B2B Marketers: When NOT to Pursue a Case Study

B2B Marketers: When NOT to Pursue a Case Study
Stephanie Tilton - Tue Jul 06, 2010 @ 03:15AM
Comments: 10

If you're in charge of getting case studies published for your company, you likely feel the pressure to pump them out fast and furiously. But not every story is ready for prime time or danger signworth pursuing just because a sales rep or executive says so. Here are four instances when it's best to put a case-study opportunity on the back burner. 

1) Customer isn't yet seeing results. One of the key reasons to publish case studies is to demonstrate the value of your product or service. It's not enough to show that your solution works as promised – you need to illustrate the business impact of your offering. If your customer hasn't been using the solution long enough to see an effect on his or her business, you're not going to have much of a story to tell.

For example, perhaps your product speeds up database-processing time and you've got all kinds of test results proving it. That's fine and dandy but prospects want to understand how that will ultimately benefit their business. So your case study needs to show how the faster processing time does things such as enabling employees to access data more quickly than in the past, and saving a company thousands of dollars in infrastructure costs by eliminating extra databases. If your customer can't share those types of results, the case study probably won't have much impact.

2) Customer is unhappy with your company or solution. This is a no-brainer but you need to remember that someone who nominates a customer for a case study may not have a full view into the customer's situation with your company. Check your CRM system, and touch base with the account manager and your customer-support team before moving full steam ahead with a project. You don't want to reach out to the customer to arrange a case-study interview and find out that the company has been having problems with your solution. That's like pouring salt on an open wound. And the customer will likely wonder why your company doesn't seem to be on top of things.

3) Customer hasn't agreed to participate. It's not sufficient for a sales rep or executive to think that a certain customer's situation would make a great story – the customer has to agree to participate. Ideally someone in your company has paved the way for you to interact with the customer for the case study. Better yet – that person will make sure the customer's legal and PR teams are on board before you even get involved.

4) Story doesn't add value. Once someone nominates a customer for a case study, find out whether or not there’s a story worth sharing. Not all customer situations translate into an interesting story…or one that will nudge prospects along in the buying cycle. One suggestion is to create a backgrounder form to be filled out by anyone suggesting a case study candidate, allowing you to gather enough information to get a sense of the story.

Once you understand the basic customer situation, compare it to your existing library of case studies to determine if it will add value. If you answer "no" to the following questions, the story probably isn't worth pursuing.

  • Will the story help round out examples of customers in a certain industry?
  • Is the customer a brand name that you want to tout?
  • Is the customer engaged in a market that your company is trying to penetrate?
  • Will the story highlight a solution or service that needs more visibility?
  • Are the proof points different from those in other stories?

What other warning signs should marketers look for before pursuing a case study?

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About the author: Stephanie Tilton is a content-marketing consultant who helps B2B companies craft content that nurtures leads and advances the buying cycle. You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.

Comments: 10

Comments

1. John White  |  my website   |   Tue Jul 06, 2010 @ 07:02PM

Good post. Other questions to pose:

-Is the contact capable of and interested in telling me about how the company has benefited from our product?
-Which legal hoops will the drafted case study have to jump through on the customer's side?
-If it doesn't make it through all of those hoops, may we anonymize the case study and publish it with the customer's approval?

2. Doug Kessler  |  my website   |   Tue Jul 06, 2010 @ 10:50PM

Nice one.

I's always hard to know how long to wait for results before doing a case study.

Another might be: "Is it on strategy?"

We see lots of cases that are promoting something that's different from what the company really wants to sell.

3. Stephanie Tilton  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 07, 2010 @ 02:37AM

John & Doug - Great suggestions!

John - I like the questions you suggest. it really is important to make sure you're talking to the right person for the story, and to gauge the level of difficulty getting the piece published.

Doug - To your point, it is often hard to know how long to wait for results. However, I've found that if the account manager has built a good relationship with the customer and is in tune with the business metrics that matter, s/he should have a good sense of timing. And some customers are more than happy to suggest when the time is good because, for instance, they anticipate seeing results after a particular upcoming event has passed, such as large amounts of traffic to their website.

Thanks for contributing!

Best,
Stephanie

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