6 workarounds for creating case studies against all odds.


So you’re 5 miles into the backcountry mountain biking when you blow your rear tire. Once you get to work patching it, you realize your patch kit hasn’t seen the light of day since before your 6-year-old was born and the glue is dryer than trail dust. This would never have happened before you became a parent. But rather than lament in the hot sun, you get to work packing your tire with dried grass. Then once you’ve got it good and firm, you ride on at a lumpy gait, relieved that you’re no longer cougar bait .

I love a good work around. And I hate to sit around and wait. For anything.

And some things are simply too important to wait around for. Case studies are prime examples.

They occupy a critical spot in B2B sales funnels, and I believe it can really hurt you not to have them on hand.

But in the real world, sometimes you don’t have all the information you need to do a proper case study. I mean, it can be kind of hard to twist your client’s arm for a testimonial—and getting information from the people inside of your company can be just as difficult.

So if you want to to complete a case study in a timely manner and be able to publish it while it’s still relevant, you need workarounds that enable you to create an interesting and compelling story with incomplete information.

Here are a couple of common hang-ups and the workarounds I often use.

Problem: You don’t have express permission from your client to mention their name.

Solution: Refer to the client in generic terms. For example say, “an international soft drink manufacturer” rather than Coke. Instead of naming clients, refer to them in terms that could point to any number of clients, e.g., “a mid-sized software company in the Boston area” or “a 500-employee manufacturer in the automotive industry.” The important thing is to use terms readers will relate to; ones that will make them think, “Oh, yeah, that’s an organization I can relate to. I’m a lot like them.”

Problem: Your client has been slow to get back to you with a testimonial quote. Hey, it happens. This writing stuff ain’t easy. For whatever reason—compliance issues, lack of direction—they just don’t seem to be getting back to you. No worries. I have solutions for you.

Solutions: 1) Do without. Hey, they often sound kind of generic anyway. 2) Write one for your client AND give it to them to approve. Couch your request in a “Hey, I was hoping you could write a testimonial that’s something like this. Feel free to edit this one or disregard it altogether. Just trying to help—I know how much of a pain these things can be to write!” 3) Get a quote from someone in your own organization who performed a critical role in your company’s success.

Problem: No ROI yet or no hard and fast data to reference.

Solution: Highlight incomplete results. For example in the case of a recent website launch where you don’t have any real numbers yet, you could say, “3 weeks after the launch and we’re already noticing an increase in traffic.” Or you could reference general accomplishments that aren’t tied to ROI, like, “Now visitors are treated to a brighter, more streamlined appearance that requires less clicks to navigate to what they need.” Lastly, you could opt for soft results by finding a creative way of demonstrating that your client or your client’s clients could not be happier.

Problem: The project that is the subject of the case study isn’t completely finished yet.

Solution: Some projects are so big and last so long, that it could be over a year for you to publish a case study trumpeting your hard-fought achievement. This can be a common challenge if long, drawn-out projects are the nature of your business. No worries. Do a case study up to a particular milestone, or highlight a particular challenge within the overall project, and then show how you overcame it.

Problem: You have a great story for a case study, but it’s as old as faxes and as dated as VHS.

Solution: Focus on the evergreen messages like the extraordinary lengths your people went to in order to deliver, or the details of your customer’s situation that create drama, and give examples of your company’s insights, understanding and commitment. Portray the results in a relevant way that doesn’t tie them to the past. For example, cite the number of customers it led to or the amount of territory it opened up. And be sure and remove all the references to faxes and Netscape.

Problem: The story you want to feature has confidential stuff in there that you can’t mention.

Solution: Don’t—as in, don’t mention any of the off-limits information. But when it creates a gap in your story, call it out. For example, if a location is sensitive, refer to it as a “secret location.” Rather than ruining a story, it adds intrigue. It also shows that your clients trust you with trade secrets—and that demonstrates your importance to prospects.

It’s important to show your work. So don’t let little setbacks like these prevent you from telling your company’s story. Use these workarounds to complete your compelling case studies or create placeholders until you get the stats, quotes or approvals you need.

Hope these tips help you to keep case-studying, and if you run into a snag or run out of time, remember I’m here to help. Email me anytime.