Case study winners have a concerted client-facing program that frames the case study as a benefit—not a favor, and not a risky endorsement.
Manhattan Associates, provider of supply chain software, has such a program. Their web site offers over 100 case studies—significantly more than its competitors. "We look for ways to include our clients in conversations about the importance of supply chain to commerce, not the importance of our company to them," says Mindy Kenney, director of the Supply Chain Leaders program.
We have seen B2B companies offer several benefits to their clients in conjunction with the case study:
Here are the elements of a winning case study program that promotes participation and fosters great client relationships.
While it is tempting to do a case study on every client who is willing, winners select their subjects strategically. "I look for case studies that focus where our sales team wants to focus," says Marie Melchiorre of Tenrox, provider of project and workforce management solutions. "It's my job to make sure that Sales has an abundance of stories to back them up."
Case study winners have strong communications with their customer-facing colleagues in sales and customer service, to identify a case study opportunity early—sometimes while the subject is still in the pipeline. But don't "talk about marriage on the first date." Wait until the client is in a position to endorse you before you ask outright.
"The process starts even before the deal is signed," says Lisa Plaskow of Blackboard, Inc., a provider of online learning software. "I work with sales managers to identify organizations that will lend themselves to the best case studies. It's better to know that up front instead of having to chase people down."
Then, demonstrate your company's commitment to its clients by writing the case study to glorify them, not you. "We make the case study about the client. It's their story and their success." says Plaskow. "The case study is not about our software."
By doing all of the hardest work up front, in a spirit of service, you greatly increase your chances of getting editorial approval with minimum resistance. Communicate your plan and objectives to the decision maker before you write the case study. Be ready to give over editorial control to make the client comfortable. And do all the legwork for the convenience of the client.
An alternate approach is the "B-to-A Method" used by Kent Evans of Summit Energy. Evans creates a "B" level generic case study, without the client's name, which is deployed to sales immediately. But he also creates an "A" version, making some educated guesses and attributing some comments to the client. He shows the "A" version to the client to encourage participation. "The success we have with this approach is amazing," says Evans. "Almost one-third of the ‘Bs' turn to ‘As.'"
The final step in the program is to grant your client the elite status they deserve. That means following through on the benefits of your program. And don't underestimate the value of simple recognition; for example, Manhattan Associates publicly names their participating clients as "Supply Chain Leaders."
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