Clients can be pretty tight-lipped about results.
Even if your client agrees to be featured in a customer success story, they may be hesitant to share what their outcomes have been like.
That’s a problem – because without being able to share specific, measurable results, your case study won’t have the same impact (though there’s ways around that – and we’ve written about them, too).
How do you get clients to open up and talk about all the ways you’ve helped them their business better?
In this quick guide, I’m going to show you some of the tactics we use at Case Study Buddy to bring those results to the surface.
1. Set up an interview.
If you’re trying to write case studies without interviewing your client, that’s a huge mistake – because it’s really their story to tell.
They’re the ones who can frame up the problem, solution and results in a way your leads can empathize with.
Invite your client to chat on a 20-minute-tops call. If they absolutely stonewall you, ask if you can send them a very short interview to collect some feedback.
2. Give your client prep time.
If you’ve ever tried to pry success metrics out of a client on the spot, you’ve heard answers like,
- “I don’t know those numbers off-hand, but…”
- “I’m not sure, but I CAN say…”
- “I don’t have access to that information.”
- “I’m not sure how I’d even get those numbers, to be honest.”
Ugh. That’s frustrating – and a huge lost opportunity. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to solve this problem.
First, warn them about the interview in advance.
Instead of just hopping on a call, give your client as much time as possible (a week or so, if you can) before you interview them to pull together the necessary information.
They may need that time to tap other people in the company on the shoulder – or just think through their response.
Then, send them a shortlist of the metrics you’re interested in.
Don’t make your ask open-ended. “Can you pull together some numbers?” is a worthless ask, and your client may not even know which numbers matter to you.
Create a shortlist of the specific metrics you’d love to have so that they know exactly what to go hunting for.
Finally, send them a list of questions they’re likely to be asked in the interview.
To add even more confidence to the process, show your client a rough outline of what they’ll be asked on the call so that they can contemplate their responses in advance. Be sure to remind them they don’t need to write answers back in an email (we’ve had that happen before!)
You’re already well ahead of the game now, but don’t push “Send” just yet…
3. Communicate safe guidelines and boundaries for use.
Even if a client knows the metrics you want, they may still not be comfortable disclosing them to the world – especially if what you’re asking for is sensitive.
What’s more, the person you’re pitching the case study to may not be the owner of the information you need. They’ll have to convince others internally that sharing results won’t result in a breach of private information.
Your job is to alleviate fears and present alternatives so that clients won’t let their imaginations run wild.
- Remind the customer that nothing will be ever published without their permission.
Your client should ALWAYS be given an opportunity to review a rough draft of the case study and request changes and edits before anything is made public.
- Explain your use-cases for the case study.
Tell your client exactly how you plan to use the case study and where it will be shared. If you’re using it as a gated, private asset, that’s different than sharing it publicly on your website where a competitor might see.This is also a good chance to pitch them on the benefits of being involved – how many people might the study put their company’s great work in front of?
- Offer to use raw percentages instead of specific figures.
For example, a “50% growth in revenue” may be less controversial to share and just as powerful.
- Show an example of a case study that’s been approved/published.
Giving your client context is HUGE. If you don’t already have one of your own, borrow one from a company you like and let the client know this is what you’re aiming for.
- Put all of the above in one document and pass it over.
Because your client may need permission from others in the company, giving them a document that contains the requested metrics, use-cases, questions for the interview and confidentiality assurances makes it very easy for them to pass that information on.
If you absolutely must, sign a non-disclosure agreement with your client to reinforce that they’ll have the final say.
Now that you’ve prepped the client, it’s time to prepare yourself!
4. Master the art of the follow-up question.
Interviewing well is a skill unto itself. If you want to get those juicy quotes and tidbits out of your client, you need to know how to ask the right questions.
By far, the biggest mistake people make when interviewing clients is not digging deeper – whether that’s because they’re afraid to ask, or because they’re rattling off a list of questions without listening for an opportunity to learn more.
When asking your clients for results, here are some powerful questions you can use to get more out of them:
- “….And what has that meant for your business?”
A favorite of ours, this powerful follow-up gets a lead to frame up a result or number in terms of its tangible impact.
- “Who’s benefited most from that?”
This question forces a client to make benefits personal and make the impact specific.
- “Could you quantify the impact of that?”
While it’s a bit heavier, this question will have clients who speak in generalities to go back to the numbers.
- “What other areas of your business have seen a change?”
Notice how we don’t ask IF other areas of the business have seen a change, but which ones – not giving the interviewee the easy option of saying “None.”
- “Why does that matter to you/ your business?”
This is a great question for getting an interviewee to relate results back to pain points.
- “What has that enabled you to do that you couldn’t before?”
Similar to the previous question, this is another way to get clients talking about before and after impacts.
If all else fails, ask your client…
- “Could you tell me a bit more about that?”
While open-ended, this is a great question to ask when you’re really not getting much out of a client and need clues for where to go next.
As a wrap-up, I want to encourage you to be polite – and persistent – in digging for results with your clients. Asking the same question multiple different ways often yields different answers, without eating up much more of your client’s time.
By prepping your client, alleviating their fears, making it easy to pass on your request and mastering the art of the follow-up question, you’ll be in a great spot to make sure no customer interview or case study goes to waste.