A compelling customer case study is a powerful sales and marketing tool. It provides a third party endorsement of your products and services that can help sway prospects into becoming customers. It can be posted to your Web site to provide relevant information to site visitors, used as a lead generator or to pitch a story idea to the media. What’s more, by following an efficient process, generating case studies does not have to be costly or time consuming.
First Identify Candidates
Not all of your customers are good candidates for case studies: it takes a satisfied and passionate customer willing to speak publicly about how your products or services helped their company achieve measurable goals or solve a challenge. The best source to help identify strong case study candidates is your sales team; they are close to the success stories and can help to highlight key customers.
Consider the following attributes:
- Industry Priority – A customer success story that works within a high priority industry for your business.
- Great Account Relationship – A key to getting a powerful case study written and approved requires a good working relationship between the account manager and your client.
- Comfortable with Media Coverage – Be sure that your client who agrees to do a case study is open to media exposure, as public relations interest is often a benefit of releasing new case studies.
Approach Candidates for Approval
There are two levels of the approval process. First, there is your end customer who actually uses your products—who is often ready and willing to speak up. Then there is the company approval process, which may reside with your end customer but also may require navigating a complex maze of the public relations and legal departments. If this is the case, contact the appropriate departments ahead of time to understand the company’s position on participating in case studies and how long the approval process might take.
Follow these tips when approaching case study candidates:
- Ask the sales person/account manager or someone with a positive relationship with the customer to make the introduction between you and the customer.
- Make sure you obtain the appropriate go-ahead from the customer before proceeding – try to understand what the approval process usually entails.
- Create a standardized release form that provides the customer with final approval rights on all copy contained within the case study. Ensure that the contract protects the rights to use it in your sales and marketing efforts.
Develop a standard set of questions and format to use across all of your case studies. The question set you create will help draw out the salient points you want customers to make about your products or services. A common approach is to begin with a description of the customer and their company, and then present the customer problem/challenge, your company’s solution, and the customer results/benefits. Be sure to include direct quotes from the customer – it’s an additional way to relate your company offering to results.
In your interview, you should cover the following areas:
- Company Size – Revenues, Number of Employees
- Customers/Target Markets
- Your Department/Title/Responsibilities
- Tell us about the business problem that you were trying to solve or the business need you were trying to address in seeking a XXX solution.
- What impact did this problem have on your business?
- How have you addressed this issue in the past?
- How did you hear about < company name>?
- How did you decide to use <company name> for your solution?
- Did you consider alternatives?
- Briefly describe the solution.
- Comment on the people you worked with at <company>…
- Tell us how the solution helped solve your problem/address your need.Tell us about your experiences with the new solution.
- What benefits did you derive from the solution?
- What has been the measurable impact of deploying this solution on your business (i.e. incremental revenues, savings/productivity gains, return on investment)?
- What are your plans to use additional products/solutions from <company name>?
- Summarize your overall experience with <company name>.
- What advice would you offer to an organization implementing a similar solution?
- Who at the client will sign off on case study? Provide a logo or other imagery?
Create a Case Study Template
A graphic designer can easily develop a simple case study template; you can even make one yourself using Microsoft Word and create a PDF from it for posting on your Web site.
The template should include sections for an introduction, problem, solution and results/benefit. You might want to pull out a customer quote and highlight it in large type. Write a benefit-oriented headline. Also useful is a side section of bullet points that highlights the main challenge, products and results, which gives readers a quick scan of the case study.
Once the copy is approved, lay it out in the template, create a PDF and the production process is complete.
Put the Case Study to Work
Here are some ways to put your new case study to work as a sales and marketing tool:
- Post it on your Web site in a Resources or Library area.
- Link to it from appropriate product or solutions pages on your Web site.
- Announce it in your “What’s New” section.
- E-mail it (or provide a link to download it) to customers and prospects who have the same industry or product focus that the case study highlights.
- Add it to a sales collateral folder that is sent to prospects.
- Offer it as a download in targeted marketing programs, such as an e-newsletter sponsorship in the specific industry the case study covers.
- Pitch the story in the case study to editors of relevant industry Web sites or publications, which are always interested in compelling or original customer stories.