Your prospective clients have questions about your Online Review Management and Marketing (ORMM) services.

“How do I know you can do what you say?” They’re looking for an answer to the question lurking in the back of their minds.

Most competitors believe they’re looking for proof. So, they create a case study to showcase the results they’ve achieved for other clients. “See? That’s what we can do for you.”

“That’s nice” clients say, as they glaze over and tune out. As far as they’re concerned any claim a vendor or consultant make goes in one ear and out the other. But why? What’s wrong with telling clients about your accomplishments? Clients don’t want you to tell them about the results…

Clients want you to show the result

What they’re really looking for is a risk reversal. It’s the subtle part of client acquisition most of your competitors get wrong. They do their best to tell clients about the results they’ve been able to achieve. They tell them about how happy other clients are.

But clients want us to show it. Case Studies are perfect if we have the right ingredients. When they’re used well, we’re able to move clients from spectator to subscriber, naturally. But only if we have the right ingredients.

A great case study starts with the right ingredients.

When most of us think of a great case study, we think about something that’s generic – content that is well written, focused on results, statistically valid, etc. Something along those lines. That’s where the problem starts; a great case study is consistent with… itself.

Here’s what I mean. A great case study is all of the things we’ve mentioned before. But it’s good for the client and it’s good for the presenter – you.

What does that mean? We’re showing clients the results we’re able to achieve. We’re presenting the problem and the solution. Still pretty standard so far right? Here’s where we move beyond the traditional case study.

Great case studies create more problems

Every solution, whether it’s a product or service, creates new additional problems. Buy a new car and you now have to deal with tune ups, oil changes and routine maintenance. You create a review management case study and long story short, clients want to hire you. Your clients now need…

Guidance on how to improve customer sentiment.

Responding to one-off reviews is one thing, changing the collective perception of your business in your industry is another. Dr. Gottman’s balance theory of relationships suggests a 5:1 ratio. Five times as many positive interactions as there are negative.

To focus on the metrics that matter most.

If overall sentiment for your client’s product is poor, but their ratings average 4 stars or higher, which matters more? Metrics aren’t created equal, they’re goal dependent. The distribution and frequency of new reviews as a metric, may be more important than sentiment if you’re simply looking to minimize damage and vice versa.

Prioritizing action steps.

Which steps should your client take first? When should they take those steps? Will these steps require any policy or procedure changes?

A great case study serves you and your clients. It ends by introducing and agitating key problems your clients need solved. These are problems that keep them up at night.

What about the other ingredients?

A mesmerizing case study uses a variety of subtle details to attract and keep client attention. These details keep our case study on the right track, without jargon, lectures or condescension. Let’s look at the first key ingredient to creating an informative and useful case study.

1. Asking the right questions.

When they’re handled poorly, creating a case study is a lot like asking for a testimonial. It feels sleazy, awkward and uncomfortable. Your star client isn’t really sure about what to say, doesn’t know how to say it and isn’t really comfortable saying it.

Most of the time it’s because we’ve asked the wrong questions.

Best case scenario, the wrong questions create short yes or no responses, which as we know, aren’t really that helpful. Worst case scenario we get a case study that’s filled with nothing but wonderful, sticky-sweet compliments, the sort of thing clients distrust.

Okay, what kind of questions should we ask, specifically?

1. What problems motivated you to buy [our service]?
2. What did you expect as a client coming in?
3. What were the results of using [our service]?
4. What would be two to three benefits to using [our service]?
5. Would you recommend [our service] to anyone else? Why?

These questions are incredibly effective because they’re…

Open ended. Clients, especially when they’re happy, are eager to please. These questions make it difficult for them to give us the answers they think we want. We avoid the dreaded yes or no answer and pretentious fluff.

Problematic. Research shows we’re drawn to problems. Fear, problems, disasters – these things grab and hold our attention more easily than neutral or positive information.

Solution focused. Solutions presented without a problem lose context but they’re also proven to be less effective. We’re more likely to choose a solution when it’s presented after the problem.

Precise. These questions draw out details. When it comes to numbers, case studies are usually pretty specific. Emotional, psychological and situational details? Not so much. These questions are open ended but they bring out the specific details that make your case study believable.

Low barrier to entry. Tell clients we only have five questions and they’re more likely to give us the case study we need. Get them to elaborate, and they tend to go into detail on their own. People love talking about themselves. Ask permission to continue and most of the time they’re willing. When it’s handled well, a 5 to 10 minute conversation is all we need.

Here’s why these questions are so important. They show you what you’ll need to include and how to create a fascinating case study.

  • Asking what problems motivated them to buy our product or service gives you the juicy details you need to create your overview and introduce the problem.
  • Asking “what did you expect” gives you specific details on their goals and objectives. If the majority of negative reviews are on Yelp the campaign goal might be to focus on getting positive Yelp reviews.
  • Sharing the results of your program creates a nice opening for you to talk more about the steps you took to remedy the problem, allowing you to discuss the strategy and tactics involved. This is key as it’s a subtle way to show your depth of knowledge without being self absorbed.
  • Asking clients about the benefits of our service gets clients to sell our product or service to others, increasing their psychological commitment to us.
  • The last question establishes trust and defuses objection in a prospective customer’s mind.

2. Telling a story

Case studies, when they’re fascinating, tell a story. Was our client the victim of social justice warriors run amok? Did an ex employee create a PR nightmare that lead to a wave of nasty reviews?

If there’s a compelling story to tell, share it. Stories are filled with personal details that clients remember. The more compelling the story, the more likely it is to be shared.

Does our client have a story to tell? Stay safe with these guidelines.

Don’t humiliate anyone. The client should be the hero or beneficiary of the story (We benefit by sharing their story).

Avoid asserting power over others. If the client just laid off 1/3 of their workforce, bragging about their new hires is probably a bad idea. Keep the story focused on the client, maintaining a servant perspective.

Show gratitude. Create a great case study and our client will probably feel like we owe them one. What’s worse, their contribution will increase in value over time (in their mind), while decreasing in ours. So we have to do what we can to continually show clients our appreciation.

3. Introduce the next problem

Problems create stress and anxiety. Solutions relieve stress and anxiety. A great case study introduces a new, but very relevant, problem.

This problem spurs clients to take action – whether that is subscribing to our email list, using our tools or resources or requesting a quote. It motivates clients to take the very next step. Add a call-to-action introducing the next problem at the end of your case study.

If our case study features a restaurant, for instance, our next step could be…

  • Dealing with legitimate negative reviews.
  • Getting rave reviews from angry customers.
  • Changing customer sentiment when clients have lots of bad reviews.

Pitch the offer to relevant partners, restaurants, suppliers, etc. Lead with the problem and present our lead magnet, our offer as the solution. Track the results via analytics then, rinse and repeat.

We just need to make sure our solution comes after the problem.

A case study might not be enough

In many cases, the case study alone won’t convince a prospective client to buy. That shouldn’t be our goal if clients aren’t ready for that, which is why it’s important to identify where they are in their buyer’s journey.Entice them instead to take the very next step. Agitate their problem, give them a compelling reason to subscribe. Create a trail of breadcrumbs, leading them slowly but surely from prospect to subscriber to client.

Prospective clients have a question

They’re looking for an answer to the questions lurking in the back of their minds. Your competitors believe they have the answer, the proof your client is looking for. But you know the truth; clients want you to show not tell.

Use the secret ingredients I’ve shared to create compelling case studies, the kind that attract immediate and consistent attention. With consistent effort, your case studies will attract the reputation and results you’re looking for.