By Jerry Fireman published March 22, 2012

How to Convince Your Customers to Work with You on Case Histories

Almost everyone seems to agree that case histories are one of the best, if not the best, type of marketing content. Their credibility is unmatched, and they offer the additional benefit of being frequently solicited by publications and blogs as editorial content. A recent CMI and MarketingProfs study on B2B content marketing trends rated case histories as one of the top four most effective tactics among those who use them — with 70 percent of users rating them effective or very effective (an increase of 32 percent over results from 2010).

Yet, when you ask B2B companies if they do case studies, a surprisingly large proportion will answer: “We’d like to, but our customers won’t agree to work with us on them.” Here are some ideas on how to overcome this problem.

Show them what’s in it for them

Many companies, when approaching their customers to do case histories, approach them as if they are asking for a favor. The problem with this approach is that customers probably feel that they are already doing you a favor by giving you their business and don’t need to make the effort to do you another one.

A better approach is to position the case study as a win-win project that will benefit both companies. This is easiest when you approach companies that are small to medium in size and target a B2B market themselves.

Position the case study as marketing content that is designed to benefit both companies, and promise to spend a significant part of the article pointing out the benefits of your customer’s products. (If these benefits can be partly attributed to your own product, that’s even better.) Let the customer know how you plan to distribute the case study, and offer to distribute it in publications or blogs that reach its own customer base.

When the customer is a big corporation, such as a member of the Fortune 500, it’s not so easy to convince them that your case study will benefit their marketing efforts. However, you may still be able to show them a benefit by highlighting a product or a group that is not getting its share of the limelight. Don’t forget the fact that your contacts within the organization can utilize the case study to demonstrate the value of their efforts to their corporate overlords.

Make it easy for them to work with you

After demonstrating the benefits of working with you on a case study, show your customer that very little time or effort will be required on his or her part.

Offer to have someone from your company or a contractor interview them, write the draft, and submit it to them for approval. An experienced case study writer can produce a 1,500-word article based on an interview of only 45 to 60 minutes. Make sure that the person doing the interview has both a technical background and is an experienced case study writer to reduce the amount of time required and ensure a positive experience for your customer.

For example, an experienced writer can filter out things that may be on the customer’s mind but won’t look good in print. As a case in point, the customer might talk about how a major problem was solved without thinking that management may not want to reveal that the problem existed in the first place.

Make sure they love the final result

Writing a case history is a delicate task that requires creating an article that simultaneously promotes your company, makes the customer feel comfortable, and fits the requirements of publications and blogs that you are interested in appearing in. The writer is responsible for making everyone involved in the process feel that they have been positively and fairly portrayed without going so far that the article lacks credibility and becomes difficult to publish in reputable publications. Engaging a writer with a background in technology and extensive experience in successfully producing case histories will help ensure a positive experience. Then you can come back next year and do another case study based on what the customer has done with your products in the time that has passed.

Author: Jerry Fireman

Jerry Fireman utilizes his technology background to produce case studies, white papers, press releases and other marketing content for technology companies. He has written over 3,000 case studies for his clients. Jerry is President of Structured Information based in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Send Jerry an email at jerry_fireman@strucinfo.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @jerryfireman.

Other posts by Jerry Fireman

Join Over 200,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 40 Examples That Are Driving Content Marketing Forward FREE!