When it comes to customer case studies, there is a worst-case scenario. You can spend a healthy sum and 1-2 days’ worth of work crafting a beautiful tale of a customer’s positive experience with a product or service.
Then, slam. The project hits a brick wall when it reaches the customer. Case study approval can take weeks, or months. Or worse, the customer declines to approve it at all.
Nearly all seasoned marketers and case study writers have a horror-story of this sort to share. But fortunately, the instance of this happening is declining. Here’s why:
• Better prep on the front end
• Fewer hurdles on the back end
Better Prep on the Front End
Surprises are lovely, such as an unexpected visit from a friend or flowers from a loved one.
But customers usually don’t like surprises in the form of a case study that hardly anyone knew was in the works. The customer contact you interviewed may have agreed and participated in the process, yet he or she may not have the authority to consent to use the story.
Often, a higher-level manager, or legal or PR person within the company, must give the green light to participate. If those folks don’t know the case study is coming, and SURPRISE, there it is, then you’re hurting your chances of getting approval.
Instead, when you ask for permission to feature a customer, go beyond the interviewee. Find out who will ultimately need to give their blessing. These folks like to be consulted and possibly even involved in the interviews and messaging early on.
If everyone expects the case study, you’re being collaborative and upping the possibility of approval.
Fewer Hurdles on the Back End
Fifteen years ago, the average legal release form for a case study was 2-3 pages long and filled with legalese such as herewith, indemnify and duly executed. Customers regularly pushed back on wording, or rejected them altogether – killing the project.
Today, like long-distance calling costs, the average legal release is a fraction of what it used to be. And in fact, for most organizations, it’s no longer a form, but some simply worded email text.
What a difference it has made. Asking customers to provide consent to use a case study via email has dramatically shortened the approval process. Anecdotally, not scientifically, it’s probably cut approval times by 75 percent in my experience.
Not having a legal document that needs an actual signature means that the case study (usually) bypasses the inbox of a legal professional altogether. Instead, it’s more likely to go to a manager or PR person, the latter of which really wants to say yes to positive PR for the organization.
What to Put in Your Email Text
Companies using email approvals today follow these best practices…
1. Keep it short – 2-3 paragraphs at most.
2. State the type of material it is (case study), and how it will be used in broad terms (“in electronic or paper format”).
3. Include the approval text in the body of the email and attach the case study draft for approval.
4. Ask the customer to reply indicating agreement with the text, “I agree.”
The approach above is one I see used in increasingly more organizations today, with success – even in global, public companies. Week after week, I see this method proven.
A little prep work and simple processes will help your case studies sail over approval hurdles.