There are a lot of things that sound great in theory, but in reality don’t deliver what they promised.
The same holds true in the B2B world. The combination of stellar marketing and sales teams can be lethal — getting the right messages in front of the right people at the right time, telling them exactly what they want to hear and closing the deal. But as buyers, how can we be sure that what we see is what we’ll get? In this case, a small dose of cynicism is healthy given that anyone trying to make a sale is biased.
Enter the customer case study — a testimonial from an unbiased, third party.
The Right Customer Story Can Close the Deal
How many times have you been on the fence about something and a suggestion from an experienced friend helped you make up your mind in an instant? When it comes to making decisions, we can never underestimate the power that a relatable, trustworthy and unbiased source wields. And that’s exactly what makes a customer case study such an important weapon to have in your content marketing arsenal.
A customer case study is so powerful because it gives readers someone with whom they can relate and showcases how you helped another business with similar needs overcome their challenges and achieve their goals. Perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates that you have customers who are so satisfied with your product or service that they are willing to go on the record and devote their valuable time to say as much (this last point alone says a whole lot).
5 Tips for Writing a Case Study That Converts
While a customer case study no doubt has the potential to be extremely valuable, it’s not going to write itself. So how can you make sure you get the right story across to convert leads into customers? Here are our top five tips:
- Pick the right customer and story: Before you can do anything else, you need to think about your customers and their stories. Everything else that follows will depend on the quality of both, so even though this first step might seem like an obvious one, it’s an important one. As far as the customer, the more recognizable and respected the business, the better. That said, the most important thing is relatability to your target audience in terms of industry, company size, initial challenges or setup, etc. As far as the story, you want to make sure it’s one that’s worth telling. If you have the perfect customer to showcase but their story isn’t that compelling, it’s not worth it. Remember: You want relevant, relatable and positive.
- Make your customer the hero: It’s very tempting to put your business in the “hero” role when writing a case study, but that would be a mistake. Your customer needs to be the hero. That helps your readers envision themselves as the hero (which of course they will be if they go with your business and all the value you can add). The role of your business in this story is helping to create that hero.
- Always talk to the customer: In order to truly bring your customers’ stories to life and put them in that coveted hero position, you need to capture their voice and point of view. And the only way to achieve that goal is to talk to your customer directly. Whoever you speak with should be the “voice” of your case study, and this person should be someone with whom your target audience can relate. Your conversation with this person should play a key role in shaping the story and you should try to use any anecdotes they share to make it more relatable. As a rule of thumb, you should also never say something about yourself when you can get your customer to say it for you.
- Wait until you have results: Once you have a great customer with an equally compelling story who is willing to go on the record, the knee-jerk reaction is to get started right away, but it’s important not to jump the gun. In many cases, results aren’t apparent right off the bat or, even when they are, they become even more so later on. Therefore, if you wait even a few months for the results to really settle in, you’ll get a much better story.
- Look for opportunities to complement and reinforce the story: Once you write your case study, you need to get it in front of your target audience. And while the story itself should be a powerful one, there’s a lot you can do to sell the message even further. For example, developing complementary pieces like a blog post or an infographic can help pique interest. Similarly, telling the story in video format, hosting a joint webinar with your customer or having your customer participate in panel discussions can also help complement the initial effort and reinforce the overall message. Those last three options can be extremely powerful because they represent even more time that a customer is willing to devote to speak about the value your business brings to the table.
Don’t Go Blind
Following those top five do’s, we’ll leave you with one don’t — and it’s a big one — don’t go blind. If you have a great story but the customer isn’t willing to go on record (and it might have nothing to do with your business, as some industries and/or businesses are just more private than others), that’s where your story needs to end. An entire case study devoted to an unnamed customer devoid of quotes and testimonials straight from the customer itself will not convert and can even hurt your credibility.
Remember: While a well-known, well-respected brand name can bring a lot of visibility and credibility to your case study, it’s not the be-all-end-all that gets readers to convert. What gets readers to convert is a relatable story from a business (any business) they can trust who is willing to attach their name (and their time) to a promote a positive image of your work.