Case studies are the first reference document decision-makers turn to when researching a new product, according to market research firm Gartner.
For prospects, case studies are an effective way to identify potential solutions that may address their requirements.
For this reason, small businesses owners should consider developing a library of case studies to capitalize on the appetite for such documents.
Why Write Case Studies?
As customers increasingly use the Internet to research products before making a purchase, marketing departments can develop focused case studies to address the typical risks, issues, and challenges facing prospective customers — and how to overcome these using your product.
Case studies are an effective and low cost way to do this. Here’s how to do it.
Understanding Buying Scenarios
Think of a typical buying scenario.
Let’s say you decide to buy a new laptop.
Instead of going to the store, comparing prices, specs, and warranties, you’ll probably research it first online.
Then, armed with the right info, you’ll get the laptop that suits your needs. Or maybe you’ll simply buy it online.
Part of the research phase involves looking at product reviews, testimonials, images, videos, datasheets, and specifications.
While most of this applies to B2C purchases, it’s also applies to B2B.
Here are five benefits to writing B2B business case studies.
Benefit #1: Leverage Customer Testimonials
In the B2B space, where the price point is much higher than typical B2C purchases, and the risk of selecting the wrong product has more implications, customer testimonials are very important.
A case study is a direct endorsement from a satisfied customer.
Use case studies to weave these customer testimonials into your marketing campaigns.
In the same way that product reviews on Amazon sites influence buyers, case studies have a similar role in the enterprise buying process.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of using case studies to raise awareness, encourage customer uptake, and increase sales.
Benefit #2: Use Stories to Create Empathy
By ‘stories’ we don’t mean Harry Potter.
Rather a narrative that orients the reader, builds empathy, and helps them see how this product could work for them and — is focused on the reader, not the product!
When crafting your story, discuss the type of issues a specific client had, walk them through how your product helped them solve this problem.
Suggest to the reader, that if her company is challenged in the same way as your ‘protagonist’, then your product might also work for them.
Use storytelling techniques in case studies to attract and retain prospective customers.
The typical format of a case study is:
- Back story. Putting things in context for the reader. How did we get to the place?
- Customers (characters) and the difficulties they experienced before (and after) implementing the solution.
- The main challenges they were facing.
- The conflict this created in the company.
- The resolution. How your product resolved their underlying issue and the difference this made to their characters.
Try to see your customers as actors or roles in the case study adventure.
Now, how do you save them from the demon —e.g. manual accounting practices — to something better — more cost effective, scalable, and internet-enabled.
Benefit #3: Peer Influence
Most sales material is self-serving. They’re typically product focused.
It tells you how successful the company is, awards they’ve won, and so on.
Customers aren’t fooled by this.
What they’re interested in is: Will this product will work for me?
Before making the purchase, consider their reservations, anxieties, and concerns.
- Has anyone bought this product before?
- How fast was it implemented?
- What was the scale of the implementation?
- What issues were they facing?
And so on.
Case studies should address these questions.
Even better, they should use a real world scenario to describe how the product was deployed, the timeframe, resources, and benefits accrued.
The fact that a real customer allowed their name to be used in the case study adds significant weight to the product’s credibility.
Benefit #4: Brand Evangelists
In section two, we discussed how you can use stories to create an emotional connection with your reader.
What this means is that you need to see your reader, or someone who will play a role in their organization, as a character, an actor in the drama you’re describing.
If you manage to do this correctly, you can then encourage the reader to see you, the provider of this service as a type of ‘hero.’
Think of that person who took your call when you phoned a call center long distance and helped you fix your credit card problem. Or if you missed a flight and the help desk got you onto the next flight.
Now, imagine that you feel so grateful that you go on Twitter or Facebook and give them a shout-out, a thank you, for going the extra year.
Now, try to approach the client who helped you prepare the case study, and see if they can help spread the word, get the message out.
Word of mouth is the antidote to the noise generated on the web, on social media, and through advertising.
Benefit #5: Repurpose Content
Use the reference material in the case study to write blog articles, white papers, data sheets, visuals, and other types of content.
Another suggestion is to adjust the base case study to create similar documents for different target readers. For example, one for a technical reader, another for the buyer.
Case studies are a very effective type of customer endorsement. Consider the following points when writing them.
- Include quotes written in normal, everyday language
- Give quantifiable numbers that demonstrate cost reductions and savings
- Identify how you minimized risk, implying that by NOT using your product the reader is undermining their own chance of success
- Use buzzwords, clichés, and jargon
- Stuff quotes full of keywords to influence search engines
- Cover you bases with generic solutions. Be specific
Case studies are the most frequently downloaded marketing documents.
As mentioned above, white papers, blog articles, and product brochures are fine but can come across as self-serving and promotional.
Case studies focus on an actual customer.
For prospective customers, this helps them gauge if the product aligns with their industry needs, meets compliance requirements, and the type of risks and issues encountered by the deployment team.
Case studies that can quantify the value they’ve added, for example, reduced call center support calls by 21% in three months, help the reader understand possible cost savings.
While these figures are indicative only, they do help the reader assess if the product is a likely fit.
For prospective buyers, this level of detail will pique their interest.
As part of a marketing system, case studies complement other documents. While datasheets and technical specifications will appeal to CIOs and IT Managers, case studies will be of interest to those on the business, operations, and marketing side.
Ideally, you should develop a library of case studies. Each should focus on a specific technology, feature, or capability, rather than trying to cover everything in one ‘catch all’ document.