Case studies are very valuable elements of the B2B content marketing mix. They can be stand alone pieces to leave behind with a prospect, inserted into an RFP or sales proposal or included in a newsletter. Well executed they can solidify and clarify your benefits in the mind of your prospect. Unfortunately there are some common mistakes that marketers are making with their case studies. Make sure you aren’t one of them!
Making the before unbelievable
It is customary in a case study to ask the client to describe their previous state so the reader can get some feel for what their business drivers were for installing your system, implementing you product, hiring your consulting firm. This is a critical piece not to over embellish. You just make your client look bad and you set the wrong tone for the whole piece. If you lose your believability in the first paragraphs of the case study then very few people will bother to read the rest of it.
Stick with facts and metrics. Use flowery adjectives sparingly. Use as many direct quotes from your client as you can.
Letting your template constrain you
Templates are good as a guideline but they are not a one size fits all. I recently worked with a client who had a very specific four page template that was their case study standard. The interview material from one of the clients I spoke with was powerful but brief. The sentiment could honestly be summed up in 2-3 paragraphs rather than four pages. So let those 3 paragraphs be enough! Better to present 3 powerful paragraphs that tell your story than belabor them in four pages of fluff and drivel!
Write the case study without a particular format in mind. Focus on telling the story with as much clarity and as concisely as possible. Then see how it fits into a few templates your organization has agree upon recognizing that case studies will very in length.
Thinly veiled product pitches
Case studies are excellent reinforcers of product materials because they have the ability to put the product benefits into action in a relevant industry, company size, etc as the prospect. Resist the urge to try to force your product feature laundry list into your case study. It is fine to put a direct quote from a client about the product feature that has been most beneficial to them or the one that differentiated you from your competitors and thus served as the tipping point but don’t try and get them to quote every last feature or sneak them in to the body of your case study.
Appreciate that the benefits of your product ranked greatest to least is less important than the sentiment and context of the story being told. Be true to your clients voice even if it doesn’t fit your agenda. Listen carefully because they might give you a bigger benefit than you could ever realize on your own!
Including only the overly positive
I recently did a series of interviews for a client in order to create some case studies. I asked the same basic set of 12 or so interview questions to each customer. In reviewing the quotes to assemble some testimonials for case studies and quotes for the website my client zeroed in on all the ones that were “This product saved our business” and “We couldn’t live without it”. These are great but they aren’t really very specific. The less “wow” quotes like “Their training was simple and effective and allowed us to cross train all our office staff for maximum continuity” is a lot less flowery but sure says a lot more about how you are different from your competitors.
Focus less on the headline quotes and more on the supporting details that describe what life is like with your company after the ink dries on the contract. Let the customer describe the day to day benefits and balance it with the big picture results.
What are your organizations specific challenges with case studies? How have you overcome them?