In this blog, I have been discussing how to produce effective “classic” case studies, which companies like Microsoft and HP create. Today I would like to do a quick post about why smaller companies are less likely to do them.
Resources: Do We Have the Resources?
Would you be surprised to read that one reason smaller companies don’t do “classic” case studies (or do them rarely) is money?
If you have been reading my posts on the “classic” case study, you may have realized by now that these pieces can take a sizeable amount of a writer’s time (along with sales, marketing, and customer time), especially if the writer is inexperienced.
Even though a great case study can be an excellent marketing tool, a smaller company with limited editorial resources (in-house or contract) may decide to concentrate on datasheets, white papers, and brochures – and produce the many other pieces that a busy marketing department needs: trade show and other event materials, ad copy, web copy, promotional emails – the list is endless.
Clout: What Is in It for the Customer?
When Microsoft or HP come calling, customers pay attention, and they are often quick to cooperate. The reasons are many, for example, prestige (the customer’s customers are impressed) and opportunities for promotion at trade shows and websites can be substantial and worldwide. When lesser known companies want to do them, customer management is less likely to want to devote employee time to the project since there is not as much “in it” for them.
Public Relations: Just Customer Quotes, Please!
If you are working for a smaller company, the company is very likely using an outside agency for public relations that does not have the budget or possibly the sophistication to do much more than the basics. In such situations, PR agencies are likely to be very interested in collecting as many short laudatory customer quotes as possible for use in press release and other types of promotion. They will press management for these, and a company’s limited resources are sometimes focused on getting them in lieu of doing more substantial case studies.
(As a writer, I personally admire the skill of writing an effective press release, and my experience with outside agencies has ranged from great to adversarial.)
Litigation: We Don’t Want to Get Sued!
You may notice when you look at the case studies done by major companies that many (if not most) of them are about customers outside the United States. There are two good reasons for this.
- A lot of new business is outside the USA
- American customers may think endorsements make them vulnerable to lawsuits
When working for smaller companies, my experience has been that corporate legal departments in the United States sometimes shy away from case studies because they are viewed as endorsements, which can lead to becoming part of a lawsuit if the seller is sued by another customer for an unfounded claim or defective product. This is one reason social media is so attractive. If thousands of customers “like” a company or product, it is difficult to sue each of these individuals for what is, in effect, an endorsement. Or a clever legal firm has not come up with a way of doing it yet.