Your company may offer software, snow tires, award-winning cheesecake or financial services, but whatever you’re doing, your clients love you. They can’t say enough about how you’re helping them save time, money, and improve their lives.
Naturally, you want to broadcast the happy news so others know how strenuously your elevator repair company, commercial real estate, gourmet chocolate company, exterminating service or whatever works to deliver on its promises. But you can’t visit every potential client and share how much you do to deliver premium service.
So what do you do?
Let’s talk about Missouri. That’s right, Missouri — the state known for the movie “Meet Me In St. Louis,” the awesome Gateway Arch, and the unforgettable nickname the “Show Me State.”
Missouri is known as the “Show Me State” because Missourians are said to be immune to flattery, marketing fluff, and empty promises. Sure it’s a generalization. But to win the respect of the natives of this midwestern state, you have to show them you’re genuine and prove what you’re selling works.
What does this have to do with case studies and your customers who may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away from Missouri? All customers (regardless of their state of residence) have some Missouri inside. Your business may be baking luscious desserts, distributing financial advice or unleashing a steady stream of the smartest graduates on the world, but no one believes you when you brag “Hey, we’re so great.”
To convince your customers, try to treat them like Missourians and satisfy the “Show Me” in them with a case study. A case study is like a testimonial on steroids. It shows (instead of tells) how you helped a client triumph over a troublesome obstacle to their performance or profitability.
Case studies are the most effective content marketing format, even when compared to blogging. According to B2B Marketing’s 2015 Content Marketing Benchmarking Report, 57% of the B2B marketers surveyed said that case studies were “very effective.” Case studies play on our desire for proof and our human tendency to believe in a product more when others we respect have used it successfully.
Here are 6 steps to help you create case studies that show prospective customers why they should do business with you.
1) Choose a customer success story your audience can relate to.
Does a customer’s success story reflect the issues most of your audience faces? If not, it may be best to move on to a different case that speaks to the widest number of clients or the business areas you seek to grow. The goal is to write about someone your prospects can relate to—someone who shares the same business challenges or interests.
2) Information gathering is crucial.
Your decision about which client to profile may depend on how easy it will be to gather information. It’s easier to gather information from an extroverted client who loves to talk and would be happy to share their success stories with your products or services. Having a list of prepared questions makes interviewing a breeze:
Who is the customer and what do they do?
What were their business goals?
What were their business needs?
How did your company help them satisfy those needs and accomplish those goals?
If it’s easier, send the interview questions by email. Be sure to follow up with your customers down the road. That way, you can update your case study to show the long-term benefits of using your products or services and working with your company.
3) Review all the information you’ve gathered.
Allow yourself time to analyze the situation and start thinking about how you’ll divide the material. Most case studies take a P-A-R approach — problems, actions, and results. Think about how to apply this formula. Keep in mind that the most effective case studies allow readers to get to know the customer personally.
4) Dig into the material.
Review who was involved in each phase of the case, what each person did, the positive (or negative) impacts, and what actions contributed to the effectiveness of the results. Talk about specific strategies you employed and use stats to showcase the value of your products or solutions. Did the customer’s lead generation, revenue, conversion rates, etc. improve after your involvement? Include these numbers and create a more compelling case study!
5) Include quotes from the client.
Your client’s words usually express their experience more authentically than anything you could invent, so let the client speak. As you proceed through interviews, keep your ears tuned for those nuggets of genius that will make your case study more powerful.
6) Consider your audience and adopt a tone that aligns with your brand’s personality.
Is your brand serious? Light-spirited? Infuse the writing with the same spirit as other collateral and follow the standard rules of good writing.
So next time a customer calls flush with compliments and praise, don’t just think “Aw shucks” and thank them. Ask them to share the love and be part of a case study profile.
And if you’re still not sure case studies are worth all the effort, consider the role evidence plays in the American legal system. You can’t win in court if you haven’t got proof! In the same way, the strength of the evidence you use in a well-written case study has the power to win the admiration of your ‘jury’ of prospective customers and gain their business.