Are You Leaving the Icing off Customer Case Studies?
By some cruel twist of fate, I have a restricted diet. No dairy for me, and right now, no wheat. So I have to find alternatives, and often those alternatives are lesser-than versions of favorite meals.
I can have a hamburger, but only without the cheese and bun. You can’t really call that a hamburger, can you? I can eat cake, but it tastes odd without conventional flour – and there’s no icing!
It’s just not the same. I’m left feeling disappointed and unsatisfied.
That’s exactly how you may be leaving your prospects when you produce customer case studies without a key ingredient – interviewing the customer.
In a customer case study, the customer interview is, in fact, the icing on the cake – it adds essential flavor, texture and the experience the customer expects.
Why Customer Interviews are a Pain
I get it, it’s easier, and sometimes necessary, to create customer stories without customer interviews for a variety of reasons:
(A) The case study will be unnamed anyway, so you’re not involving the customer
(B) You don’t want to bother the customer with an interview so you source it from internal account reps’ knowledge
(C) You’re in a hurry to get it done for an event or other need, and an interview and approval will take too long
(D) The customer said no to being featured and/or interviewed
(E) All of the above
So you move forward with a customer story that fills the need, but likely doesn’t maximize your message.
Why Your Case Study Needs Customer Interviews
If your prospects take the time to read or view a case study, give them their money’s worth. Here’s where you may be letting them down…
1. The “before” story: It’s important to highlight the specific “before” experience a customer had, so you can contrast it with the current, better reality. This helps prospects also associate and say, yes, that’s a challenge we’re having too! While account managers may have some insight into this, the rich detail about pains and challenges, and the juicy quotes, can only really come from the customer.
2. The “why”: Why did another customer choose to work with a certain vendor, over other options? Peel back the lid on how others have made decisions, which helps prospects make the decision as well. This has been shown to be one of the most insightful parts of a customer case study.
3. Areas of impact: You may know some of the details about specific outcomes for the customer, but you probably can’t name all of them. Countless times, I’ve gone into customer interviews expecting them to list certain benefits, but in fact, they stress other benefits altogether, or have a much longer list than what the account rep mentioned before the call. If we had relied on internal information only, the story would have carried a fraction of the power.
But what if your situation is A, B, C, D or E from the list up top?
You do your best, but I can tell you from experience that relationships help. During and after delivery and deployment of your products and services, maintain close ties to the customer. With your happiest and most successful customers, establish a mutually beneficial arrangement. The customer can participate in customer reference activities, such as case studies, in exchange for things they value, such as positive publicity for the company’s or individual’s efforts, networking with peers, or the chance to showcase their best practices at events.
It’s literally, a case by case basis on what will motivate a customer to participate and be interviewed for a case study. Find it and speak to that.
It also doesn’t hurt to stress that it will only take 30-60 minutes of a customer’s time – total.
Ultimately, you can’t read the customer’s mind. For the sake of creating the most meaningful stories for your marketing, don’t try! Instead, draw out rich, first-hand information directly from customers. Your prospects will appreciate that additional icing to the story.