Is Your Client A Hero Or A Damsel In Distress?

PropelGrowth Blog

Have you ever noticed that most case studies tend to position the customer as a damsel in distress faced with insurmountable obstacles until they were rescued by the heroic vendor who solved all their problems?

We see this all the time in the financial industry. Standard marketing tactics almost require this kind of positioning. I’m sure you’ve seen the standard case study templates that include sections for the problem, capabilities needed, solution delivered, and results; all from the company’s point of view. Writers deliberately try to position the client as being in a deep hole and the vendor as the rescuer. It’s no wonder most financial institutions don’t want to do case studies with fintech vendors. They make the banks look incompetent.

At the recent Content Marketing World conference, Deana Goldasich, CEO of Well Planned Web shared some great ideas about how to do a better job with client case studies. Here are some helpful tips:

Research to find the right person at the client to interview

Talk to people on your front line who deal directly with your client to find out who to talk to that can give a complete story with a business perspective. Ask your sales people, customer service, account managers, etc.

The best person to conduct the interview is someone who is not too close to the subject or the customer. The more removed the interviewer is, the more likely they are to get the full story with the nuances. Of course, the caveat is that the interviewer MUST have a relevant background and understand the client’s business.

People too close tend to listen with their own filters in the way. Also, clients are often more relaxed with an interviewer who is not involved in the contractual relationship or project plan. Often using an outside agency, writer or journalist who knows the industry and is familiar with the client’s business and your content marketing goals can get the best story. Look for a storyteller, someone who can glean the story and get underneath the surface but who also understands the challenges and idiosyncrasies involved in getting a customer story approved.

Think like a reporter

When you’re gathering the story, think like a reporter, not a marketer. Conduct an interview with the client. You’re looking for a story, not a testimonial. Look for the human story. Look for surprises and detours. Be prepared to listen and find the tangents.

Make the customer the hero of the story

Make the customer relatable. Don’t let him sound like a stuffed shirt. Humanize him.

When you’re interviewing the customer, find the color, the nuances, and try to draw out his or her personality. Challenge the customer to speak like a human being.

When writing the case study, turn it into a story. Make the customer the hero. They identified the goal, they came up with the solution, they reaped the rewards, they saved the day. The vendor should be positioned as the mentor guiding the client, but not the hero of the story. The customer will make the case for you, if you make them the center of the story.

Here’s a rule of thumb: look at your ratio of company to customer mentions and try to keep company mentions below 25%. If the ratio is off, I can pretty much guarantee that you’re focused too much on the company instead of the client.

Show rather than tell whenever possible

Even if you can’t get as much of the story as you’d like, capturing scenes where you can show the impact of a problem or the solution will make the case study more interesting, more readable, and more believable.

If you follow these steps, you’ll glean case studies that are interesting, engaging and deliver results. Using a journalistic style also helps with content syndication, because many publications are more interested in publishing stories like this. They can dramatically increase the story’s reach and impact.

So now it’s your turn. What approaches are you taking to make your case studies more effective?

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