Popping the Case Study Question

May 8, 2017 by

When to Approach Your Customers about Documenting Their Success

In my last essay, I discussed how to secure customer permission for a case study project. One thing I didn’t cover in that article, however, due to its length, was WHEN to request that permission.

So that’s what I’d like to talk about today. If you want your case studies to be as effective and powerful as they can be, timing your approach to your customer is critical. Hitting the optimum window requires vigilance and a bit of effort.

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Timing your entrance

Choose your timing wisely in approaching your customer about a case study project.

If you pursue the story too early – if the customer hasn’t had enough time to build up measurable results, anecdotes and lessons learned – the story will fall flat… because it won’t present enough evidence of success.

If you wait too long, however, you may find your customer “champion” (explained in my previous article) and her colleagues can’t remember what life was like before your solution came along. Your champion may even have left the company! It will then be very difficult for your writer to piece together a compelling story. For your case study to be effective, you need to show readers a stark contrast between the “before” and “after” situations.

Thus, the sweet spot for case study capture is when your customer:

  1. Is still excited about your new solution
  2. Hasn’t lost sight of how much worse things were before implementing your solution
  3. Has had enough time to accumulate measurable results

When you’re in that sweet spot, your writer will find it much easier to craft a compelling case study for your customer success portfolio.

The moral of our story: you need to keep on top of your customers’ situations – through your account reps – if you want to capture their stories at just the right time.

Check for red flags

Also, be sure to check for unresolved problems before approaching your champion. Annoying little glitches pop up from time to time, even in the best of solutions, and especially in new installations.

Consult your account rep and your CRM software. Make sure there are no recent problems or open support issues that might make your customer less likely to accept your proposal. If there are, monitor the situation and postpone your approach until those problems are resolved.

There’s no sense in risking loss of a story over a temporary sore point. Plus, waiting until the problem is satisfactorily resolved will give you yet another example of how your company went the extra mile for that customer... which will make your case study all the more powerful.

If results come slowly

As I’ve said, you neither want to approach customers too early, before they’ve accumulated results, nor too late, in case they forget what things were like before you arrived on the scene.

But what if it takes some time for customers to build up tangible results with your solution?

In this case, consider capturing the story in two parts.

Once installation is complete and the customer has had some time to become familiar with using your solution, approach her about documenting the first part of the story. Interview her on:

  • The challenge she faced and the stakes involved
  • Her strategy for seeking a new solution
  • Any metrics she might have on her situation prior to your solution
  • Why she chose your solution over others
  • Her experience in working with you
  • Her initial impressions from using your solution

Tell your customer you want to come back and interview her again, once she has accumulated measurable results with your solution. Ask her to track those results, if practical. Bear in mind you may need to suggest metrics to track, so be prepared to point out the benefits she and her organization will gain from tracking them.

After you’ve captured the first half of the story, be sure to keep in touch. If your champion ends up leaving the company, contact her successor to get her buy-in on the project, so she’ll continue to track results. Then, when your customer has significant metrics to share, come back for a second interview. Ask her about:

  • The metrics she has collected
  • How those metrics compare with the previous situation
  • Details on the day-to-day experience with your solution, such as:
    • User feedback
    • Beneficial changes in company practices
    • Further innovations resulting from adoption
    • Unexpected benefits
    • Anecdotes that illustrate any of the above
  • Future plans for enhancing or expanding use of your solution

Once you have that second interview in the bag, you’re ready to produce, publish and publicize your latest customer success story.

Take-away points

  1. There’s an optimum time window for approaching a customer about participation in a case study project.
  2. Don’t ask too early. Your story will fall flat due to a lack of results data.
  3. Don’t want too long. After a while, customers forget what life was like before your solution, and it will become difficult to pull the story together.
  4. Track customer situations, so you’ll hit that optimum approach window.
  5. Check for red flags. Make sure any open support issues are resolved and your customer is happy before proceeding.
  6. If results come slowly, capture the story in two parts: customer, challenge and solution in Part 1; results in Part 2.

Next Steps

Need help getting a case study project off the ground. CopyEngineer can assist with customer pre-approval and post-production sign-off, as well as customer interviews and writing. Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or send me an email.

If you’d like to get Technical Response delivered to your email inbox – and receive two free reports on creating better white papersclick here.

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