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How To Create B2B Case Studies That Generate Results

Recent research from both CMI and IDM shows that B2B businesses see case studies as a key promotional tool. It is therefore a surprise that case studies from mid-sized B2B companies are not more widespread. The problem could be the time and effort involved or it could be many businesses simply do not know where to start.

So what is the science behind the power of case studies, testimonials and recommendations? According to Dr Robert Cialdini in his book ‘Influence – The Psychology Of Persuasion’ one means we all use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. For further evidence just consider the number of advertisers who love to inform us when a product is fastest selling, or fastest growing (German Caffeine based shampoo the power of case studies in b2b marketsanyone!).

If several testimonials show our peers are using a particular product or service then maybe we should consider it too? Even more powerful if we read a case study on how one of our peers used a service to create a positive result then it is certain to have a positive influence on our own decisions.</span

Like all the best marketing strategies a process is required. The first crucial step is to define the target audience for the case study. Who do we wish to influence, where are their pain points and what types of solutions are of potential interest? It is often best to restrict case study collection to a selection of the customer base and to ensure that a number of studies are collected to cover all of the key product ranges or services delivered by the business.

The next step is to put a process in place to gather the required material to build the case studies. This, at some point, involves asking the customer if they will agree to a case study and that is a problem for many businesses. This hurdle can be overcome by taking a multi stage approach (read an example here) and asking first for customer feedback then building from there.

A mistake made by many businesses is to restrict the detail in the case study so it covers a maximum of two pages. This is a mistake as the case study must be of an appropriate length to really address the needs of the potential customer. The case study needs to show:

  • What the business was trying to achieve.
  • What barriers were stopping them from reaching their goals.
  • What persuaded them they needed to do something about the problem.
  • What did they try and (if possible) why did it fail.
  • How did they come across your solution.
  • How did they implement your solution.
  • What were the results and how did they match against goals.
  • What were the costs (time, resources, financial) and therefore what was the benefit.

A little promotional material written around the customer that provided the case study illustrating what they do and the benefits they offer is always worth including.

Any case study always needs customer sign off before publication. The issue then, given the considerable effort expended in generating the information, is to maximise its benefit. It should be published on the company website and wherever else it makes sense online. It should be used by the sales force as powerful sales collateral. It may be used in print media and brochures and spread liberally around reception areas and finally it may be used in E_Newsletters and even email signatures.

Why All The Hype About Branding? – A Voice From The Wilderness

As a professional B2B marketer I get the value of branding but I also believe all the hype surrounding it is doing serious damage to the marketing profession. Taking a straw poll of both business owners and the public in general I believe would show most believe marketing is advertising or branding and that is a problem.

I am not saying branding does not have a value but to give an example from our ancient ancestors. Art flourished in the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian societies but less so in others. Why? Because in those societies food was plentiful and the society was well organised and structured. My point is this – if your prime focus is having enough to eat in the coming days and weeks and defence of your family you are not going to worry too much about your artistic side. Now swap branding for art and food for orders and perhaps you get my point.

In my humble opinion marketing prime purpose is to generate high quality and relevant leads for sales to close – that is it. That may not appeal to those with a creative side or have aspirations for marketing to be at the centre of every business but I am afraid it is time to wake up to the reality. If marketing can only talk brand it will have very little relevance to the wider business community.

Perhaps the problem starts at the very top. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has a major programme underway (#Marketing2025) to try and make itself more relevant. As a member of the CIM since the early 1990’s and a Chartered Marketer I read the recent article by the CIM Chief Executive on the subject in the CIM magazine.

Remember, this article was about making the CIM more relevant but in the entire (lengthy) article ROI was mentioned once and lead generation not at all. The word Brand was repeated many times and it may well be important to larger organisations but if the CIM wants to be relevant it needs to talk to the majority of businesses (and marketers).

Let me explain, I have spent over 25 years in the small business (from start-ups to businesses with £25m turnover) environment. As over 95% of the 4.9m businesses in the UK employ up to 9 people and 99% employ less than 250 people in (figures from 2013) then I guess I am not alone. Yet, all the CIM focus is on branding that is probably only a prime focus for perhaps <5% of the total business population.

In the SME world everything has to deliver a ROI. Business owners may get the value of authority to their business but not brand. It may be argued brand is at the central to any business but good luck selling that concept to SME’s. If I had any influence at the CIM (which I don’t) I would minimise the use of that word.

To use another example there is a phrase in football that goes ‘earn the right to play ‘. For the uninitiated it means that the creative players in a team (the ball players and goal scorers) don’t generally get a chance to have a major influence on a match until the early physical battles have been won. They may not like it but in the early stages of a game the quality players have to put in a shift running, tackling and closing down with the rest of the team.

Marketing may translate to the creative players but to really influence and be at the centre of a business they need to get down and dirty with the rest, do their share, get out there and understand customers and sales issues. Only then do they have they earned the right to play. Only then can marketing claim its rightful place at the centre of business and provide real value with, vision and yes – brand. However, forget that prime purpose of lead generation and all that good work will be undone in an instant.

How To Use Growth Hacking to Grow A Tech Start Up

The term growth hacker and the latest hack for x,y or z seems to be everywhere but exactly what is a growth hacker and how can their skills be used to grow a tech start up business?

What is Growth Hacking?

Sean Ellis, who was instrumental in the rapid growth of Dropbox, is credited with first using the term Growth Hacker back in 2010. Their role is to grow a user (or customer) base from a low (or nil) base into the thousands and beyond. Growth hackers are marketers but they are completely focussed on one metric and one metric alone and that is growth.

The term growth hacker is now, like most buzzwords, overused to the point it is starting to get annoying but it was originally a term associated with start-up growth, particularly for start-ups working on internet based products. Many of the techniques used by those involved in growth hacking are long established and used by traditional marketers on a regular basis, but with a twist

In his 2012 post  Aaron Ginn defined the three key characteristics of a growth hacker as creativity, data and curiosity. Growth Hackers tend to be unusual as two of their key characteristics are from two different ends of the spectrum. A creative person is not usually also associated with a talent for numbers, detailed analysis and experimentation.

Applying To The Tech Start Up

Although growth hacking is most often associated with businesses involved in internet based products, services and Apps their rationale and methods of working may be specialist electronic component from a high tech start upapplied to any high tech start up. However, a pre requisite is the marketing person involved must have a detailed knowledge of the internet, generating traffic (paid and organic), analysis tools, nurturing campaigns and (crucially) how people and information flow online.

As a first step they must be able to identify the best opportunities to achieve new customer growth. With this in place they must then be able to break down the steps required to capitalise on those opportunities into actionable steps, each with a defined start, end and closure point. Finally, they must be able to put the required analytics in place to measure success (or not).

The best growth marketing process for a new technology start up may not have been tried before so experimentation, with data to back up the results, is key. Market disruption is important for any technology start up and the same applies to the marketing process. Often, Tried and trusted will not work and a seat of the pants type approach is the best way forward. This can be both scary and high risk but the risks of failing using something more tried and tested are also high.

Experience based on experimentation, the data obtained and the workings of the internet is key. Porting a process that works well for one business to the next is unlikely to work but the data obtained in one assignment is certainly important to the next. Finding the right marketing person (or to go back to our original definition – Growth hacker) can be difficult but given the high risk nature of their work and the dramatically increased chances of start-up failure if they do not succeed it is of vital importance. The problem is that outside of the U.S.A such people are in very short supply.