The case for case studies (or: the sexiest un-sexy thing you can do for your business)
Watching your cholesterol. Making a budget. Performance reviews. We’d almost always rather be doing something else, but they have to be done. When it comes to content for B2Bs, case studies (or success stories, to use a slightly happier term) tend to fall into that un-sexy, I-should-but-do-I-really-have-to category. And yes, you do have to do them. They may not be sexy, but they sure do pay dividends:
Case studies showcase your best work and celebrate your success
They provide talking points to aid the sales process
...and hard evidence that your products and services bring results
There’s more, too: as a collaborate exercise with your clients, case studies serve to deepen client relationships, too. Not only that, but the very act of developing case studies creates an ongoing process of reviewing and retelling your brand story, giving you valuable insights into the client experience and how it feels to engage with your business. That’s pure gold for any brand marketer.
Clearly, it’s a win-win. But let’s get real. Case studies are far from being a quick win. Case studies require time and patience and—most un-sexy of all—process. But once you have that in place, you also have a live case study programme, a.k.a an on-going exercise in client development.
So, what does it take to make it all happen? Well, first you need to identify the client engagements or interactions that could make a good success story. The easiest place to start is to look at recent client feedback, anecdotes or accolades; which of these were as a result of your service or products doing a great job? Then, you need to qualify the story. Can you point to specific client results or tangible outcomes that can be genuinely attributed to your product or service?
Then comes the process to feed all this good stuff into. You’ll need a strong approach to clients in the first place: how will you get their agreement to co-create a case study with you in the first place? Then you’ll need a way of capturing, then telling, the story. For most of my clients, this means devising a case study questionnaire for clients to complete (or, if you have account or relationship managers, they can do this in collaboration with the client) and designing a repeatable structure for the case study itself, taking into account how and where it will be used (on your website? in sales packs? as reference material by sales teams?). You’ll also need to be clear about the client approval process, if you’re naming your clients in the case studies—which, it goes without saying, is generally far more powerful than not naming them.
What really makes this an effective ongoing process is some ownership of the case study programme (who can manage it?) and some clear goals. How many case studies might you aim to complete and publish over the course of a year, for example?
So while our un-sexy case studies may have no clear ROI, they can end up being the workhorse of the sales process and the unsung hero of client relationship management, because time spent reviewing all that’s gone right for your client, with your client, is always time well spent.
Are you convinced yet? I’m an unashamed case study evangelist and have worked with several major brands on defining, managing and executing their case study programmes. And I know that every B2B needs this. If you’d like to chat to me about case studies and how to get the ball rolling for your business, get in touch to arrange an informal 15-minute chat with me.