By Wendy Jacobson, Owner of Incredible Content
Chief Editor’s Note. For B2B marketers, the case study is one of the most misunderstood and underused assets in the content marketer’s toolbox. This is the first in a series of articles from Wendy Jacobson, a content marketing master, intended to help B2B organizations and their marketing teams create case studies that better engage prospects.
Among the various types of content created by content marketers to attract buyers, the case study plays a critical role. It helps the prospect transition from engaged curiosity to visualizing what it might look like to have their problem solved by you, the B2B seller.
Yet, content marketers don’t often get them right. We either make them so ambiguous that our prospects don’t believe they’re real, or they are complicated, weighty academic products that have prospects quickly tuning out.
Let’s start right at the beginning and walk through how to create engaging, credible case studies.
Selecting the Right Customer for Your Case Study
Not every satisfied customer is a good candidate for a case study. In fact, you may have the happiest customer on the planet, but they have no place participating in a case study. Why?
First, let’s break it down. Your case study is meant to tell your customer’s story. Let me state that again, you case study is meant to tell your customer’s story. That’s right, not your story!
It includes their challenge, why they worked with you and the results you helped them achieve.
Case studies are powerful because they provide your audience with an objective perspective, your customer’s, about a relatable problem, a common challenge you help resolve.
The hope is, your audience sees themselves in your happy customer’s shoes and says, “I want that, too.” This is sometimes referred to as FOMO, the fear of missing out, and it is real.
Pretty cut and dry, right? Well, sometimes, you may get an extremely satisfied customer who is grateful, and they sing your praises. Perhaps they even wrote a nice testimonial. But they’re an outlier. Their challenge is a bit different from the norm, and while you can remedy it, you don’t attract prospects with it.
You think they’d be great in a case study, too. I say, “HOLD ON!” You say, “WHAT? WHY?”
Here’s the thing: your case study features happy customers who experience a common problem that you solve. The purpose is to use it to attract more customers with that problem.
This outlier customer, while happy, is just that. An outlier. Their problem doesn’t fall within your norm of whom you want to attract. So, if that’s the case, why should you use feature them in a case study?
Rather, select a satisfied customer who had a problem that is common among most of your target audience.
How to ask a customer if you can feature them in a case study.
Let's say you have a long-standing customer who's been with you for a while. You've worked with them on several projects or over a long period. You want more customers like them and think they would be great to feature in a case study. There is an effective way to approach them about it, and a not-so-effective way. Let's look at both.
First, the not-so-effective approach:
YOU: You've been our customer for a while, and we've done some amazing things for you. How about we feature you in a case study so we can attract more customers just like you?
This isn't very effective because:
- It's all about you
- It places no value on your relationship with your customer
- While they know you want more customers like them, they may not want to hear you say it
What's more, asking a yes or no question makes it easy for them to reject you and shut down the conversation immediately.
Now, let's look at a more effective approach:
YOU: We've been working together for quite some time, and we really value our relationship. You've come a long way, accomplished so much, transformed your business since we first met, and you have an amazing story to tell. How would you feel about being featured in one of our case studies?
Here, you make it all about them by:
- Acknowledging their success
- Hinting that it would make a great story
- Asking what they think of case studies by asking what they think about being featured
You open the conversation by showing you value your partnership, which is subtle yet effective, and they are more likely to say yes or at least explore the possibility.
Bottom line: Always make the ask about them, not you!.
About the Author
Wendy Jacobson is a content writer and strategist with more than 25 years’ experience in the business world. For the past 13 years, she has worked as an independent contractor, helping businesses plan, craft and distribute their content.
Her company name, Incredible Content speaks specifically to how she views content: as a vehicle for businesses to build and maintain their credibility. Over the years, Wendy has helped businesses in the healthcare, wellness, food, and technology industries foster their credibility via content such as articles, emails, web content and case studies.
Wendy has always loved to write and has a BA in History and English from The George Washington University. She lives in Minneapolis and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two teenage kids and dog. She also likes to jump rope, bike, hike or do just about anything outside.
Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn, visit her website, incrediblecontent.net and subscribe to her newsletter that shares 3 quick and easy tips to level-up your content each Tuesday.