Does a case study still work if you can’t name the customer?
Some people, would say no. At best, they say, the story feels bland; at worst, people might think you’ve simply made it up if you can’t name names. At HN, we take a broader view on the value of customer stories.
The confusion lies in the fact that, over the years, the different types of ‘customer story’ – testimonials, use-cases and the traditional ‘deep-dive’ case study to name a few – have become synonymous with each other. Of course, for some of those a name is necessary: a testimonial quote must have an attribution to be of value. And clearly, if you’re working with a household name, being able to call on that association is tremendously valuable. But, for example, a deep-dive case study provides such a detailed business case for your product or service, that the name doesn’t add any validation to the story. And historically it’s always been the case that there are situations where the customer’s name is, for one reason or another, off limits – but we don’t believe that makes the story worthless or less believable. Here are some examples of when we think anonymous customer stories are just fine:
When the name simply gives context
Sometimes the name is simply a shortcut that helps the reader or viewer understand the context and backdrop to the story we want to tell. If that’s the case (or if the name isn’t one that’s particularly well-known in the industry), then we can achieve the same result by describing the business and the attributes we believe make the story meaningful to our audience. We might use descriptors such as ‘a financial practice with three partners who are always on the road’ or ‘with a dispersed operation covering offices and manufacturing facilities in sixteen countries’ to give a sense of scale.
When it’s the results that tell the story
Take this quote, for example: “We helped a financial services company reduce their IT costs by 60% in three months.” With statistics as powerful as that you don’t need a name in order to grab attention. What you do need, however, is the detail to back that stat up – so make sure you capture that when you’re gathering information for your story.
When you’re going deep
Traditionally, a case study or application note was an in-depth analysis of a situation, including figures, facts and commentary to help the reader or viewer learn from the experience of others. In that circumstance, the name of the organisation doesn’t add to the lessons learned. In other words, when you can tell a story in depth, naming names becomes less important.
When you’re coaching, not promoting
Who says a case study is only for your customers? There’s huge value in sharing best practice and helping teams across your organisation replicate success. You can share stories from the front line – how the deal was won, mapping solutions to customer needs and competitive positioning or the deployment challenges that were encountered and overcome by your technical specialists. In doing so you create valuable training material to use around the business.
What do you think? Is there value in an anonymous case study? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment, or getting in touch on Twitter or LinkedIn.