In my continuing series on brand differentiation, today’s post focuses on the value of case studies in building your brand. Prospective customers really like to read compelling case studies about how your customers have engaged with you and achieved certain desirable outcomes–more money, less hassle, greater efficiency, higher profit margins, higher quality, etc.
But case studies don’t just happen. You need to cultivate the opportunity to do case studies by building trust and generally good relationships with your customers, and you need a plan for case studies to be effective and visible.
Here are the steps to make case studies happen in a way that is beneficial to you and to your customer:
1. Determine the format.
Do you want videos? Audio clips? Slide shows? Written documents? Any and all formats will work, but as you decide, consider the ease of production for your customers and what you know about your prospects’ preferred ways of learning. It’s not wrong to have multiple formats, but there is great value in consistency and coherence in the format. So if you use multiple formats, you may want to create each case in two or three formats so that any one prospect can access all your cases in a single, preferred format.
2. Determine the parameters.
What will count? What will the case study say? Start with the customer’s goals–state what were they trying to accomplish with their purchase from you. Then include a description of your products and/or services that they purchased. Use as many quantifiable terms as you can–amounts of money, length of time, measures of satisfaction, return on investment, and so forth.When you are new in your business or in trying to do a case with a relatively new customer, you may not have the metrics that would make the story more compelling. Use your imagination in terms of what you DO have, create cases along the way, and update them with more powerful metrics as time goes on. There should be a consistency in your case studies regarding the kinds of measures that you report.
3. Create a template.
A template is the “look and feel” that you want the finished product to take. It’s the outline of the story line, such as the script for an audio or video presentation. We use a template like this:
- overall product is branded to you
- main content includes:
- client company logo
- client challenge
- client opportunity
- our solution
- client results
- Sidebar includes:
- list of what services of ours the client used
- client’s industry
- client’s company size
- client’s goals
This template can be translated into an audio or video script as well as used in a print document. We limit our case studies to 2 pages at most.
4. Seek permission.
Be absolutely certain that you have the customer’s permission to feature them in a case study and to use their name and logo. Some customers have a policy not to allow case studies, use of their name, or use of their logo. You can request this use as part of your standard contract, but do not belabor it if they want to take it out. You can still write an effective case by describing the situation without names or logos. Obviously this is not as powerful, but if it’s all you have, go with it.
5. Interview the customer.
You need to do all of the work for a case study. Someone on your staff should have the responsibility to call one or more key people on the customer’s team to review the details. Equip that person with as much information as possible from your team’s work with the customer. Focus on getting a few short, concise statements that will be memorable. Exact quotations are useful. Once you’ve written a draft, be sure to allow your customer the opportunity to review and revise, so that they are entirely satisfied with what you have presented.
6. Create and review the case.
Finish the final draft or cut, and circulate it to your team for review, making changes if necessary. Send a final copy to the client for a final sign-off.
Each new case study is an opportunity for a blog post, a Facebook and LinkedIn update, a newsletter item, a webpage announcement, a YouTube addition, a Pinterest post, and so on. Make it easy for your prospects to locate and download case studies from your website. With a very compelling case study, you might get the attention of a journalist looking for a story on your topic, your industry, the customer’s home town, or a variety of other angles.Encourage your marketing team to get the most mileage from the case study.
Vivid and powerful case studies build your brand reputation and help you land more and bigger sales. Be sure that your company has a case study factory that is always running. Do you have a case study to share or a format to recommend? Please post your comments here!
The fact is that case studies, by their very nature, are more reliable. While anyone can just type out a quick testimonial in a matter of minutes, a good case study can take hours upon hours of research and preparation. That’s because they present real world applications of your service offerings. When a potential client reads one of your case studies, they will be able to identify with a business owner in a similar situation to their own. In fact, they may be facing the exact same problem that you detail in your case study.