How to Write Case Studies With Big Impact

By April 14, 2015Content Marketing

How to Write A Case Study

Do you know what women talked about in beauty salons back in the ’50’s? The products they used and loved, and sometimes those that disappointed. Within the company of friends and others “like me”, they confidently advocated for the products and brands that solved problems they likely all faced at some point.

Whether you’re selling gum guaranteed to freshen breath, or software that protects companies from a security breach, people want to believe your product or service does exactly what you claim it to do. The problem is that they rarely trust marketers and salespeople. I know, hard to believe, right? Most consumers actually believe a stranger over a marketer or (gasp) a salesperson.

Give Them Reasons to Believe

Building trust starts with giving your audience reasons to believe your messaging. There are a variety of ways to suggest someone should trust your marketing copy, from testimonials and reviews, to product ratings and endorsements. These are all important, and collectively can tell a great story about your company and what you stand for but it doesn’t prove you’re the right company for the job. Buyers, particularly in the B2B space, want assurance that people like them, with problems like theirs, used your solution with success.

Pretty simple? It can be, but unfortunately there are many companies that miss a few critical steps in telling these stories of customer success and are disappointed when they don’t boost trust, and sales. What some call case studies, I like to call Customer Success Stories. They still describe the ROI or other results and success metrics that buyers are looking for, but are written in a way that has impact. They’re believable — and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

  1. First, let’s start with what not to do:
    Don’t focus on you, you and you! Make the story about your customer. Showcase what your customer did to find success, not how your product did it for them.
  2. A case study is a sales enablement tool, but not a piece of product collateral – keep the feature and benefits bullet points out.

If you ask a salesperson in any tech or other B2B company what they need to close more deals, they’re most likely to say: we need¬†more case studies that prove ROI. Buyers ask for a case study almost every time, and sales people are often in a bind to share good examples that demonstrate results and are believable.

The believability part is critical – and is the source of that big impact. Otherwise, you’re writing words on a page. That’s sales collateral, or a presentation.

Follow these best practices to arm your sales force with customer success stories sure to give prospects reasons to believe your claims and move them to the next stage in the buyer’s journey.

Identify the Common Antagonist

Look for good stories to tell by first identifying the most common problems people face when they’re looking for solutions like yours. This is your list of stories to tell. If you have more than one audience, you may want to consider different stories for each of them. For example, a SaaS provider with marketing technology may sell to both marketers and technologists. You may have business and technology problems to address, and should do so in unique case studies, even if they highlight the same customer example.

Names and Numbers Bring Truth to the Story

People believe what they know to be true. Numbers rarely lie, and LinkedIn has added value to quotes in stories. You can’t include exaggerated results claimed by Joe Smith at Google when people could easily look up Joe on LinkedIn to see what kind of role he played (if ever) at Google, and reach out to him on Twitter. In today’s social economy, people will reach out to people you include in the case study to ask about their experience, or to elaborate on the story. Leverage this transparency for good, rather than elaborate or misrepresent the truth for evil.

Your Product Played a Role, but Make the Customer the Hero 

Everyone who reads your case study will know that your product or service played the most critical role in solving the customer’s problem, but you don’t need to beat your chest about it. Put a spotlight on your customer’s efforts, decisions and work to make the story more believable, and win the heart of that customer. Who doesn’t want a few seconds of fame?

ps. This tactic can also help expedite the approval process for case studies, and generate more interest from other customers who want to be recognized for their achievements.

The Happily Ever After

Let them in on the magic sauce. Tell the reader why the customer’s problems were solved with your solution. What did the customer specifically do that led to such remarkable results?

Many B2B communications managers start to twitch when a sales director mentions they need more case studies. There’s a long list of challenges perceved to come along with case studies, including finding customers with stellar results willing and able to tell them. Developing the story can actually be a delightful story-telling journey with these best practices in mind. Shifting your case study strategy to one focused on customer success could even lead to a thriving customer advocacy program.