At Savvy B2B Marketing, we thrive on different perspectives and new ideas, which is why we are thrilled to welcome today's guest blogger, Casey HIbbard, also known as the queen of case studies. In her blog - Stories that Sell - Casey shares success-story marketing best practices. More fantastic guests are planned for the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.
Customer case studies are high-value, in-demand marketing and sales collateral. Marketing teams are tasked with producing powerful stories, yet it’s not always easy.
I work with all types of marketers, from those new to case studies to seasoned veterans. The same questions come up again and again.
Here are marketers’ top questions – and some answers – on creating and managing case studies:
1. How do we get customers to participate?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It comes down to finding the win-win opportunity with every customer that you want to feature.
Brainstorm with internal colleagues close to the customer about possible motivators. Does the company want to tell a certain story right now? Does your individual contact want PR internally for bringing about successful outcomes?
Then discuss your ideas candidly with the customer. From there, create a customized joint promotional plan or agreement that meets both your needs and the customer’s objectives.
2. How long does it take to produce a case study?
The clock starts when you interview the customer. If everything goes relatively smoothly, an approximately two-page case study or success story takes about one month to complete, on average.
If your contact is responsive and has the authority to approve your story, then the process can be done in a couple of weeks. But if multiple people are reviewing and approving it, it can take months, worst case.
Always start well ahead of any trade shows or sales opportunities to ensure you get the story you need.
3. How do we get measurable results?
To draw measurable results out of happy customers, you have to get very specific internally and with featured customers.
Identify what metrics mean the most to your prospects, and areas where current customers typically see results.
Craft interview questions accordingly, making sure to ask before-and-after questions (how much time did a process take compared to now?). Walk customers through each area of potential benefit because most haven’t stopped to quantify yet.
Negotiate with customers on what metrics they are willing to share and how. You may have a specific way that you'd like to represent ROI, but your customer isn't comfortable with that. Your customer might be more willing to talk in percentages or in factors of (twice as, one-third of...) instead of in dollar amounts.
4. How long should my case study or success story be?
The length of your customer story depends on your audience and the point in the sales cycle. The goal: Answer the prospect’s questions and objections at the right time.
As a general rule, business decision-makers prefer shorter overviews (1-2 page success stories) that focus on business results. And perhaps early on, technology decision-makers appreciate that briefer overview.
But as they get further along in the evaluation process, IT people in particular, and sometimes department/division managers, want more details (case studies of 2+ pages) about factors such as implementation, customizability, ease of use/maintenance, functionality and support. Technology folks also tend to want more candid stories that include lessons learned.
These are the questions I hear most. What are your top questions and challenges when it comes to case studies?
About the author: Casey Hibbard is author of the book, “Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset” and principal of Compelling Cases Inc. She also writes the Stories That Sell blog.