According to Forrester, 59% of B2B buyers would rather conduct their research online than interact with a salesperson. That being the case, how do you market to a lead that doesn’t wish to be marketed to?
The answer is to be visible and relevant online – at the right place at the right time and with the right content – so that potential clients can educate and inform themselves until they’re ready to start a conversation.
Case studies are one the most effective ways of educating and informing B2B buyers. Case studies are highly credible because they provide evidence of what your organisation has actually done, not what it might be capable of doing.
What’s the key to producing high-quality, highly effective case studies? Succeed with these ten tips.
1. Know your audience
Before writing up a case study make sure you identify your target audience. Who are the buyers and influencers of your services or intangible products? What do these individuals need and want to know? What’s relevant to their purchase decision and, importantly, what’s not? Identify your audience and then write for them.
2. Show don’t tell
Case studies are highly effective at building awareness and driving consideration. But while the desired outcome is to sell more of your services to existing clients, and attract new ones, case studies aren’t sales pieces.
A case study is a fairly modest, factual record of what was. Don’t be vague. Be specific. Stick to the facts. Tell the story (see below) and let the outcome speak for itself.
3. Choose wisely
Nobody needs or wants to read a case study about a mundane project or routine exercise. Find a case worth sharing by virtue of its complexity, peculiarity, importance, profile, challenges and, of course, outcomes. Remember, while a case study is not a sales piece, it is an opportunity to showcase your organisation’s expertise, ability to think outside-the-box, superior outcomes, distinguishing features, and exceptional client service.
4. Tell a story
Case studies need not be dull and boring. Tell a story: this was the challenge; this was the solution; these were the results.
In addition, write in the narrative. Be efficient with your words and focus only on what is relevant. Relay events in chronological order so it is easy for your target audience to grasp the pertinent details and appreciate the outcomes that you achieved for your client.
5. Design a template
A case study template will help you to maintain consistency across your organisation. Your case studies will have a common look and feel; and will share the same structure and sections.
When designing your case study template, anticipate the need to incorporate graphics, illustrations, callout boxes, direct quotes and imagery to illuminate key points and bring your case studies to life. Don’t obstruct your organisation’s ability to use visuals – make them possible in a brand-compliant way.
6. Build a library
B2B buyers rely on content such as case studies to make or justify their purchasing decisions. In fact, 2016 Demand Gen research indicates 47% of B2B buyers consult three to five pieces of relevant content before engaging with someone from a supplier. Make sure you have a reasonable volume and variety of case studies available. Keep your case studies up-to-date and add new ones to your library whenever you can.
7. Make them accessible
Consider where, when, how and by whom your case studies will be used. Make it easy for your colleagues to access them – upload them to your Intranet or house them in a shared directory or database. Your colleagues should not be held hostage to Marketing every time they need basic marketing collateral.
Similarly, make it easy for your clients, prospects and other stakeholders to find, print, download and share your case studies. Categorise or tag your case studies – for example, by industry and issue – and ideally make them keyword-searchable.
8. Secure approval
If the case study is for external use (as most will be), be sure to secure your client’s written approval before you publish. This approval should be stored on your system and linked to the case study so that it can be located long after you have left your organisation, or your client approver has left theirs.
Also, make sure you secure permission and copyright for the use or reuse of any photographs, imagery or illustrations.
9. Provide context
Without context, your case study will lack meaning and impact. Therefore, include a situation analysis that describes the client, the challenges it faced, relevant environmental factors (political climate, established or pending legislation or regulations, economic factors, competitor activity…).
If you can’t name the client, describe it as much as possible – for example, its industry, headcount, turnover, ownership structure and key markets.
10. Lessons learned
Have the courage to address lessons learned. Prove your business is committed to capturing knowledge, adapting to change, and to best practice. It’s not about showing weakness; it’s about showing humility. Talk to what went really well, what was unexpected and, when appropriate, what you’d do differently next time.