Case studies are an important asset of almost every industrial marketer’s content portfolio. Potential buyers often read or view customer case studies in the later stages of their buy cycle, when they’re ready to hear the voice of other customers who use your company’s products or services.
Successful case studies can be tricky to get right. Customers are often hesitant to participate, and when they do, the results can be disappointing if you don’t tell a compelling story.
To make your case studies more effective, follow these seven tips.
1. Choose the right targets
It might be difficult to produce case studies for every market segment you sell to, and if you can, that’s great. If not, you need to prioritize:
- Approach customers in the verticals where you have special initiatives or selling goals.
- Try to interview customers who have similar roles and responsibilities as those you market to.
- Ask your sales team and account managers for case study recommendations. They’re close to their customers and know who might be willing to participate.
2. Demonstrate value to your customer
To overcome a reluctant customer, demonstrate how their participation will benefit their company. If you promote the case study on your website and social media with links back to their website, you can provide positive exposure for their company. The same is true if you use the case study to pitch stories to media outlets. It’s free publicity for your customer.
There are other ways to motivate customers to participate, such as offering purchasing discounts, early peeks at new products, passes to events or other incentives.
3. Research your customer before the interview
Don’t waste precious interview time asking your customer questions you can answer yourself. Make sure you know as much as you can about your customer before you conduct your case study interview. Review their website to understand their business: its size, office locations, products, positioning, markets, etc.
You can also speak to the account rep to find out more about your customer’s business and their relationship with your company.
4. Plan your interview questions and case study format in advance
Most customer case studies follow the format of Problem>Solution>Results. Develop your questions around these three areas. What business problem was your customer trying to solve or what objective were they trying to achieve? How did the problem impact their business? How did they search for a solution? Why did they choose your company? How does the solution work for them? What were the results?
5. Record your interview
Whether your interview takes place in person, over the phone, or via Skype, you should record the entire interview. This not only gives you a record of what was said so you can accurately write the story and quote the customer, it also frees you to listen more closely and easily ask side questions based on the direction of your conversation. If you’re trying to take notes during the interview, you could lose track of your thoughts and what your customer is saying.
6. Always ask about quantifiable benefits
The real meat of a customer case study is the measurable benefits of using your solution. Hours of time saved. Percent productivity improved. Money saved. Reliability improvements.
The challenge is that your customer might not have this information readily at hand during your interview. That’s why it’s a good idea to submit your questions beforehand so that your customer can prepare and have the information you need.
7. Make your customer the hero
All winning stories feature heroes overcoming obstacles. A case study is a perfect way to present your customer as the hero of their own story. Faced with market pressures, desire for growth, low production rates or other obstacles, your customer took on the business problem and chose your solution to defeat the villain. That’s heroic. People love those kinds of stories.
Bonus tip: don’t forget to send your customer a personalized thank you note or small gift to show your appreciation for their participation in your case study.