Securing Permission and Overcoming Roadblocks

How to Overcome Approval Roadblocks

Occasionally, even after a customer has agreed to participate in a case study, the story won’t be approved for final use. It may be due to internal policies, liability concerns, data security, protecting information from competitors, or just selective choice.

It can be disappointing after putting all of the effort into getting and receiving permission, producing the story, and then “almost” getting to the finish line.

Fortunately, alternatives exist when your customer won’t go public with the story.

  1. The Unnamed Customer Story. Although the credibility of using your customer’s name is ideal, sometimes, it’s just not possible. Enter the “unnamed customer story”, which can be more effective than you might think. An anonymous case study still provides prospective customers with insights into how you deliver your solutions and the results delivered.  If a case study is not approved for publication, perhaps you can turn it into an anonymous success story. Here is an example of a case study where the featured candidate did not want to be named.
  2. The Limited Use Story. If your customer won’t agree to the full public use of a case study, they may grant limited use. They may allow you to publish the case study on a gated website, or via email, or even printed copies at events. For example: A Fortune 500 customer agrees to participate in a case study, but their legal department puts the brakes on because they don’t want to reveal details of their business practices.  You come back with a limited-distribution proposal that respects their concerns indicating that you won’t use it on your website, but would like to create a PDF file of the story that would only be used for one-on-one sales opportunities for a limited number of time (i.e. six months).

How to Secure Permission Up Front

When approaching customers that you’d like to feature in a case study, it’s important to understand their needs, concerns, motivators, and current goals (while also achieving your objectives). This may require more time and thought upfront, but will result in a strong story that will be approved in the end.

Securing permission up front is an essential part of the process, and is one of the top challenges that many organizations face. Getting approval in advance, in writing, may improve your chances of success, whether it’s in email form or a through a legal document.

Here are three typical approaches for requesting customer approval up front:

  1. Casual email approvals are a friendly and quick and easy way to get a customer to approve to participate in a case study, but are not a binding agreement.
  2. Formal email approvals combine the casual approach above with a formal element. Here’s an example phrase to include in your request for a case study, “ABC Manufacturing Company gives EFG Company permission to use the case study about the XYZ project on its website, social media, and for sales opportunities.” These are not typically binding, but states the agreement to publish in writing.
  3. Signed Release Forms include the casual approach with an attached release form (see the Pitch Packet below) that details how the case study will be used. Once signed, this will result in peace of mind and more certainty. It may take longer for the customer to review and approve, but can result in an “official” sign off.

Pitch Packet

If you need help getting buy-in or approval from your ideal case study candidate, here’s a pitch packet (release form and email templates) that you can tweak to fit your business needs.

Click on the title to download.

Email Pitch Template — Use this template to get customers excited about participating in your customer success story.

The Case Study Process — Your client may wonder what to expect once they agree to be featured in a case study. Use this one page overview to describe how the process works from end-to-end.

Case Study Release Form — Before writing and publishing a case study, it is important to obtain consent. Consult your attorney regarding the most relevant wording for your own release form.

Modify any of the templates to fit your unique needs.

Wishing you the best of luck!