Why a fresh set of eyes creates a better case study.

Last week Jennifer and I were at lunch mulling over a postcard we’d created for a local accounting firm. They’d already approved the ad, but we felt it wasn’t quite right. As we looked over each element, the colors, photo, and general placement of text was good. It was the first few sentences that troubled us.

As we sat trying different word combinations, a business associate came by. He commented on the “nice ad.” I explained that it didn’t quite work, but we were stumped as to why.

He studied the ad for about half a minute. Then he placed his hand over some text and said, “This part is redundant. I’d leave it out.”

Eureka! That was it. That was what was making us uneasy. We’d been too close to the project to see what could make it better. We needed a fresh set of eyes to overcome our blindness. It’s the same with customer success stories. You need a fresh set of eyes when creating one.

Having an outsider create case studies gives you 3 advantages:

  1. You get a fresh viewpoint.
  2. Authentic data is uncovered.
  3. It frees up your energy.

Getting a fresh viewpoint

When someone within your organization creates a case study, they know your product/service inside and out. They also have insider information about your customers.

This familiarity creates 2 obstacles: 1) Being in The Box and 2)  A staid attitude.

Being in the Box is seeing the company from corporate eyes. When you create questions to ask a customer, you create them from your company’s standpoint. A customer has a completely different viewpoint. It’s hard to see this when you’re inside the box.

A “staid attitude,” is having many things to do. In other words, the case study becomes just one more thing to check off.  Having a long list of things that need to get done leads to less-than-exciting writing. It’s hard to be creative in a busy office.

These two obstacles don’t mean case studies created by in-house marketing departments are sub-standard. It just means it’s harder to make them sparkle.

When you use an outside writer, they have a different perspective. They’re not engaged in your day to day work. They write for many companies. Instead of seeing a case study as just one more to do item, a freelancer sees it as learning something new – which makes it exciting.

Most freelancers enjoy learning about people. They want a better understanding of why someone chose your product. A freelancer doesn’t have the company ownership that an insider does. This gives them a fresh perspective. This unencumbered perspective lets an outsider ask questions you might not consider.

Uncovering Authentic Data

A fresh perspective also lets the customer speak more freely. This means you get the real reason the customer purchased your product/service – not the reason you think they did.

Let me give you an example: Several years ago Jennifer and I worked with a local flooring contractor. He asked us to create three case studies to share with prospects.

During the first interview I sensed some hesitation on the part of the customer. As I probed deeper, the customer told me she didn’t purchase the carpeting because of  the quality.

She knew that’s what my client wanted her to say. He’d told her this when he called to ask if she’d be a case study. She said his quality was good – it just wasn’t the reason she purchased from him. The reason she used him was because she trusted him.

You see, several years ago she’d had a large section of carpet damaged in her waiting room. She called the original installer and learned her carpet had been discontinued. She was told it was difficult to match. She would need to replace several thousand square feet for her entire office.  

No one she contacted could fix her problem – until she called my client. He proposed using pieces from the closets, and an unused room, to put together enough of the same carpet to repair the damage.

At first she was skeptical this would look good. But she decided to try it as the cost of replacing the entire carpet was quite high. The result was fantastic. (He put similar carpet in the closet and unused room.) She was so impressed with his dedication and problem solving that she used him for several remodeling projects she was involved with.

She ended our conversation by telling me she’d told my client the real reason she purchased from him. But he didn’t feel that was a valid reason to buy. In his mind he was competing on price and/or quality.

The other two customers had similar stories. As I talked with my client, I explained the fabulous unique ability he had. I encouraged him to capitalize on it. Which he did and sold more carpet as a result.

From this experience, I learned customers felt more comfortable telling me things talking with a company rep. They knew I wasn’t invested in the outcome of the interview. They knew I wouldn’t be offended if they didn’t say what was expected. This freed them to tell me the real reason they made a purchase.

Freeing up Energy

Using a freelancer takes case study creation off your to do list. This saves you time (obviously). But more importantly, using someone else frees up your energy.

Let me explain. Everything on your to-do list takes time to get done. Routine tasks take time and just a bit of energy. But creative tasks take high energy – and this makes them harder to get done in an office setting.

I know how difficult high-energy work can be while at the office. (I used to work in corporate America.)

Remove distractions from your high-energy times, especially email and non-verbal communication. If you are working on something in your high-energy time, give yourself the time to fully immerse, focusing on this particular task. External inputs like emails, messages and menial tasks will fight for your attention, but they can easily be answered in times of lower energy. .

~Sebastian Martin, The Startup,

Do You Keep Putting Off Your High Energy Tasks?

I loved being an employee. I liked my co-workers. I liked the structure. And I liked the products and services the companies I worked for sold.

However, I found it difficult to work on high-energy tasks while an employee. It was hard for me to write while surrounded by others. If you find yourself putting off your high energy tasks – such as case studies and white papers – give me a call.

Let me take those high energy items off your to do list and get them done.

Contact me today.