I was searching for some great examples of case studies, and I noticed something: the traditional 1 or 2 page case study wasn't as prevalent as I expected. Instead, more companies are featuring shorter, web-based blurbs. For instance, I like how Marketo refers to their stories as "Success Snapshots."
There are likely a lot of reasons why companies are using this shorter form, and, in a many instances, it works well for both marketing and their prospects:
A long list of customers inspires trust: As a prospect, there is something comforting about scrolling through a list of customers who are using a product you are considering. When initially evaluating a solution, this type of list can inspire the trust prospects need to keep your company on their list.
It can be easier to get customers to participate: As anyone who has worked on a case study knows, it can be a time-consuming process to get the customer's approval. While some customers simply cannot provide a reference, it can be easier -- and faster -- to get a customer's approval when you are asking them to be referenced in a snippet on your website instead of a whole story. (And, if you have a lot of other customers out there, this can help encourage participation as well.)
Readers have a short attention span: Truthfully, some prospects hate to read, and a longer story will be lost on them.
As an example, I think Salesforce has a good framework for highlighting their customers in this short form. When you go to their main page for customer success, you are presented with (at the time of this posting), an alphabetical list of 295 stories. But what I really like is their advanced search where readers can customize the type of customer they are looking for based on the product, industry, department, region and story type. The whole section looks and feels robust.
However, while I think many companies can benefit from these shorter form customer snippets, I don't think they should be the only type of customer reference in your arsenal.
One size does not fit all: As mentioned, while customers who are in the initial stages of the buying process may be satisfied with a long list of customers, this often does not fulfill the needs of prospects who are in the evaluation stage - they need more details. It's best to customize your story to your audience and their phase in the buying cycle as much as possible.
Some readers need more insight: Several months ago, Stephanie had a great post that highlighted the different things that CIOs and technical evaluators need to see in case studies, and it's much more than simple details that a web snippet would highlight. I highly suggest reading the whole post if you work on case studies.
Some readers love a good story: One of the best things about case studies is that they tell a story from your customer's perspective. While a list of bullets is easy to scan, there is that personal element missing; readers simply don't get lost in the story.
Sales reps like handouts: The nice thing about the traditional case studies is that they are great for sales to give away during their meetings. While some of the websites with these short stories had options to print, it's nice to have a professional piece that sales can use. If you have a lot of web-based stories, consider developing multiple PDFs that highlight snippets based on various segments, such as industry or audience.
The bottom line: Shorter, web-based customer snippets are a fantastic addition to your website because they help you establish credibility. However, if you really want to make an impact, don't lose sight of each specific audience and their needs, including where they are the buying process. If you have prospects who need to see how something works, you need to develop more detailed case studies to suit their needs.
- Ho-Hum . . . Another Sound-Alike Case Study
- Six Reasons Why Your Case Study Needs to Target a Specific Audience
- Case Studies-Answers to the Questions B2B Marketing Managers Ask Most
Read more Savvy B2B posts from Michele.