Case studies are one of the most valuable pieces of content any business can have to attract new customers. The detail is in the preparation.

Ideally, all your customer’s experiences should generate convincing content that will produce even more business for your enterprise. But sometimes, the end-user is reluctant to talk about their stories, and this can be for several reasons.

Firstly, it could do a lot with a culture of confidentiality within the company. It would result in your contact jumping through several hoops to get the go-ahead to allow you to namecheck them. It’s natural for your customer to want to avoid these hurdles. You need to understand this from the offset.

I would often say to an end-user that I fully understand their internal issues, and I would always say something like, “Naturally, you would want to get this okayed with your corporate comms team. I would be happy for them to speak to me.”

That can often help. And if you do manage to speak to the comms team, you can alleviate their concerns. Often these trepidations may be easier to overcome than your contact initially thought.

It may also help to play on the personal motivations of your end-user. They are getting their name out there in the industry media. Journalists are always looking for opportunities where they could quote an end-user. Make them the hero of the story.

I was once tasked with writing case studies for an IT services company that targets architectural and design firms. Previously, they found it challenging to get the higher-ups’ agreement to be case studied. But when I suggest that the hero of the case study should not just be the head of technology, but the chief operating officer, the attitude of the higher-ups changed.

It’s also essential not to paint the end user in too much of a negative light when explaining the challenges they face. For example, the following statement about a customer might be seen as embarrassing by some in an organisation:

“Their existing IT environment was inflexible, costly, and didn’t support their business strategy. It made it difficult to acquire talented team members who were not geographically close to one of the main offices and challenging to collaborate on projects with team members that weren’t in the same office. This was not a formula for success in an industry where top talent is at a premium.”

The following would be more diplomatic:

“The company needed their future IT needs to be flexible, dynamic and in sync with their business strategy. It needs to be nimble, allow them to acquire talent regardless of geography, and enable team members to collaborate on projects. This was seen as necessary in the business plan, and they required their IT to match their formula for success.”

The challenges in the second version are heavily implied and less accusatory. It’s more likely to get the stamp of approval.

By the way, the COO of the architectural firm used the case study on their LinkedIn profile and soon moved on to a better-paying job with a larger rival.

It’s always helpful to make the hero the one who pays the bills.