In business-to-business industries, implementing anything from a small widget to a new outsourcing partner takes an immense amount of time, money, and energy. When a team is faced with a buying or contracting decision, the key buying individual needs to evaluate a whole host of factors such as:
Does this fit into our budget?
Can I get the buy-in from my team to make this implementation successful?
Will I be able to easily measure results of this decision to prove ROI?
Are there teams like ours who have made this decision before? How did it turn out for them?
That last question is a big one, and can confirm how a buyer perceives the answer to the first three questions. For this reason, case studies are one of the most powerful tools a sales or marketing team can use to help the prospect evaluate their decision.
Case studies prove that when your service or solution is applied to another business, it creates results.
When you weave the story of how another business had a problem and used your team to solve it, it creates a narrative that other prospects can relate to. By providing evidence that your service produces happy clients, you are providing confidence to prospects that going with your team is the right choice.
Most of all, a case study can shift the conversation away from your brand talking about itself too much and present the problem/solution relationship in the context of a third party.
Here are some best practices for writing a case study.
Don't make readers wait to get the good stuff. Lead right away with the results that your solution achieved.
The power of a case study is that the reader relates to the problem/solution narrative. When writing a case study, ask yourself “what’s the angle?” or “what’s the story?”.
At the time of this writing, we have 2 case studies on BrackenMarketing.com. To use them as an example, one case study tells the story of an established company who needed more sales activity to grow its business. The other tells the story of a startup who worked with Bracken Marketing to achieve faster market penetration. Both case studies are structured similarly and showcase the same services, but with a very different story. For this reason, we use each to influence a different type of prospect.
Usually, with sales and marketing materials, we suggest people to keep content concise. A case study, however, is your chance to dive into details.
Often the person who takes the time to read your case study is doing so because they want to know exactly how things played out for someone who was once in their shoes. Give them the details. If your case study is too long, the reader will take it upon themselves to skim past what’s not relevant.
Because a case study can be detailed, make it easy to skim. This is of value because it makes the information of interest easy to find. The last thing you want after putting all the work into a case study is for someone to stop reading it because it’s too boring.
Just as this blog post has many subheadings incase readers want to quickly scan it instead of reading it word-for-word, you should place subheadings throughout your case study.
Other tools that make a case study easy to scan are:
Charts and images
Pull-stats and pull-quotes
With all the above points in mind, we recommend the following structure for case studies:
A “Numbers and highlights” section
An overview of the client and the services/solutions involved
Breakdown of the scenario (this is where you weave your story)
A section with additional detail on the services, tactics, or solutions.
Because case studies are persuasive, the most motivating time for a prospect to take action with your company is directly after having read a case study. Make it easy for the prospect to act on this motivation. Use CTAs (calls-to-action) throughout the content to encourage a reader to book a meeting with your sales team.
But in many cases the reader of a case study is already in contact with your sales team. Asking these prospects to book a meeting with you or download an ebook doesn’t make much sense. For this reason, we use automation tools to alert our sales team when a prospect is on a case study page. This is a trigger for the salesperson to reach out personally via email. Because of the timing, it often leads to the prospect taking their next steps of the buying/contract process.
As a solutions or services provider, you should conduct all client-projects in an infrastructure that allows you to quantify success. If producing more case studies is a goal for your business, then next time you start a project you should think ahead to the details you’ll want to include in a case study about the project. Then, make it easier for future-you to collect this data and track success.
Being specific about the success you’ve had with previous clients will add more context to the success. For example, don’t just say “with this client project we performed the entire project on time and under budget”. Instead, say something like “with this client we completed the project 2 weeks ahead of schedule, and with 11% of the budget still remaining.”
Some information about clients will be very tempting to include in case studies because it makes your team look good, but it could give away too much about your client’s confidential operations. For this reason, unless we get explicit permission that a data point is okay to share, we put a lot of case study data in terms of percentage change. This is calculated as:
([Success Metric After Servicing the Client] - [Success Metric Before Servicing the Client]) / [Success Metric Before Servicing the Client]
For example, let’s say we generated 50 new sales opportunities for a team in a year. The previous year they had only generated 30 sales opportunities. We would share this number in a case study as a 66.7% increase in sales opportunities (50 – 30)/30.
In this example, if we state the client's explicit number of sales opps, analysts or competitors could reverse engineer the numbers into estimated revenue, which would upset the client’s executive team and investors.
With all that said about using percentages to hide sensitive data, do use specific numbers whenever it’s appropriate.
Once you have a case study published, get other people to read it. Here are some ideas:
Share it on social media
Create an email campaign around it
Write and publish a blog post that ties into it
Send it to applicable sales prospects
Ask the client who it showcases to share it on their social media channels
Find companies like the one you showcase in the case study and find appropriate contacts at this company to email the case study.
Record and publish a video about the case study. Include an interview with the client if possible.
Post the case study in LinkedIn Groups and industry forums such as DIA Global Community
Send it to closed lost sales opportunities
Mention it in upcoming sales calls, and send the case study afterward as follow-up material
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