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 anyone!).
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.
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.