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This question has been answered, and points have been awarded.
How Valuable Are Client Case Studies?
1/21/2008 at 4:35 PM ET
My company has a policy not to use client names on testimonials, whether they be in print or on the website.
Over the past year I have conducted and written 4 client case studies regarding my company's human resources consulting services, and intend to write more. They can be viewed at
. However, my boss is now asking me to remove the names of the case studies as well. I am reluctant to do so, so I ask:
1. How valuable are well-written case studies in the first place?
2. Do case studies with no personal name or client information hold any value at all? Would: "Cardio Medical Clinic", and "Executive Director" have any credibility, or must the actual client name be used?
Any insights to this dilemma would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
1/21/2008 at 4:45 PM
I have a suggestion. If you can't or do not want to put names and company names, find out if you can put a footnote stating that prospects who are considering your company for a project may, with the person's permission, be given the actual names and companies. This procedure may get more of your clients to agree to let you do a case study.
1/21/2008 at 4:49 PM
I think well written case studies are very valuable. Not only are they of interest to the site visitor, but also they can be very valuable from a search engine optimization point of view.
I would say that a case study with complete disclosure would carry with it a little more credibility than one that is blind. Only if the client name was well known in the industry or by the reader would it make much difference. (At least that's my opinion.)
However, if the option is between a blind case study and no case study, then the blind option is still preferable.
It's a balancing act, for sure, because even if the client agrees to use names (company and personal), you have to be sure you're comfortable giving your competition a prospect list.
If you really want to know if the case studies matter, you could check your site's analytics. You could also offer readers the opportunity to rate the case studies. (Was this case study of interest? How could it have been better? And so on...)
1/21/2008 at 4:50 PM
I like case studies. With or without the written documentation-- one of the ways I add my value is to share how others have best used my product and services.
There could be a few reasons your boss wants to delete the names. They may not want their clients bombarded with unsolicited calls asking for further info. A client may not want the implied endorsement. Or, a client may want compensation. I had a company do work with Disney and wanted to do a case study-- feedback was that was ok, but for a $1Mil.
The names of the clients are not the story. Its about finding solutions, making money or saving time for the client. It'll be fine.
Sell Well and Prosper tm
1/21/2008 at 5:03 PM
All the clients I have spoken to thus far are fine with using their name. The problem is my boss who is concerned their names will be made public for the competition.
If "blind" case studies are used, how much would you estimate their value is dminished, as compared to full disclosure?
1/21/2008 at 5:07 PM
I do not feel it is diminished at all.
Your boss has a valid, but over exaggerated point. Yes, it does give a competitor a list of his clients. But in reality, there are "no secrets" and any rep worth their salt knows who the target customers are, and who they buy from. Your clients have already been called on -- and will continue to be targeted by your competition.
1/21/2008 at 5:08 PM
Research shows that customers who publically say... your product is great.. stay sold longer and better than those who do not make such a statement.
If you want to really, really establish loyalty, ask the customer to explain in detail -why you are better.
I like case studies. People like to read them. My books and articles always provide case study information. Either generic.. when the customer is concerned about giving away (his) competitive advantage. Or named when they are not.
Peter (henna gaijin)
1/21/2008 at 5:13 PM
I also think case studies are very valuable, particularly for consulting business (where you aren't selling a physical product). In consulting, you are only worth the value you can bring in to your client. Case studies help reassure prospects that what you are offering has had value for others, and likely would have value for that prospect.
The more data (specifically customer names) in the case study, the more believable it is. Ones that are genericized (using description of client, not names) can work, but are not as powerful as one with names (but more useful than nothing).
I have trouble understanding why your manager doesn't want to use names? Usually the challenge is getting the people named in case studies to be willing to let their names be used, not some sort of rule from inside your company.
1/21/2008 at 5:26 PM
Gidday Ari. Lot's of thoughts on this one that might be useful or not depending on application.
First up - named case studies carry substantially more weight in the marketplace than 'a client we work with experienced...'
Gain permission from them to use their names and leave out strategic information that goes public - as in any details specific to addressing how the client operates or specifics on the issue that was causing hassles before you helped them.
You can of course say 'working through a series of strategy intervention meetings with the middle managers we...' which doesn't talk about what went on in those meetings.
Non named case studies are also useful and this is where you can get more specific about some of your actions as in 'In another program a client was having hassles working with supply chain partners delivering unmarked boxes as part of the overall larger orders. The actions internally required very specific training for the staff asked to collate the contents and...'
