Let's face it...none of us like the idea of a blind date. When faced with this situation, most of us scour the internet and social media to get an idea about this prospective mystery person. What does he or she do for a living? What do friends say about the person? What does he or she look like? This gives us peace of mind before we commit to an actual date.
Should it surprise you, then, that your clients would expect the same before committing to your product or service? They may even do their own research on your company, comparing it to others, so you might as well make it easy for them to find positive feedback. B2B case studies are an excellent way to put your client's mind at ease and build confidence in your brand.
A recent survey conducted by Forbes revealed that B2B case studies are the third most effective marketing strategy, behind in-person events and webinars. Another recent survey revealed that 66% of B2B marketers found that case studies were "very effective," and another 32% said that they were "quite effective."
"Nowadays, 9 out of 10 people are looking at online product reviews, posts on social networks, and so on before making a purchasing decision." ~ Siobhán McGinty
So how can you tap into this important resource? What goes into a successful case study? What case study format best fits your company's needs?
The 1-2-3 of Creating Successful B2B Case Studies
First of all, your case study needs to convey a convincing and positive message to your potential clients. Start off by getting a complete, detailed picture of a current client's experience working with your company.
A compelling case study is going to follow the basic formula of problem + solution = result. To get to the meat of this formula, ask your client some basic questions about his/her experience with your company. This could include:
- What problem did you face before finding our company?
- What solution did our company present? Why did you choose our vc company over similar companies?
- How was this solution implemented? Was it an easy process?
- What results did you see and experience after implementing our solution?
This basic formula works across the board, regardless of the brand.
Now that you have the meat of your case study, it's time to put it into a sandwich. Put simply, you need to choose which format you want to use to present this information. The following are some basic formats that have proven successful for other companies. (For more information on how to effectively use case studies, click here.)
How to Use Your Case Study
1. Blog Posts
Most business owners search online when they need to find a solution to their problem. You can meet this need by turning your case study into a blog post, in which you present the challenges that your client faced, and how they went about seeking a solution.
Then, satisfy your audience's curiosity with a list of tips on resolving the problem described from your client's vantage point. This may include:
- What your client learned during the process.
- The top things your client considered before purchasing a solution.
- What they would recommend others know before starting the process.
This makes it helpful to a potential client who reads it, but also directs attention to your company as a means of resolving their problem. You can also consider turning this kind of case study into a question and answer format with a client.
Consider the following example:
This example from Apple showcases how the Tokyo Metro's worker experience was enhanced by integrating the iPad into their work. It starts off with the problems they faced, then introduced the solutions that Apple offered, as well as specific on-the-job benefits they experienced.
A SlideShare can take a boring case study and liven it up, making it more engaging to your audience.
Most of us are visual learners. We would likely read short paragraphs accomanied by stimulation imagery and vivid colors, rather than sit down and read a lengthy report. If your key demographic prefers this kind of report, turn your case study into a presentation.
Dell illustrates how to do this effectively in its SlideShare, shown below:
This SlideShare case study shows the rewarding partnership that was created between Dell and Inovis. It develops the progression in three acts. Act I, Dell is a huge company, with international business. Act II, Dell needs to connect with thousands of partners around the world, and turns to Inovis B2B Outsourcing. Act III, the results of this alliance, and how Dell has benefited. It follows the formula of problem, solution, and result in a colorful and interactive way.
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3. The Client's Own Voice
Nothing is more powerful than hearing a person's actual words, the emotion behind them, and the sincerity of expression. You can use this approach in a case study by:
- Interviewing the person in your podcast.
- Using the client to presents the case study as part of a conference.
- Include your client's story in a short video presentation.
Take a look at this example from BlueBeam, a collaboration software company.
Bluebeam embedded videos of its customers onto their website. There's something fundamentally sincere about hearing people explain, in their own words, about problems they faced before finding the product, how well the product works, and how it saves them time and money.
4. In Print and Other Media
This case study approach is designed to get to the point -- the highlights of working with your company. This can be whittled down into a short yet powerful blurb, and presented in the following ways:
- Social media
- Direct mail
- Your phone system's "on-hold" message
Cisco offers superb examples of this, with dozens of short, easy-to-read case studies listed on its website. The tech company succinctly outlines the challenge the customer faced, the solution Cisco provided, and the results that the customer experienced -- all topped off with a quick, positive customer quote.
When it comes down to it, what could be better than having your customers singing your praises? It's an effective investment of your time. Whatever method you choose, B2B case studies are a powerful way of leaving a positive impression with potential clients.