Are you showcasing your most relevant customers?
Focus on customers who mirror the prospects you’re targeting. In addition, obtain insights and quotes from individuals whose roles line up with the targeted readership. Too often, case studies present a limited perspective — for example, a C-level executive — when the viewpoints of directors, department managers and frontline employees who use the product or service should also be included.
“This solution saved us money” is not nearly as compelling as “This solution helped us cut our costs by 40%.” It may be a challenge to get this information, but persistence can pay off. Improve your odds by sending your contact a list of questions at least a week ahead of the interview, and include inquiries about specific metrics. Follow up by phone or email after the interview, if necessary.
Are you asking the right questions?
When handled by a pro, the interview will seem more like an informal chat to your customer contacts. Their answers will prompt further questioning that uncovers additional valuable content. When interviewees are having trouble articulating their answer, try this phrase: “So you’re saying that….”. If they agree with your wording, use it in the case study and attribute it to them.
How compelling is the story?
It’s not just a matter of “PSO” (problem, solution, outcome). The case study must grab the recipient’s interest. Did the customer consider a competitor’s products or services? Why did they choose yours? What was their experience implementing your solution? Whenever possible, package their comments in the form of direct quotations, giving the case study a human element. Avoid hype, marketing speak and slick stock photos. You want your customer to be in the limelight.
Is the case study constructed for busy professionals?
A sea of gray type will discourage readership. Break up the text with subheads. Highlight key points in sidebars and pull quotes. Make liberal use of pie charts and other infographics. Summarize the realized value in a bulleted list — giving busy individuals the essence of your story without making them read the full text.
Do you have a case study marketing plan?
As with any marketing channel, one case study likely won’t net you a boatload of leads. Repetition is essential, so map out a year’s worth of case studies. Distribute the pieces in multiple ways: in mailings, at tradeshows, as sales call leave-behinds and in press kits to trade publications. Consider ways to repackage your case studies, in their entirety or in part, for example, as SlideShare presentations, webinars, customer newsletters and content for trade journal ads.
Lastly, do you really know what your ROI is? How many leads are you generating with targeted campaigns? How many of those are converted to sales? Traditional direct mail relies on business reply cards or campaign-specific phone numbers to track responses. With electronic deployment of case studies, for example, as downloads or webinars, you can include tracking mechanisms, too.
For many B2B companies, the case study is a relatively low-cost, potentially high-yield medium. Make the commitment, and you may be rewarded very nicely. BMA Minnesota member Joan Moser, owner of Spoken Impact, is a prime example. She commissioned several client case studies involving a broad spectrum of clients. “With these case studies, we closed 50% more business,” Joan reports.
Bill Johnson is president and chief copywriter at WordWizards, Inc. He specializes in B2B marketing communications, including case studies, for companies in the healthcare sector. You may reach him at 651-351-9385 or Bill.Johnson@word-wizards.com.