakeholders, before you begin.

Here are five steps to help you get it right, from the get-go:

  1. Create a case study pitch packet—Start by defining your goals for your client success story projects. How will you use these pieces of content in your marketing? What aspects of your product, service, or organization should they highlight? Once you’ve defined these goals, create a “pitch packet” to present to both your key internal client-facing team members and all new customers. The packet should include:
  • Samples of completed case studies
  • A one-page outline of the case study process
  • A description of how you will use the success stories
  • A list of standard interview questions
  • An FAQ sheet
  • A client release form
  1. Train your internal sales team—Once you’ve created your pitch packet, take the time to educate your sales reps on the benefits of client case studies and their role in the process. Use this opportunity to also gain their trust, as they are critical gatekeepers to the client relationship. Promise to keep the communication lines open and provide regular updates on the status of the project.
  2. Gain the trust of your client—The most critical step in the process is gaining your client’s trust. This starts right from the beginning of the relationship as you talk with the customer about their goals and objectives, and what they hope to achieve with the implementation of your product or service. If you can, set up a series of meetings or phone calls to get to know them better.
  3. Explain the benefits—When it comes time to pitch the case study to your client, share the benefits early and often. For the client these may include:
  • Free publicity
  • Co-marketing opportunities
  • Recognition for client team members who were responsible for the success of the implementation
  • Fewer reference calls!
  1. Get pre-approval from key stakeholders—Lastly, before you assign the case study to a writer or schedule the first interview, ensure that all key players at the client’s firm have given their tacit approval for the project. This may include the legal, compliance, marketing, or public relations departments. Depending on the size of your client’s company, it may also include a member of senior management, or even the CEO! Ask if they have any special requirements on how the case study will be used in your marketing and decide whether those restrictions will enable you to meet your goals. It’s always better to back out of the project before it begins, rather than investing weeks of time and effort before pulling the plug.

Of course, even if you follow all the above steps, there is no guarantee every case study project will go off without a hitch. Next month, I’ll share some tips on what to do if your project still hits that proverbial brick wall.

Meanwhile, If you’re interested in learning more about writing effective and compelling case studies, I highly recommend two fantastic resources:  Stories That Sell : Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales and Marketing Asset, a book by Casey Hibbard, and Ed Gandia’s Writing Case Studies: How to Make a Great Living by Helping Clients Tell Their Stories, an online course distributed by American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI).

Until next time, write well and be well!



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