Why Your Case Study Needs a Customer Headshot


In a recent survey of the customer success pages of the top 50 SaaS companies, we were surprised to find that only 28% of those companies included a headshot of the customer interviewed in their case studies.

And even where we did find headshots, they weren’t always included consistently.

This lack of customer headshots is troubling because they’re an important trust indicator. They make the customer success story more believable and demonstrate that a real, living person is saying all these nice things about your company and your successful project together. You’re not just making it up.

And that person is willing to “own” their words and put their face to them.

Here’s an example from a Qualys case study:

In short, headshots count for a LOT!

So then why aren’t more companies including them in their case studies?

We can think of a couple of reasons:

Quite simply, headshots can be hard to get from customers. They require consistent, persistent follow-up. And after a few unsuccessful attempts, it’s just easier to let the ask slide.

But getting headshots is a lot easier if you set expectations at the outset. Well before the interview, make clear that you’ll need a headshot to accompany the piece and explain why.

Getting headshots is a lot easier if you set expectations at the outset.

And when all else fails, get creative. If a customer drags their feet on getting a headshot to you, ask their permission to use a screenshot of their LinkedIn profile photo, for example.

It can also help if you address the reasons why they might be holding back, such as shyness or fear of taking credit.

a)  The customer feels shy

Occasionally, customers will hesitate to supply a headshot because they feel a little shy about putting their image out into the world.

You can assuage this fear by showing them examples and allowing them to review the finished deliverable. Let them see that it’s just a small image (that they’ve chosen!). It’s not like you’re going to fill the cover page with it or put it on a bus stop.

b)  The customer doesn’t want to take credit

Sometimes, customers are a little hesitant to supply a headshot because they don’t want to be perceived as taking personal credit for a team effort. No one wants to be “that guy.”

You can put these fears to rest by making sure that the efforts of the entire team are recognized within the case study story, not just the customer interviewed. Offer to attribute any accomplishments to the team or company instead, and suggest that they amend their quotes from “I” statements to “we” statements.

So just because the interviewee is providing quotes and a headshot, that doesn’t mean they’re taking the credit. They’re just narrating the story.

Of course, it’s unlikely that your customers will voice these objections directly. They’re not going to say “I feel shy” or “I don’t want to take credit.” Instead, the objections manifest as feet dragging.

So you need to anticipate these objections and address them proactively through clear communication, by sharing examples, and by giving them the opportunity to review the final product.

Some companies hesitate to include customer headshots in their case studies because they worry that by telling the story from the individual’s perspective, they’re somehow diluting the power of the customer’s brand.

To put it harshly: they don’t care so much that Jane Smith thought the project was great. (After all, Jane Smith could quit her job tomorrow.) They care much more that Jane’s employer thought their project was great, especially if it’s a big brand with a familiar logo they can splash all over the front page.

This points to a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of case studies and what makes them so powerful: case studies are ultimately people stories, not company stories, whether they’re for a small solo business or a huge enterprise company.

Case studies are people stories, not company stories.

The old adage still holds: people buy from people, not companies.

When prospective customers look at your case studies, they don’t just want to see a company that’s like their company. They want to see THEMSELVES.

And when you put a headshot in those case studies, you make that person more relatable. They’re no longer just a faceless voice. They’re a real person that experienced the same challenges that your prospective customer is facing.

Someone who triumphed over challenges that your prospective customer shares—with your help.

Which means giving the hero of your story a name—and a face.

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