Now to your boss.
Your company isn't very good. I know that because if your company was good your boss wouldn't care about telling people about who your clients are because they'd know that there is no way your clients are going to look elsewhere.
Your company is very small. I know that because if your client was worried about losing a customer it must be on the knife edge financially
Your company is generic in what it does. I know that because the ONLY reason you would not tell people about the types of clients you deal with is because what you offer can be replicated by anyone.
Take those 3 scenarios to your boss and ask them to choose which one best describes the company you work for. New clients are attracted to places where other clients ALREADY exist. It's like the old saying - you can get a job easier if you're already employed than you can if you don't have a job.
NOT promoting your clients is hindering growth - not keeping it going. If you're interested, have a look at my website (via my profile) and look at some of the client comments. Those comments and testimonials (case studies) have generated more business than I care to mention. Is it possible that those clients could go eslewhere for business? Yes. Have any of them looked elsewhere? Yes on occasions. Did they need to? Yes on occasions because I'd dropped the ball. And if having a client take some work elsewhere acts as a reminder for me to lift my game then that is a good thing because I work harder to ensure it doesn't happen again. The benefits of named testimonials far outweigh any potential loss that might occur.
If you're good at what you do.
Best of luck
1/21/2008 at 5:39 PM
Thanks for the insights.
Marcus - you took the words out of my mouth! I used the exact argument with management - instead of worrying about marketing using names, worry about why you are worried in the first place!
Of the options above, I would say #2. We are very good at what we do, with customzied service. But we are small and losing a client to competition would certainly hurt.
Bottom line - do I put up a fight to keep the names, or drop the names and keep the case studies generic? (the studies won't come down completely...)
1/21/2008 at 7:30 PM
Don't fight it. Just use a generic description of the client in the case study and move on to more important things.
It's not quite as good, but if you have a good story to tell the name of your client is less important. Make sure the case study lesson is clear and that you're on solid footing content-wise.
Find something else to fall on your sword over. This isn't worth the fight.
1/21/2008 at 7:41 PM
I can only re-post and I feel strongly by this. I totally agree with mgoodman-- read his post with an open mind. Pick your battles. I can tell by your feedback you feel strongly about your opinions and mine does not align with what you want to hear.
I have a different background than many of these seasoned marketeers-- my focus/experience is in the trenches actual sales. I use sales literature as a tool-- and also know how literature can hinder a sale. Besides your boss's concern that competitors can read their clients-- it gives a prospect to say "I know this company and my biz is different so it won't work".
I also know, as a salesperson the tools I want and need. The value of case studies is in the solution you provide. Using as you stated "cardio clinic" will give your salesperson the tools they need. People buy solutions. You won't dilute your message.
Again, I know and appreciate the time you put into making your message so compelling. Just keep an open mind.
Sell Well and Prosper tm
1/21/2008 at 8:55 PM
In the end, it comes down to how important these case studies are to your sales team. After all, they are the ones who utilize case studies to bring in new leads and close the deals with new clients.
You could just keep case studies generic on the websites -- and use names on printed materials given out by the sales team. That way, you cover the concerns raised by your boss and still meet the needs of your sales team.
And I do believe being able to discuss the name of a specific client is important during the direct sales process. If a client is pleased with your work and willing to state their name, then that gives me -- as a prospect -- another layer of security. It's one thing to give me a generic case study. It's another thing to hold up a case study provided by a client willing to put his name on it and approve it.
Rather than fight your boss directly on this issue, why not suggest that sales be brought into the conversation. They might appreciate that marketing cared enough to ask their opinion -- and that could settle the issue once and for all. And not only does this take you out of the line of fire -- but it shows that you are thinking about the big picture.
1/22/2008 at 5:12 PM
I want to thank each of you for your insightful replies. I am comforted to hear that many of you do not think removing client names will significantly impact the value of the case studies. As mgoodman said - I'll find something else to fall on my sword for. Thanks.
1/23/2008 at 12:44 PM
A quick add to this string...The value of an unnamed case study is directly proportional to how you plan to use the story. For sales, as Carol said, unnamed does the job of documenting your results and offering proof points. However, for getting PR in your industry, editors want case studies that name your customers.
It's always best to leverage every story in as many ways as you can, so naming names allows you to use it in PR too. That kind of exposure can be huge.
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