Case Studies – making a must have nice to have

Love ’em or hate ’em, well written, relevant case studies can help you win business.
Why?  Because they give your potential customer proof that you can do what you say you do.  …

23rd February 2008 at 12:02 pm

Love ’em or hate ’em, well written, relevant case studies can help you win business.

Why?  Because they give your potential customer proof that you can do what you say you do.  And a bit like PR, case studies have some of the kudos that comes from a third party endorsement.  After all, you wouldn’t go bandying about a case study without approval from the customer you’re name dropping.  (Would you?)

So we get straight to the nub of the case study issue.  Unless your existing customer is prepared to be named, your case study really isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  After all, any unscrupulous business could invent a whole host of ‘generic’ and anonymous case studies extolling their virtues. . . but without at least a solid nod to customer reference or endorsement the whole thing falls a bit flat.

For me there’s a clever way to short-circuit such a problem ever arising.  But it takes some marketing savvy and smart planning to execute.  The key is building in an expectation amongst your existing customers that you will want to ‘case study’ or showcase their successes, early on in your relationship.  And the key to making this palatable is to make sure your case studies glorify your client (i.e. have some use and purpose to them – even if it’s only for your key contact to show to his boss come appraisal time to prove how smart he/she has been in finding you and buying from you).

Sure this approach may throw up a few issues if you’re in some kind of turnaround or ’embarrassing problem curing’ type of business.  Your customer may never want to admit to needing your help.  But in most other cases, writing a shared success story that your customer will be proud enough of to let you share, is a creative challenge just like any other. . . .there’s an angle to be found, you’ve just got to find it!  If you’re a super smart cookie, the way you write the case study may form the bones of a bit of  PR for your existing client as well.  Afterall, a lot of trade publications are on the look out for smart thinking and good new stories. Bingo – you’ve got a win-win with your customer and a credible case study in you bag to impress your prospects!

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small.

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  1. Hi Sara,

    You make some great points. Setting the expectation for a case study early on is key. One of my colleagues actually uses the potential for a case study as a closing tactic in the sales process. Something like, “We’ll exceed your expectations and will come back to you for a case study down the road.” It implies to the customer that the product or service will be a success.

    Also, I agree that you do have to find an angle that will benefit both the vendor company and featured customer in order to get the customer’s permission.

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