How to Write a Case Study When the Client Won’t Give PermissionReading Time: 2 minutes
This is an unfortunate but common B2B marketing story. Maybe your business has landed a major client, such as Walmart, Best Buy, Lowes, or some other Fortune 500 company. It’s a big deal to you and your company, and you want to boost your credibility by letting people know a client this large trusts you.
What are the chances that large company will let you write a case study about them? Probably zero.
I’m going to explain the reasons this is usually the case and provide practical advice on how to make it happen.
- First, large companies don’t have the time or interest to help a tiny company gain credibility.
- Second, case studies often reveal a weakness or other lack, and large companies don’t want investors to know they have a weakness.
- Third, corporate legal departments. Enough said there. We all understand it’s their job to reduce risk, but if you’ve ever worked with a legal department, you already know the answer is no. The answer will be no tomorrow as well.
- Fourth, a common scenario is that the larger the company your client is, the less of their business you can affect. For example, I provided marketing to a tech company that created a software solution for Walmart. To be specific, they wrote software for Walmart’s human resource department. To be more specific and more honest, they wrote software for one small segment of the HR department of Walmart. Basically, most of the HR department didn’t even know it needed help or that my client existed.
So how can you share the story of your work and boost your credibility?
- Write the complete case study. Make it as strong as possible of a success story, but don’t go so far or reveal so much that it causes your client to reject the entire thing.
- Write quotes from your company and a quote from your client’s project lead.
- Design it. Don’t just send a messy Word document, but a well-designed PDF suitable to post on your website. Show the client you will present them professionally.
- Write your content so it presents your client in a positive light. Obviously, if they didn’t have a problem they wouldn’t need a solution. But you don’t need to give the dirty details. For example, if you provided a software solution to prevent fraud, you don’t need to say that one of their employees stole $85,000 from them. Simply say, “The client was seeking a software solution to improve business efficiency while putting in place the strongest security measures available.”
- If the answer is absolutely no, ask for the next best thing. Ask if you can use it internally for a sales person to share with a prospect. You might get a yes for that. We did this for a client, and across the top of the PDF, it was clearly marked, “Confidential. Internal Use Only. Not for Public Distribution.” That gave the large company a little more comfort, and it wasn’t posted on the client’s website.
- Be anonymous. If your client absolutely refuses to let you do a case study, write it without naming them. You’ll need to be creative because you definitely don’t want to offend your client and risk the hurting relationship. Keeping a strong client relationship matters more than your case study. Instead of naming Walmart, you might say, “An international retailer with over 11,000 locations in 28 countries…” Most people might guess that’s Walmart, but if your client is smaller, most people won’t know. You could say, “Our client is an electronics retailer with 84 stores in 28 states.”
A client is more likely to approve a case study that’s well-written, accurate, not embellished, and presents them in a good light.