Case studies, or customer success stories, have become an integral part of many companies’ marketing and sales toolkits. They can be used to leverage customer experiences and help you gain new customers. They can also help you capture how customers have used your products and how that use enhanced or positively impacted their business.
However, most companies only use case studies in a couple of ways. Beyond printing case studies for sales reps or publishing them on a website, there are a number of additional ways to extend the value of your case studies.
Below are a few examples of ways you could use a case study to benefit your marketing and sales strategies.
- Use as a Powerful PR Tool – A number of companies use case studies first and foremost as a public relations tool. Before case studies are published on the Web site or distributed to sales reps, actively pitch them to the trade press as fresh stories. If it’s an engaging, informative story, it might be picked up by several niche publications. In fact, many publications now have sections called “Case Studies” or “Technology in Action” specifically for this purpose—and they’re looking for great stories. Likewise, companies out there are trolling these publications for real-world solutions to their business and technology problems.
- Use Wisely on Your Web Site – Sure, your Web site is the most obvious place for publishing your case studies, but it pays to put some thought into where and how you present them. Many companies feature case studies in a section by themselves, which separates them from the rest of product materials and forces prospects to hunt for them. Instead of separating these stories, feature product-specific cases among other product information on your site. When a prospect visits the page for one of your products, they should be able to choose from a range of materials to review, such as brochures, white papers and case studies that highlight that product specifically. You can even go a step further in catering to prospects’ need for information by allowing them to search by industry to find ones that best match their situation.
- Use As Brief Anecdotes in Your Customer Newsletter – Many companies regularly distribute e-mail newsletters to alert their clients and prospects about new offerings, events and more. Show your solutions in action: reprint abbreviated versions of your case studies in your newsletters and link back to the full story online. This educates customers and prospects about ways that others are using the software, perhaps introducing features, capabilities or add-ons they aren’t yet aware of.
- Use To Punch Up PowerPoints – Instead of using case studies as leave-behind materials in the sales process, integrate them into your sales presentations. Create several PowerPoint slides with highlights from successful client implementations and e-mail them to your sales team. In the process of preparing presentations, they can simply insert these brief customer anecdotes to back up their product information.
- Use As Ammo for Implementation Awards – Winning implementation awards can generate an enormous amount of exposure for a company. Customer success stories, whether in the form of case studies or retold to fit award criteria, are frequently used to land these awards. One CRM software vendor submitted a particularly compelling case study for Aberdeen Group’s annual “Top Ten CRM Implementations” list. The company was honored as one of the top ten and then mentioned in at least a dozen follow-up stories in the media. That was priceless exposure for the company.
- Use To Give Your Reference Customers a Break – Chances are, you rely on a handful of your best customers as references for prospective customers. But if called enough by inquisitive prospects, even the most satisfied customers can sour on your company. While person-to-person product discussions are always valuable, you can give your reference customers a break with case studies. Instead of contacting a customer directly, prospects can learn the specifics of an implementation, preferably in a similar industry, through a detailed success story. If you plan to use case studies this way, it’s important to make sure that your case studies offer the right amount of detail and cover the questions that prospects typically ask your reference customers.
- Use Feature Quotes and Content in Sales Materials – As you write case studies, make sure that quotes within the case study could stand-alone if you chose to pull them as testimonials for other areas of your website or for use in collateral materials. Make use of the powerful testimonials that come out in developing case studies. Or feature shortened versions of your case study stories in brochures and other sales collateral.
- Use as a USB drive Leave-Behind for Prospects – Put your case studies on USB drive with the ability to search them by product or industry. In face-to-face sales meetings and presentations, or in response to inquiries, provide prospects with the easily searchable USB drive.
Now as you think through the information you just read, walk through the attached example and create your own case study or customer reference story.
Customer Reference Story: Example
Situation: Director of Sales and Marketing, Wingtip Toys. Describe your customer and their business.
Critical Issue: Lost revenue due to reordering delays on hot seasonal products. Describe the problems or concerns that the customer was hoping to solve or alleviate with your product.
Reason: Her channel partners were required to place all reorders via their salesperson rather than their inventory system automatically reordering when stock got low. Explain some background on the problem and why it occurred.
Capability (when, who, what): She said she needed a way for the inventory management systems of her partners to talk with Wingtip’s ordering system over the Internet and automatically update account and manufacturing systems in real time. Explain the capabilities that your customer needed – especially to highlight the functions and capabilities of your product.
We Provided: This capability. Describe the specifics of your product and how it was used.
Result: Over the last six months, reorders using our Internet-based solution have jumped 64 percent compared to reorders during the same period a year ago, before our solution was implemented. Show the impact of your product in terms of savings, cost reductions, increased revenue, etc.