20th July 2021

Engaging customers is the key to case study success

Sophie Cole

Using a content agency for your case studies can make your life a lot easier. If you get it right, this hard-working and authentic bit of comms will become a secret weapon for winning new customers. But no matter how eloquently expressed and beautifully packaged they are, a case study is nothing without customer buy-in. What could’ve been an invaluable marketing tool can become a resource-draining flop if you fail to get customer approval or ongoing engagement.

Here’s how engaging your customers could be the key to your case study success.

Authenticity is crucial

Hubspot calls the case study “one of the most powerful strategies for showcasing your marketing skills and attracting future customers”. However, an inauthentic case study that overstates your involvement isn’t going to do you any favours. Make sure you do your level best to capture the relationship accurately and use clever language to enhance its appeal, rather than overt exaggeration.

Remember – your clients need to be happy with what you’re saying about them. And if they’re not, it could sour your relationship and mean they’re not happy for you to use the case study to promote your brand.

Although you’re producing the case study as part of your marketing efforts, your customer could also benefit from its publication. That benefit could be more impressions on social media when you post the content or a quality backlink from your site for their SEO strategy. Emphasising these shared benefits could help win their buy-in. But it’s important to be honest about the benefits you’ll be getting, without trying to make it sound as you’re doing them a favour.

Right time, right place

Don’t spring a case study on your customers. It’s important they know you’re planning to leverage the relationship you’ve built as a shining example of professional synergy. Or, in less pretentious terms, that you’d like them to say nice things about you that will make future customers want to do the same.

Being upfront and transparent about your intentions will stop your request from feeling opportunistic and cheeky.

There’s no exact science to it, but here are a few rules to keep in mind:

  • Establish a strong, positive relationship and prove to your customer that you’re capable of doing an excellent job before asking them to commit to giving you a glowing recommendation. You can mention the idea of doing a case study early on, but it needs to be framed appropriately… something like “and if the project goes as well as we’re expecting, would you be open to us creating a case study to showcase it to potential customers?”
  • If you’re working with a client on an ongoing basis, capitalise on a positive conversation or a successful project by following up with a request for a case study. Following up on a complaint or an email asking for changes to your work isn’t likely to have a favourable outcome.
  • Broach the subject of a case study before your work comes to an end. Emailing your client weeks or months after completion means the results your work generated won’t be as fresh in their mind and, ultimately, less likely to spill out onto the page.

Make it easy for your customers

Do what you can to make the process as simple and effective as possible. For example, make sure you’ve identified the most relevant person to interview, provide clear questions beforehand and maintain control of the interview to keep it as concise and focused as possible. This is where drafting a third party like a content agency to conduct the interview and summarise your client relationship can make the process simpler and more efficient.

An expert interviewer and writer knows how to ask the right questions and extract relevant information without taking up hours of your client’s time. And once they’ve got it, they can produce a solid draft that’s easy and enjoyable for your client to review and approve.

Set out clear expectations

Let’s imagine you’ve captured all the lovely feedback, shaped it into a glowing case study and polished it to within an inch of its life. Next comes the approval stage, where you get your client to sign off all the pleasant things they’ve said. Surprisingly, this stage can be the trickiest to get past, as it can feel like an endless wait to get the final sign-off from your busy client.

You might feel tempted to skip it altogether. After all, your client has agreed to produce a case study and chatted to you about what you’ve done well. Surely that means they’re happy, right?

Perhaps, but it’s a naïve and potentially costly assumption to make. Let your client know what process you’ll follow to get their input and approval, and make sure you stick to it.

It’s always sensible to make sure you haven’t misinterpreted any of the nuances of your conversation. For example, your contact may have been charmed by the interviewer (writers are a charming lot, after all) and admitted something that’s better kept off the record, meaning they’re no longer willing to stand by the published case study.

Do the legwork

To make sure your hard work doesn’t end up unloved and unpublished due to delays in the final step, you need to stay focused on how you can speed the process. This is especially crucial if you’re in a fast-paced industry like tech, where it’s important to prove your credentials quickly.

To get your case study over the finishing line, you need to make it as easy as possible for your client. Simplify the review process with templated response forms so people can easily record feedback. You can also offer to take work off their plate by tidying up feedback left as tracked changes or utilising the services of a content agency to bring all parties’ thoughts together in a coherent, engaging way.

Bringing it full circle

When we produce content for clients, we know our job isn’t over the second it’s signed off. We want our clients to win with words, and that can’t happen until they’ve been published in all the right places. So if you’re setting up a case study programme for the first time or feel like yours could do with a boost – get in touch.