Almost everyone looks for recommendations before they make a decision: what restaurant to try, what car to purchase, what kind of firewall to meet your unique security needs.
It’s no different when it comes to purchasing your solution. People put more credibility in the words of others like them – who had the same problems, and overcame them.
Enter the Case Study
A case study is a story about your customer, their problem, and how you helped them find the solution. It’s a credibility builder, because gives prospective customers the opportunity to see how others are meeting their business needs using your product or solution. It’s a testimonial to your ability to meet their needs. An endorsement of your solution.
The most important part about a case study, though, is that it’s a story. People no longer have any patience with dry product information that extolls the virtues of your solution. And because people are exposed to so much information every day – good and bad – they’re much more discerning about what they read. The information you present must inform, but it must also engage. That’s why case studies can be so powerful.
A case study can be even more influential if the story can be about a specific person, rather than just the company. People connect to each other – and when you tell one individual’s story, you are trying to connect to other people who are very similar: they do the same work and have the same issues.
Create the Story
Your case study should be structured so that it’s interesting and fun to read. Depending on your customer’s challenge and your solution, it can be structured in an appealing traditional storytelling format, such as:
- The hero’s quest – the quest for the best solution.
- Slaying the dragon – overcoming a significant business issue.
- Rags to riches – overcoming a challenge that increases revenues or reduces costs.
To have maximum impact, the case study is about a specific individual or group of individuals (your customer and you), and is told as their story. That means people are quoted throughout the case study, and the quotes are in their genuine voice, which makes it compelling and real.
How long is a case study? While they’re often between 1 and 3 pages, a case study can be as long as it needs to be. If it’s compelling, talking directly to the pains your prospect is feeling, then it can continue until the story is told.
Use the Story
A case study is used to help move your prospect to a decision, which means it’s used once a prospect has identified their business problem and has become familiar with your solution. Your prospect may still be in the research phase, and is considering your solution among others. A case study is often used around the same time as demonstrations or trial software downloads, or vendor comparisons. It should be presented prior to the prospect building their short list.
Re-purpose the Story
A case study can be repurposed in a few interesting ways. I’m sure there are more, but here’s a few ideas:
- Turn it into a presentation, and post it on SlideShare. Or add some professional production and create a video, posting on Youtube and your web site.
- Use it in your regular email newsletter – put a summary paragraph in the newsletter and link to the full story on your web site.
- Post on social media such as your LinkedIn company page. And post in groups that would be interested in the story.
- Submit to industry publications, particularly if the story identifies a unique or highly interesting way to solve a problem.
- Use the customer quotes as testimonials – for tweets, or posts on your web site.
- Work with your customer to have him/her speak at an industry conference about their solution. (The more you help them raise their profile, the more yours is raised as well.)