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The ins, outs and upside downs of case studies for your marketing – pt2

case study

5 facets of a fantastic case study

  1. A true business case study doesn’t just tell your own part of the story. It tells both sides – with much more weight given to the customer’s experience and value gained than to your service or product.   
  2. Companies that trust their customers to share real experiences create better case studies that have more value. They don’t write them alone – they let the customer tell the story in an authentic voice.
  3. Case studies are stories, with a beginning, middle and end.  They don’t just talk about what was done or delivered, but why change was necessary, or solutions sought in the first place, and how it progressed.
  4. They add context, too. That might be by explaining how you were chosen. Or outlining what happened when your service was implemented, or your product used – including learnings along the way.
  5. Most critically, it will show how much value it brought when the original need was met, or knotty problem was overcome – either via specific value measures (if possible) or through qualitative statements of the improvements and benefits gained.

The key steps to create a case study

Writing a good case study should be a collaborative effort between you and your customer.  

You first need to decide which relationship to highlight that show off your very best achievements. Remember, that might not even be the biggest customer. Consider which one is going to show you in your best light and help you convey the desired message(s), before deciding. 

Then involve the customer.  Great case studies make the customer the star of the show.  Find out if they will be willing to help you and tell your story, so you can use it in your marketing.  It’s a great test of a relationship, so make sure to choose with care, and pick your timing!

You do need to make sure that your customer contact is authorised to make such a promise, before diving further in.  One way to ease this is always to think about how to make this a win-win activity, such as by helping the customer convey their messages to the market too.

After that, you need to gain the customer’s input, impressions, insights, and words to tell their story.  Although you can do that yourself, it can be difficult if interviewing and writing isn’t your strong suit.  It also doesn’t always produce the best results, because you (or any colleague you task with the job) are so far ‘inside’ the process and biased about your own company by default. An expert third party interviewer is far more likely to gain a good story – because they will ask questions you would never think of!

Whether you are writing a text or recording a video case study, we always recommend letting the customer voice really come through. Use their direct words wherever possible. Of course your messages need to weave in, but make it subtle and don’t try to put too much of a commercial spin on things. Let your customer do the selling! Your job is to ask the right questions, structure it, and produce a strong piece of content you can use for marketing.

Finally, getting formal approval for using this output is critical. Make sure you cover your bases – ensure they are happy for you to use the end output, and their name, and their logo. If they decide at the last minute that you can’t, then I’m afraid that’s it.  Don’t chance it and cross your fingers. Yes, you could anonymise the content and use it to some degree, but you will need to take specifics out completely.

7 easy ways to use a case study in your sales and marketing

Case studies have many, many uses in marketing and beyond.  But here are seven easy ways you can have your customer help do your marketing for you:

  1. Present your case study not just on your website as text, but as a downloadable PDF item – which people can share on to colleagues if they want to.
  2. Create a series of social posts extracting key points and quotes – this can be done whether drawing from a text or video case study, and point people back to read or view the full item.
  3. Draw from one or more case studies when you write blogs, or articles you publish through media or partners.
  4. Consider a short digital print run of case studies for shows – it’s easy to turn an item laid out as a PDF into something printable (but do plan ahead and use good resolution images and logos!)
  5. Select key quotes and summary of the case study to include in sales presentation slides – plus, case studies make a great leave-behind item if you’ve done some prints!
  6. Use your case study as a conversation starter when you reach out to targets whom you feel may have a similar challenge.
  7. Think about creating an event or webinar about how you solved Customer X’s needs, if you think that need is widely experienced – you could invite your customer to present with you.

This is a guest blog from Sue Rizzello

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