Case Studies - Answers to the Questions B2B Marketing Managers Ask Most

Case Studies - Answers to the Questions B2B Marketing Managers Ask Most
Savvy Guest - Wed Jul 08, 2009 @ 03:19AM
Comments: 20

At Savvy B2B Marketing, we thrive on different perspectives and new ideas, which is why we are thrilled to welcome today's guest blogger, Casey HIbbard, also known as the queen of case studies. In her blog - Stories that Sell - Casey shares success-story marketing best practices. More fantastic guests are planned for the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.

Customer case studies are high-value, in-demand marketing and sales collateral. Marketing teams are tasked with producing powerful stories, yet it’s not always easy.Classroom

I work with all types of marketers, from those new to case studies to seasoned veterans. The same questions come up again and again.

Here are marketers’ top questions – and some answers – on creating and managing case studies:

1. How do we get customers to participate?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It comes down to finding the win-win opportunity with every customer that you want to feature.

Brainstorm with internal colleagues close to the customer about possible motivators. Does the company want to tell a certain story right now? Does your individual contact want PR internally for bringing about successful outcomes?

Then discuss your ideas candidly with the customer. From there, create a customized joint promotional plan or agreement that meets both your needs and the customer’s objectives.

2. How long does it take to produce a case study?

The clock starts when you interview the customer. If everything goes relatively smoothly, an approximately two-page case study or success story takes about one month to complete, on average.

If your contact is responsive and has the authority to approve your story, then the process can be done in a couple of weeks. But if multiple people are reviewing and approving it, it can take months, worst case.

Always start well ahead of any trade shows or sales opportunities to ensure you get the story you need.

3. How do we get measurable results?

To draw measurable results out of happy customers, you have to get very specific internally and with featured customers.

Identify what metrics mean the most to your prospects, and areas where current customers typically see results.

Craft interview questions accordingly, making sure to ask before-and-after questions (how much time did a process take compared to now?). Walk customers through each area of potential benefit because most haven’t stopped to quantify yet.

Negotiate with customers on what metrics they are willing to share and how. You may have a specific way that you'd like to represent ROI, but your customer isn't comfortable with that. Your customer might be more willing to talk in percentages or in factors of (twice as, one-third of...) instead of in dollar amounts.

4. How long should my case study or success story be?

The length of your customer story depends on your audience and the point in the sales cycle. The goal: Answer the prospect’s questions and objections at the right time.

As a general rule, business decision-makers prefer shorter overviews (1-2 page success stories) that focus on business results. And perhaps early on, technology decision-makers appreciate that briefer overview.

But as they get further along in the evaluation process, IT people in particular, and sometimes department/division managers, want more details (case studies of 2+ pages) about factors such as implementation, customizability, ease of use/maintenance, functionality and support. Technology folks also tend to want more candid stories that include lessons learned.

These are the questions I hear most. What are your top questions and challenges when it comes to case studies?

About the author: Casey Hibbard is author of the book, “Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset” and principal of Compelling Cases Inc. She also writes the Stories That Sell blog.

Comments: 20

Comments

1. Jonathan Kranz  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 08, 2009 @ 04:27AM

Great stuff, Casey! As a matter of fact, I'm leading a workshop on August 1 in which case studies will be a major subject.

Big question people have: How do we improve our case studies or give them greater impact. I suggest three things:

1) In the opening "challenge" or context section, be sure to articulate the stakes: WHY it was important for the client to achieve this objective or overcome this problem.

2) In the main body of the study, be very specific about actions taken, things done. You want to create a picture so precise that readers can imagine themselves in the protagonist's (subject of the case study) shoes.

3) Use a direct quote from the client in the concluding or "results" section. The achievements are much more credible when they come from the horse's, er, the client's mouth.

2. Casey Hibbard  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 08, 2009 @ 06:29AM

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for adding to the conversation. You hit on some very key points - all of which point to telling a story. It's the storytelling aspect, and customer's own words, that set a customer case study or success story apart from other marketing materials and from mere testimonials.

Thanks!
Casey

3. Marty Weil  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 08, 2009 @ 07:53AM

Excellent advice. However, when it comes to the length of a case study, I advise against using page count. Word count is a much better measuring stick. Here's why: supposes we say a case study should be two pages. Is it single or double spaced? What's the font size? A case study that is double-spaced using 14 point is "longer" than a single-spaced, 10-point type, even if they contain the exact same content. Using word count as a measurement--and I recommend 800-1200 words for a standard case study--is more precise.

4. Greg Donahue  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 08, 2009 @ 02:46PM

Hi Casey, some great thoughts! Some ideas I used in the past:

1. to help get more case studies, use it as leverage when sales is negotiating a deal. If the customer if pushing for a discount, get them to give you a case study in return.

2. measurable results may take time depending on your product/solution so you may not always get a case study right after the sale. Often, your best case studies take until your customer can prove an ROI. So be patient and get several possible case studies in the funnel.

3. when it comes to length, it should be determined by what it takes to tell the story, not a pre-defined word or page count. Just make sure you are succinct and get to the point quickly.

Case studies often are a critical part of the sales process as I point out in my blog posting on the sales funnel: http://gregdonahue.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/sales-funnel/

5. Casey Hibbard  |  my website   |   Thu Jul 09, 2009 @ 04:34AM

Marty and Greg,

Good input. Page count in case studies is only notable from the standpoint that readers perceive something that's more than one sheet, 2-sided to be more substantial to read. But as you said, page-count is still subjective. I've seen vendors who use the whole first page of a case study for the headline and a huge graphic, so a 2-3 page story ends up not being very much content.

As Greg said, what does it take to tell the story in a way that stays interesting for your specific reader? With some audiences at certain points in the sales cycle that's 500 words, with others 1200 or more.

Thanks for sharing the ideas on using case studies as leverage and regarding "waiting" for the right ROI. Using them to counter requests for discounts does work but maybe not something you want to be in a habit of doing. Only for coveted names perhaps.

Thanks!
Casey

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