Earlier this month, Michael Brenner published a great post on the Marketing Insider Group blog describing how to create engaging case studies for clients. Michael made many valuable suggestions including:
- Make case studies ‘fit in’ for potential buyers
- Include enough detail to make the case studies look real
- Tell the full story (including the challenges you faced and how they were addressed)
- Show clear results with real numbers
- Include customer quotes and testimonials
- Use compelling visuals
Customer case studies have always been a staple of the B2B content marketing mix. In the latest content marketing survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 61% of B2B respondents said they use case studies in their content marketing programs.
However, recent research indicates that the value that potential buyers attribute to case studies has declined. For example, in 2021 Clear Content Preferences As per the Demand Gen Report, 35% of business buyers surveyed identified case studies as one of the most valuable types of content they use when researching potential purchases. This was down from 72% in the 2016 edition of the survey.
Michael Brenner described several ways to improve the quality of client case studies, and I agree with most of what he has written. In fact, I discussed some of the same points in a brief guide to creating effective case studies that I wrote several years ago. But there are two more steps B2B marketers need to take to make their case studies really stand out.
Make the customer the hero
Clients often ask me to review their case studies, and unfortunately, what I often see is self-promotional “adware” disguised as a case study.
The mistake many companies make is portraying themselves, rather than their customers, as the champion of their case studies. The story line of many of the case studies is like an old silent movie where the villain connects a helpless girl (the customer) to the railroad tracks, and the hero (the sold company) rides at the last minute to save the girl in distress from oncoming. trains.
A good case study will lead readers to identify with the customer. You want readers to indirectly experience the pain the client was feeling and the success the client was having. Basically, you want your readers to finish the case study thinking they can achieve similar success. When you make your company the hero of your case studies, you ask readers to get to know your company, not the customer.
An outstanding case study will be written from the client’s perspective. would say Customer story describe What the customer was able to achieve With the help of your solution of course. So, when you prepare a case study, you can give your company a strong supporting role, but always make your customer the star.
Case study solution to the “data problem”
Most potential buyers turn to case studies to help them evaluate potential solutions and validate their purchasing decisions. Therefore, the case study should contain enough detail to describe the customer’s business situation and challenges, the customer’s experience with your company’s product or service, and the results obtained by the customer.
One of the most powerful ways to add compelling detail to a case study is to include quantitative data when describing a customer problem or challenge and the outcomes that the customer produces by implementing your company’s solution. The problem is that it can be difficult to get hold of this type of data, especially when the case study is not prepared until several months after a customer has made a purchase and started using your solution.
When that happens, the marketer developing the case study must build (or rebuild) the required data. Having gone through this process on numerous occasions, I can attest that it is not an easy or quick task. In addition, it usually takes a lot of help from the client, and you ask for help when the client’s time and attention shifts to other pressing issues.
Because of these difficulties, case study developers often have to fall back on general descriptions that simply don’t affect the real numbers.
While many types of B2B companies use case studies in their marketing efforts, they are frequently used by companies that offer expensive and/or complex products or services, or solutions that require the buyer to make significant changes in some aspect (aspect) of their business. their business operations. These are high consideration purchases, and case studies serve as a form of “social proof” for potential buyers.
In many cases, these types of companies will acquire new customers at a relatively slow pace, and this can enable marketers to engage in some advance planning that will make it easier to create more compelling case studies. Here are three steps marketers can take to reduce or eliminate the “data problem” in a case study.
Identification of potential candidates Meet with the sales team regularly to review recently closed deals and identify new customers who might be good subjects for case studies. A new customer can be a good candidate for a case study because of who the customer is (large, well-known companies are always nice) or because the customer will reap significant benefits by implementing your solution.
Raising estimates of return on investment – Many companies that provide expensive and/or complex solutions generate ROI estimates as part of the sales process. When done well, these estimates usually capture a great deal of data about a client’s current business problem or challenge. So, once you’ve identified new clients who look like promising candidates for the case study, sit down with relevant members of your sales team and review any ROI estimates that have been made for the client.
Monitoring customer success Determine the quantitative metrics that will best generate the benefits your new customer is likely to derive from implementing your solution, and start tracking those metrics in beginning for customer relationship. If your company has a “customer success” function, you likely have the mechanisms in place to collect most of this data. Helping customers reap the maximum benefits from your solution is important for reasons that go beyond creating case studies. So, even if you don’t have a formal function dedicated to customer success, you still need a process to monitor how customers benefit from your solution.
Image courtesy of Animated Heaven via Flickr (Public Domain).