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There are some things in life that you know how they will end even before they begin. The movie Casablanca is a classic example. You know from the start of the movie WHERE the story is going. You just don’t know HOW. And the HOW is what made it a classic.
A case study is like that. Your prospect knows the outcome before they read it – it’s a story that ends happily ever after (well, the client buys your product). Since they already know where it’s coming out, they don’t need to read it! And we all know how much work they are to get written and approved so that’s not good!
On the other hand, we all know that every single significant B2B purchase (or considered B2C purchase) involves an active search to find how other prospects in similar situations have solved their problems… including what products or services they bought and why. Gee… isn’t that what case studies are supposed to do?
Casablanca or Ishtar?
Which brings us to a key point… it’s not (so much) WHAT you say, it’s (even more) HOW you tell it. Or more specifically, the nine ways you tell it. Here are the first five ways to turn your case studies into selling stories. Look for the final four next week.
1. Focus: people vs. product
Let’s start with asking what your story is about… your product, of course!
Actually, that’s a trick question. If your story is about your product, then there’s no reason to read it (because everyone already knows you’re going to say it’s great) and there are easier ways for you to communicate that (like product brochures and demos).
The real answer (and the real question) is WHO is your story about?
Remember that your B2B prospects yearn for information about how OTHERS have solved similar problems. That means they want to hear about the PEOPLE, not just the product.
This means you want to highlight the PURCHASER rather than the product as the hero of your story. So you need to focus on your purchaser’s PROCESS from problem to solution. What were their goals? Their concerns? Their constraints? And that brings us to the next question…
2. Target: identify the prospects to profile
Which clients do you want to portray in your case study? The answer to that question is also the answer to the question, who do you want to READ the case study? The case studies you pursue should be with the kinds of companies and situations you want to attract. You need to start by identifying your target readers.
Similarly, the cases you write about should tell the purchase stories you want to replicate. This obvious point requires that you diagnose your pipeline to identify where the blockages are. What are the challenges you want to help your prospects overcome?
For example, if establishing perceived value is an important challenge for your sales team, you should write up cases where prospects had to address this issue. You should also include questions about value perceptions in your case study interviews so you are armed with more customer reference points on this topic.
3. Length: S / M / L tailored sizes
How long should a case study be? There is no single answer. In fact, there are three.
- First is the full-length version for your most interested prospects who want to know the details of your implementation, adoption, and support story. This could be a multi-page PDF or dedicated website page.
- In the middle is a 1 or 2-paragraph summary version that tells just the highlights. This could be on a website page with multiple client stories, perhaps with a link to the full story.
- Finally, be sure to pull brief testimonial quotes from the case study that can stand alone as validation of “soft” claims like great client support or easy to use features. These can be used throughout your website, on your collateral materials, and even in the pages of the long case study to highlight key points.
By creating three kinds of output, you can get more value from the work required to create case studies. Maximize your content ROI.
4. Voice: Setting the right tone
In the same way that the story about the purchase process is more important than the product, the WAY you tell the story is as important as what you say.
A good case study takes the part of a conversation with a client just like your prospect who gets to play a role you don’t get to play – an objective colleague who found a solution to the same challenge your prospect has. It’s like a live NPS interview – a client who gives you a “10” rating to the question “would you recommend this product or company to a colleague?”
As a result, it’s critical that you avoid drowning your clients’ authenticity in your own self-promotion. This is a simple and obvious point, but… VERY FEW case studies end up sounding like credible client stories instead of incredible product pitches. And case studies are just too hard to write to see their impact ruined this way.
Remember – you have LOTS of other vehicles for selling your product. Case studies are probably the most difficult and time-consuming of all to create. As a result, if case studies are not bringing a distinctive, additional client perspective to your communications portfolio, don’t bother with them.
5. Results: not what you think
Your readers know the last stage in the case study is the results section. But they also ASSUME that you will be featuring only case studies that are dramatic and positive, so it’s no surprise that your results are dramatic and positive.
In our research, we have found that dramatic results tend to be dismissed more easily than compelling stories that readers can relate to. What actually pulls readers in is the story of HOW their client colleagues got the results they did.
In other words, the results your readers want from reading your case study are the lessons they can apply to managing their solution search and working with your vendor company more effectively.
So that’s a good start! Armed with this prospect perspective and these first 5 goals, we hope you will be engaging your prospects with “the beginning of a beautiful friendship!”
*Originally Posted on MENG