Case Studies can be a powerful sales tool, if they’re done well. But most companies try to follow such a rigid format and focus the case study internally instead of telling a client story. When approached from this angle, they do little more than name dropping. Instead of filling in a standard template, tell the customer’s story, positioning them as the hero.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
It’s critical to prepare fully before contacting the client. Make sure you know the story from the company’s perspective. Research the client’s business. Make sure you understand exactly what the client bought and where they are in the implementation/roll-out process. Read other recent press about the client to figure out their current PR strategy.
The Right Interviewer Gets the Story Behind the Case Study
The best person to conduct the interview is someone who is not too close to the subject or the customer. People too close to the client tend to listen with filters in the way. Also, clients are often more relaxed with an interviewer who is not involved in the contractual relationship or project plan.
However, the interviewer MUST have a relevant background and understand the client’s business. Otherwise, the client will have to give a 101 lesson on their business, which is not helpful to capturing the story’s nuance.
Often using an outside agency, writer or journalist who knows the industry, is familiar with the client’s business, and understands your content marketing goals can get the best story. Choose a storyteller, someone who can glean the story, but who also understands the challenges involved in getting a customer story approved.
Think Like a Reporter
When you’re gathering the story, think like a reporter, not a marketer. Conduct an interview with the client. You’re looking for a story, not a testimonial. Look for the human story. Look for surprises and detours. Be prepared to listen and find the tangents.
It’s the Customer’s Story, Make Them the Hero
Don’t position your client as a damsel in distress needing to be saved by your company. Make the customer the hero. They identified the goal, they came up with the solution, they reaped the rewards, they saved the day. The vendor should be positioned as the mentor guiding the client and your product as the tool the hero used to save the day. The customer will make the case for you, if you make them the center of the story.
Here’s a rule of thumb: look at your ratio of company to customer mentions and try to keep company mentions below 25%. If the ratio is off, I can pretty much guarantee that you’re focused too much on your company instead of the client.
Use the Case Study to Give the Customer Publicity
In many cases, we’ve found customers more willing to participate in case studies if we turn it into an opportunity for publicity for them. If you position the customer as the hero and align with their PR and marketing objectives, they’re much more likely to embrace the process. We also find that if we publish articles as bylines in the trade press, clients are more interested in participating.
Write Anonymous Use Cases
It’s common in the financial industry that banks can’t let our clients use their names, for a variety of reasons. But most are willing to allow us to tell their story anonymously. So we write what we call “use cases” which are framed like case studies, but are actually an amalgamation of multiple clients. This helps us tell the whole story. We keep the clients anonymous and note at the beginning or end that this is an amalgamation. This approach also works well for products that are new to the market and lack sufficient adoption to get case studies.
Prospects often tell us that they find these use cases more helpful than the actual case studies. Salespeople find these tools extremely useful in the sales process.
Incorporate Case Studies into a Content Marketing Program
Your approach for case studies should align closely with your content strategy and should be woven into your overall content programs. For example, interviews we do for a case study invariably give us material for several blog posts, video scripts, by-lined articles, press releases and other content.
To Learn More
To find out how PropelGrowth can help you incorporate client case studies into a holistic marketing strategy, contact us here.
Here are some additional articles on creating case studies and weaving them into your content strategy: