The process of writing a case study begins long before pen hits paper. It starts with a decision that can make or break your case study…choosing a customer. Choose the right customer and your prospects will feel connected, engaged and intrigued. But choose the wrong one and all that hard work (and possibly money) goes down the gurgler.
As a freelance content writer, picking a customer isn’t normally something I’d do – I’m typically brought in once they’ve has been chosen. But I’ve been written loads of case studies and I’ve noticed a few things about what makes a good (and not so good) customer to feature.
But before we get into what to look for, let’s quickly recap why case studies work so well as a marketing tool.
What is a case study and why are they so brilliant?
Case studies (or customer success stories) look at the problem your customer faced and tell the story of how your product or service solved it. There are lots of ways to write case studies, but I think the best are written from your customer’s point of view.
Case studies are slightly different to testimonials, which are short, direct quotes from customers. They usually focus on one aspect of your value proposition and can be used to alleviate buyer anxiety at critical steps of the purchase process.
While both are valuable, your customers LOVE case studies.
78% of people use case studies to research purchasing decisions. But they don’t just download them, they actually read them too! Case studies have an 83% completion rate compared with other sales content.
The reason case studies work so well is to do with something called future pacing, a sales and marketing technique that gets your customers to imagine their lives with your product in it. It’s kind of like the content marketing version of “try before you buy”. This technique is all about building empathy (which is another reason it’s so important to write case studies from your customer’s point of view).
6 things to consider when choosing your customer
The last thing you want is to go to the trouble of getting a customer on board, coming up with questions, writing, editing and designing a case study, only for it to fall flat. Worse still be held up in a constant cycle of approvals (or disapprovals more like it!) never to see the light of day.
Here are some key things to consider when choosing a customer for a case study:
1. The size of the company
Choosing a big name brand is tempting, but if you’re going after smaller customers this might make them think you only deal with the big boys. Likewise, if you’re only featuring small businesses but you really want to attract big corporations, this could give prospective customers the wrong idea about who you help. The idea is to choose a company similar in size to the customers you are trying to target.
2. Their challenge
Your prospective customers should be able to relate to the challenge you’ve helped your customer overcome in the case study. This is an important part of future pacing, remember you’re trying to help them envision a future with your company in it (featured as the hero of course). The idea is to understand what your prospective customer’s pain points are and then find a current customer who you’ve helped solve those very same problems.
It doesn’t have to be a monumental challenge. Solving a simple problem is just as valuable as a complex one – the point is the problem is fixed.
3. How much they loved you
It goes without saying that you should choose a customer that had a positive experience with your brand. But there’s a scale of happiness here. Go for the customers you’ve wowed with your service. The ones that rave to their families about your service and recommend you to their competitors. This will make it easier get them on board with the case study process and result in more impressive quotes to feature in your case study.
4. How recently you worked together
This is a tricky one to get right. Ideally, it needs to be recent enough for the customer to remember what happened, but not so recent as they don’t have results to share. A good rule of thumb is at least three months – that way they can get some results flowing through.
5. The results they can show
A great case study will have solid numbers to back up anecdotal results. One of the first things I ask my clients when briefing in a case study is “what results are you going to hang this on?” One of my favourite results was a case study I wrote for a chatbot company that increased the customer’s Facebook page visits by 6000%! If you don’t have results though, don’t worry. Anecdotal evidence works just as well, especially if the focus is around relationship-building like this case study that boasted a 12-year relationship.
6. What the internal set up is like
One of the most crushing things for a marketer is when a case study doesn’t get approved. If you choose a company with layers and layers of approvals, it’s more likely your case study will get caught up in the process. Best case scenario it will take months to get approved. Worst case, it will never see the light of day. Smaller companies or flatter structures may require fewer approvals so it pays to do some digging on the inner workings of your customer’s company before you ask them to participate.
Who you choose matters massively to the success of your case study. But it’s only the beginning. From here, it’s all about crafting a story that will intrigue your prospects, impress them with your excellent product or service, and capture their interest enough to prompt them to find out more.
If you need help doing that, give me a shout.