The case for case studies

Case studies, testimonials, success stories…call them what you will, showing what you’ve achieved for other customers is just about the most powerful marketing tool on the planet.

An impartial third-party endorsement is worth its weight in gold and this is why I advise clients with a limited budget…

to make case studies their priority. Some stories I’ve researched and written are still working hard on clients’ websites three, four and more years on.

Here are some ‘top tips’ to ensure your case studies bring best return for your business.index

Choose your moment (the ‘when’)

The optimum time to produce the story will depend on the nature of your business. For example, technology solutions are best captured as a ‘new win’ or when the solution is well and truly bedded in. The first few weeks after implementation, when teething problems are inevitable, is the worst time.

Once a case study is live, it’s worth scheduling an update in a year’s time. This capitalises on the work already done and shows your ability to sustain a long-term relationship that meets your customer’ needs as they evolve – and that’s a real differentiator in the current climate.

Choose your subject (the ‘who’)

It may sound obvious, but do choose a customer who is willing to play ball, one who loves talking about their business and can spare some time to do so. It’s best to give the customer who is just never, ever available a miss and also pass over Mr/Ms Grumpy who believes in telling it like it is!

That’s not to say the approach should be bland, sunshine and roses. Showing how you turned round any glitches adds an appealingly real-world flavour.

Decide who in the organisation you’d like to tell the story. A good rule of thumb is to have the person who championed the purchase as the prime spokesman. He or she will know the story inside out and can talk about the benefits it’s brought; but you can also ask the MD to contribute a quote.

Brief the customer (the ‘why’)

The customer needs a clear steer on why they have been chosen. Reassure them that you don’t intend a journalistic exposé of their weaknesses. They will look professional and gain some good publicity for their business. Pave the way by outlining the process and introducing your writer.

Once they’ve agreed to participate, keep in touch with your sales people or customer services team. If any major problems emerge with the relationship, it’s best to put the case study on hold until these are resolved.

Incidentally, some businesses offer customers who agree to do a case study an incentive in the form of a discount or a reward in the form of a bottle of the bubbly stuff. Recognising the power of third-party endorsement, others are building the customer’s agreement to take part into their contract.

Brief the writer (the ‘what’)

Your writer needs to know your goals for the case study and have as much background as possible on the customer. I provide my clients with a questionnaire through which I capture all the facts and I apply a well tried process for taking the project smoothly through to completion.

Having equipped your writer with the salient points, you can expect them to:

  • Do their own research on the customer’s business
  • Liaise with the customer up to final, formal approval, which you should gain in writing
  • Treat your customer with the utmost courtesy (you must have 100% confidence that their attitude will reflect well on your business)
  • Quickly identify and empathise with their business issues and goals
  • Pose insightful questions that pinpoint the benefits of your product, service or solution
  • Tell an interesting, engaging story without being flowery or literary
  • Capture lots of quotable quotes

…all of which happens when you use M squared Corporate Communications, of course!

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