Case studies are a goldmine for businesses when it comes to sales.
In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs 2016 B2B content marketing report, 65% of B2B companies say case studies are even more effective than blog posts, videos, infographics and other forms of content.
They are the most believable marketing material out there. What can be more convincing than another customer vouching for a product or service you’re about to buy (and not the company singing its own praises)?
Yet, as effective as these customer stories (or case studies) are, there’s a common nagging challenge that many companies face when trying to create them: convincing customers to share their stories.
If customers refuse to share their experiences with your products, you won’t get any case study to share. And that means you’ll be missing out on all the goodies that can come from it.
Conversely, some clients don’t see any problem getting featured in your case study. But others have different reasons why they wouldn’t want to. They probably:
- Don’t want their competitors to see what they’re doing.
- Feel it’s going to take too much of their time.
- Think it’s just not worth it.
Here are 4 simple tips to significantly boost your success rate in getting customers to agree to share their stories:
1. Start with your happiest customers
As William Faulkner said, “you must kill all your darlings” (for the greater good, of course).
While you might have customers who you would mostly love to feature in your case studies (maybe because they’re Apple, Twitter, or some other giant enterprise), you need to first reach out to your most happy customers.
These are typically people who have voluntarily shared the happy moments they’ve had using your offerings. They either sent you some “your product rocks” emails, tweeted about how cool your company is, left some nice reviews or expressed their happiness in any way – without you having to ask them.
These types of customers are the easiest to convince. They are likely bite when you ask them to take a step further in showing their love for your product by getting interviewed for your case study.
That said, I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t reach out to the “Apples” and “Microsofts” in your customer base. In fact, if you can get them on board like Due.com did (below) – testimonials from Inc and Lifehacker – it’d be more convincing and prospects will love you for it:
But you get my point: reach out to your happiest customers first – even if they’re not established companies. It won’t cost you a thing.
See Kotton Grammer’s example (below) – a testimonial from a make-up artist (not Microsoft):
2. Be smart with your timing
You want to ensure you reach out to your happy customers around the time they commended your offerings – which is when they’re still excited about your product. At this point, they are most likely to take a step further to promote the awesome product that just solved their problem.
But what do you do in a case where you’re not sure if you have happy customers – maybe because they’ve never said something nice to you about your offerings?
Do these three things:
- Reach out to customers that use your products and services regularly, have subscribed to your premium packages for a long time or have sent you referrals and find out why you seem to be their favorite vendor.
- Ask new customers the following questions after they use your product or service: (A) “Were we able to help solve your XYZ problem?” This question is mostly easy for them to answer than asking if they’ll like to get featured in your case study right off the bat. If they say “yes”, you can then ask: (B) “Would you like to share your experience in our case study? It won’t take too much of your time and you will gain (the benefits in my next point + other benefits you can think of).”
- Be on the lookout for customers who will voluntarily commend your business and ask if they would be interested in getting featured in a case study.
3. Treat it as a mutual opportunity
Let customers see your case studies as an opportunity that both they and you will benefit from.
Benefits here can include publicity – if you have a company website that gets lots of visitors or plan to promote your case studies in a way that will get more eyes on your customers’ businesses. You can also point them to the opportunity they can get to have a major success they achieved on record for internal purposes.
For example, if the marketing manager of a company called ABC uses your product and increased the company’s revenue by 200% through it, your case study would give her the opportunity to put that major success on record and get acknowledged in the organization as someone who brought that awesome achievement into the organization.
According to Dr. David Sirota who conducted a survey on over 4 million workers around the world, people want to be proud of their work and they want their achievements to be acknowledged. They also want to feel proud of what the organization as a whole achieves.
When you treat your case studies as an opportunity that both you and customers would enjoy, and not something that would stress them for nothing, they get to see all the benefits involved and mostly would not want to miss out.
Ayodeji Onibalusi of Effective Inbound Marketing puts it this way: “Many customers already think doing business with you is a favor they did, you should not make them feel like they’re going to be doing you another favor by doing a case study”.
4. Don’t take too much of your customer’s time
One other thing that can hinder your customers from agreeing to be interviewed is time.
Every serious business person has something to get busy with. So if you’re going to call them for a case study interview, let them know it won’t take too much of their time – something along the lines of 30 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Truly, many of the customers you’re going to reach out to for case studies might want to turn you down for various reasons. But if you follow the three steps above you’ll significantly increase your odds for getting them to participate.
Guest Author: Victor Ijidola is a white paper and case study specialist. You can hire him to help you write case studies that will boost your sales. He runs Cases and White Papers and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, The Next Web and so on.