When writing business-to-business case studies, preliminary details are very important, and the more attention you pay to them, the more likely you are to complete your case study successfully and on time. In this post, I will discuss three areas that need special attention: story leads, permissions, and legal approvals.
Story Leads: Finding a Cooperative Customer
My first job was at a small company where we were hungry for publicity, and we found that non-profit organizations, especially charities, were a great source of cooperative customers, providing positive exposure for both of us.
A second technique that can work well for companies of all sizes is offering “bounties” to sales people who are paid only if a story is approved initially and completed successfully.
Turning this around and allowing your sales people to offer monetary incentives at the contract stage can not only help your marketing efforts but also sales. Depending on your business and current sales and marketing goals, you may want to approve a prospective story before a customer is approached.
Permissions: Make Sure Management Approves
Since case studies require your contact’s time, it is extremely important to have the right level of permissions to do the story. If the contact is an engineer or a programmer, make sure that your contact’s direct manager is aware of the story and is willing to spare the contact’s time. Also do your best to find out if you need permission from anyone higher.
You can make the process very efficient, but your contact (engineer, manager, or executive) must still be willing to review your questions, answer them either in writing or on a call, approve the case study text – and help you get any other approvals needed at their site.
Be careful of any situation in which you are not able to speak with the end customer contact directly, and there is no language barrier. Even if three or four companies are involved, including a distributor, you will not have enough control of the review cycle if you do not speak with and create a personal rapport with a contact at each company.
Legal: Must You Involve the Lawyers?
At a small company or a startup, you generally do not have legal review at your end. At larger companies, you will very likely be working directly with lawyers or with paralegals who handle case study and other collateral reviews. As long as you respect their time and scheduling, you are likely to have very cordial relations.
More important is to find out as early as possible if you must have legal (and possibly marketing) approval on the customer side. You will need to build time for this into your schedule and send reminders because it could take weeks or even months, especially if your case study is not a priority with the customer and/or the story must be sent to the corporate office in another country for approvals.