By Casey Hibbard
Like white papers, customer case studies have seen their stock rise in recent years—especially as buyers become increasingly more skeptical.
A case study provides evidence that the solution delivers what it promises, giving buyers the confidence to invest in a product or service.
For writers and organizations, it’s not just about telling a happy story. If the case study lacks certain critical elements, it won’t pull its weight.
Here are the 5 nuts and bolts of case studies that truly sell:
1. Match the Case Study Customer to the Audience
Prospects should see themselves reflected in a case study. Reading about a similar company or individual gives the prospect “social proof” that someone else tried an approach and succeeded.
Match the type of customer organization featured (by industry, size, challenge faced, etc.) to that of the reader. Likewise, the title of the person interviewed should be similar to the prospect’s title.
2. Ask the Right Questions
Based on what you know from internal sources, customize interview questions for each customer. Cover who the customer is and what it does, the challenges faced previously, why the customer chose the solution, how the customer uses the solution and the business impact.
Ask “before-and-after” questions (i.e., How long did that process take before versus now?) to elicit measurable results.
Gather more information than you need and stay dynamic during the interview; proactively respond with more questions based on a customer’s answers.
3. Hammer Your Key Messages
Identify the key messages (benefits) that you want the prospect to hear in your story. Make sure you collect those in the interview and then weave them throughout your case study.
Pick the #1 benefit and craft a headline and featured quote that relate to the customer achieving that outcome. Then pepper in secondary benefits, using subheads to emphasize them. Also include all of these benefits in a sidebar summary for skimmers to glean.
4. Let the Customer Say It
In a two-page case study, try to quote the customer at least three to four times. The customer’s voice adds credibility and makes the story more interesting.
Ideally, customer quotes should address (1) the problem the customer experienced before, (2) why the customer chose the solution, and (3) the top benefit and overall return on investment that the customer experienced.
5. Provide Measurable Results
Help the customer measure results by helping to break it down by each benefit. Then ask how the customer is comfortable sharing numbers—as dollar figures, as percentages, as factors (”half as,” “three times as”).
Remember, a cost savings of $30,000 to a small company doesn’t carry the same weight for a larger organization. Be sure to present results in a way that is relevant to the prospect.
If possible, include impressive return on investment (ROI) details in the headline or subheads.
About the Author: Casey Hibbard is the author of Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset. Learn more and sign up for the Stories That Sell Tip of the Month.