If you’re in a small business, there’s a good chance that you’ve had a conversation like this:
Online marketing /advertising /SEO person: ‘I really think you should start collecting reviews from your customers. It’s great social proof, and because it doesn’t come from youbut from them it gives the world an impartial view of how great you are.’
You, thinking yeah but you know how hard it is to get reviews? replies: ‘Um, ok. We’ll do that.’
Reviews can be hard to get. And, sometimes, they’re nice but unhelpful.
You don’t want to get into the fact that you’ve tried to get reviews from people. Usually, you’re faced with an enthusiastic customer, who says Sure! Great! Right on, love to! and then doesn’t do anything. Or worse, comes back to you with ‘Hey, I tried to write that review for you but I didn’t know what to say. How do I tell people what you do?’
Best‐case, you might get, ‘Rosie’s shoes was great!’. Which, while enthusiastic (and great because it is so) doesn’t help anyone. It is a generic comment that anyone could have written about anything. For all you know, the person who used Rosie’s shoes had sought a refund on a botched order, and they were simply relieved to get their money back — and wanted to be nice but unspecific.
While there are some fantastic methods for getting great reviews, I’m not going to go into those here. Instead, I’m going to share with you something better.
The third‐party‐obtained case study is much more powerful.
To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s define what a third‐party‐obtained case study is.
A third‐party‐obtained case study is one that someone else creates on your behalf. Here’s how it works:
- You brief a content studio like ours about the client and the project
- The studio goes away and does some research about the client and what they do, and starts putting together your side of the story.
- You talk to your client about the case study and get a yes. Then, you facilitate a warm introduction to your contact at the studio. In our case, that’s me.
- Your studio briefs your client about what to expect: That they’ll be part of an interview that might run for an hour, and that they can have right of review before it’s published. Your studio arranges a time.
- The interview takes place — and the client is so excited about the conversation that they could have gone on for even longer if your studio had let them!
- Your studio writes up the case study, delivers it to you, and you send it to your client to review.
It seems like nothing unusual, right? So, what makes these kinds of case studies different from what you would create yourself?
Let’s have a look.
Why the third‐party‐obtained case study is so beneficial
There are a number of reasons why case studies developed this way are so much more powerful than the ones that you will develop yourself.
- You aren’t the interviewer. As the supplier to your client, you have a pre‐existing relationship. That relationship has boundaries, etiquette, and rules. In Australia, the relationship is defined by a desire to keep everyone ‘on‐side’. This means that your client is probably not going to talk to you about what they didn’t find brilliant, or surprising, or unusual. They are going to tell you what they think you want to hear. And that’s not a great place to start.
- You (most likely) don’t have training or experience in interview interrogation. If you haven’t had long experience in interviews, you won’t understand how to make them valuable conversations instead of a list of questions. Getting the information you want from people, without them feeling like you’re asking a set list of questions (or digging for information) is a skill that you obtain only from years of experience. Great case studies emerge from warm, engaging conversations. And great interviewers will follow a thread even if it is apparently unrelated to the topic.
- Your studio knows how to craft a story that flies. Case studies are never just case studies. They are pictures painted from others’ experiences. Those pictures demonstrate a problem, a need, a desire. They walk you through the process of finding a supplier to help, a decision‐making process, the things that were the winning options for you instead of your competition. They explore what the relationship was like: What was amazing, what was challenging, what was surprising. They demonstrate the outcomes in real terms. As an outsider, your studio is better positioned to get the complete story. It’s the difference between a drama with a satisfying ending, and a titillating romance without substance.
When the case study is developed, it will sing a song. You’ll know that it’s great when you see it and start thinking to yourself, Wow I never knew that. Or, how about that. Or, oh yes, I’d forgotten.
Having a third party interview your clients removes any expectations about what to say or might be said. It allows freedom to explore a story with someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in it, beyond telling as complete an account as possible, and doing a good job on the case study itself.
So, why are these better than reviews?
A review gives you an apparently independent perspective, which is very valuable. However, unless your review writer has loads of time — or, perhaps, outstanding instructions from you! — the review will tend to lack depth.
This depth is exactly where a case study shines. It shows maybe‐customers not just what was great, but why it was great. It surfaces the actual problem that the business needed to solve, and why your business was the best choice for them — and how they made that decision.
The case study will demonstrate the personality, the quirks, the happy surprises in your product or service, in ways that reviews tend not to achieve.
Great case studies are rare, though, especially in small businesses. Very often, this is simply because of a lack of time or skills. What I want you to know is that there are content studios — like ours! — that specialise in this kind of work. You can contact us and we’ll help you tell your story the way it needs to be told for your brand, for your voice, and for your customers.
And the best thing? Your customers will love to share them, too: Your case studies help them to show the world that they are successful.
Here is a selection of case studies that we have written for others:
- AllState Pest Control (software)
- Bradford Energy (software)
- Combine IT (software)
- The ORANGES Toolkit (resilience program)
- Tour guide training for the New Royal Adelaide Hospital (training)