Jason Ball is founder of B2B marketing specialist Considered Content and managed content service Prolific

Finding a client who’ll talk up your firm is a big deal. People trust people and want social proof before they buy, so endorsements from highly engaged clients are valuable to every business across every sector.

In fact, in a study by G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing, 92% of respondents said that they were more likely to purchase a product or service when they had read a trusted review.

When you find a willing case-study participant, it’s tempting to dive in with questions like: Why do you like working with us? What impact has our work had on your business? What have you found particularly valuable about our service? How likely are you to recommend us to others?

You write it up, post and share on social media, and give it top billing on your website with a headline that says: ‘How we helped Zammowidgets Toy Company be more efficient’. There are a couple of paragraphs on the problem (often as seen through the firm’s eyes), then four or so more on the solution, and a couple on the results.

What your future clients are most interested in is not you, the vendor, but other businesses just like their own

Make content resonate

Of course, this all makes sense from the firm's perspective. After all, who wouldn't want to know about how our services create success? But, while some customers are reading relatively late on in the buying process and may find this sort of content useful when narrowing their shortlist, the vast majority will be in an earlier, information-gathering mode.

At this stage in the customer journey, your prospects either have limited awareness of their problems or they’ve only just recognised the need for change. Perhaps they’re starting to fall behind the competition, or perhaps their incumbent firm is making frequent rookie mistakes or isn’t offering much by way of added value. By giving your client case study an ‘as seen through the firm’s eyes’ treatment, the content you produce is unlikely to resonate.

Using this rinse-and-repeat template is also problematic because focusing on your service rather than on your client’s actual problems does little to provoke action among prospects, which ought to be the function of any marketing effort.

What your future clients are most interested in is not you, the vendor, but other businesses just like their own. They want to know what others got right and wrong.

Forget about you

Try this approach instead. Forget about you. Treat it as an interview that really gets under the skin of your client’s business. Think of it more like a profile feature you'd find in a business magazine.

Create a wide-ranging client interview that covers multiple aspects of their business and will therefore appeal at every stage of the buyer journey (or at least more stages than the very bottom of the funnel). Then write, film or record a piece that is at least 80% about them and, at most, 20% about you.

Your readers won’t expect a magic wand because that's not very credible, so keep it real. In doing so, you’ll create a case study that your audience actually wants to read – one that creates value for their thinking and one that clearly shows that you’re focused on your clients’ success.

Make client experience work for you

Testimonials are a couple of sentences provided by clients on request. They tend to be used on firm websites in a dedicated section. While these can add credibility to your website, they are inevitably going to be one-sided, so rather than focusing on how happy they are with the job done, focus instead on the client’s problem and how it was solved.

Reviews are typically short comments from clients past and present, which may be left on third-party sites like LinkedIn, Google, Trustpilot and Facebook. These may include negative as well as positive reviews. Wherever possible, respond to reviews quickly and personably; this shows that you care.

Case studies are longer, in-depth editorial-style pieces that prospects can relate to by seeing their own problems mirrored by another business. Remember the golden rule: 80% should be about the client, 20% (at most) about your firm.

Referrals are word-of-mouth leads. Those doing the referring are highly engaged brand advocates and are incredibly valuable to your firm – so identify them and treat them well.