The case study is a powerful tool in the content marketing arsenal, an invaluable testament to the credibility of a business and validity of its messaging. Indeed, for 48% of content marketers in the UK it’s the most powerful, even more so than social media posts and white papers, according to research by the Content Marketing Institute. When done well, not only does the case study consolidate relationships with existing customers, it can make a very positive impression with prospects – a high return on what is, comparatively, a very small investment.
The main thing to keep in mind – it’s an investment not only from your business, but your customer’s. By affirming your brand, the customer is entrusting you with theirs, and yet all too often we see B2B case studies that fall short of expectations; they miss the point, scrimp on the detail or simply do not look the part.
A case study must be something that both your business and customer can be proud of, something you can achieve with these five top tips:
1. Produce an infallible brief
It might be up to you to write the case study but the chances are, at this stage, you have a very top line understanding of the content and no prior relationship with the customer. After all, it’s their account manager the customer knows, trusts and wants to praise and so it stands to reason it’s their account manager who should broach the possibility of a case study, and who should have visibility of the process throughout.
But with that being the case, a clear brief is key. Outline the main objectives of the case study, and provide concise questions that guide the customer into providing the information you need to meet them. Steer your spokesperson, from the challenges they were looking to address, the consultation process, solution and finally, the results. Coax out the full story – but slimline it. The months spent wooing the customer at trade shows, in meetings and over the phone represent a big result for the business and the sales team who encouraged the sale over the line, but it doesn’t make particularly appropriate or compelling reading for anyone else (sorry!).
2. Ensure your process is watertight
The first rule of sales? The customer is always right. So what about if they dispute the use of their name, a quote, or an image as part of a public testimonial you know they approved… but that you perhaps didn’t document or clearly explain? As well as an opportunity to shout about the great results produced for the customer, a case study should be a positive experience and relationship building exercise with them – the last thing you want to do is end the process with a disgruntled contact who started as the business’s biggest advocate!
Luckily, with the right steps in place, this can be easily avoided, and customers will leave with a reiteration of the brilliant results achieved together and a view that long may they continue. Central to this is being upfront at the outset. Whether you are in direct contact with the customer or communication via their account manager, ensure they are provided with a clear and documented outline of the case study process; the purpose of the story and where it will be displayed, what you require to complete the story and how you plan to extract it (a good time to share your new and improved briefing document!), the approval process and timescales.
Next step is to stick to them and keep customers updated. If your case study is taking longer to complete than first thought, let the customer know and don’t lose the momentum – if you do, it may never be approved.
3. Quote your customers
Case studies are golden in content marketing. An infrequent opportunity to communicate the unique selling points and benefits of engaging with your business – the “don’t just take our word for it” clincher. Case studies are a time to give customers a voice. So, needless to say, try not to hog the lime light. When it comes to drafting your case study, quote the customer wherever possible, and don’t be afraid to apply a little creative license if direct quotes need some tidying – the spokesperson will thank you for it. After all, you’ve already perfected your process and briefed them on what to expect, including their full and final approval before any content is made public.
4. In the end, results rule
This one we can’t stress enough. The customer finds the team responsive, there’s a great working relationship, and the solution is easy to use, cost effective and efficient… but how has it effected the bottom line? For prospective clients, it all boils down to results. Tangible ones. How much resource has the solution saved the customer – time, money, space? How has it impacted success with their own customers? How has it improved the service offering or experience? Identify the customer challenge at the outset and provide details of exactly how your business improved this situation with their service or solution, and by how much.
5. Don’t scrimp on design
Creating a case study is an investment of not just your time, but your customer’s. After all your efforts, it would be a shame to fall at the final hurdle with well thought out content that’s lost on an unappealing or unprofessional template. You owe it to your customer and your business to present the best of both companies. So, whether it is in print or online, design is a key element to ensuring content is engaging and captures the attention of your intended audience. Use images of your spokesperson, their industry (your target vertical) and the solution in action. Consider how infographics and iconography can be incorporated to draw out key aspects of the story, and clearly format the content so that readers can easily navigate the industry, challenge, solution and results.
Are you a technology business looking for some inspiration ahead of your next B2B case study? Exploring how content marketing could better benefit your business? Talk to Isoline!
Photo credit: Fancycrave on Unsplash.