Did you know 70% of buyers make up their minds and define their own needs even before contacting a seller? And 44% look for specific solutions before talking to a salesperson?
Because consumers are getting more informed than ever, and this informed decision-making is changing the whole buying journey, sales is now even more complex. Therefore, tech providers need to have valuable content on hand that addresses every stage of the buyer's process. That's where the use of case studies comes in handy.
Why case studies?
If you need graphic services for your business, would you hire an agency that simply states they produce high-quality ROI-generating content? Wouldn't you rather see the quality of their work first and check what their previous clients are saying about them?
The initial thoughts of most companies are to focus their efforts on public relations and digital marketing campaigns. But one very successful resource that often gets overlooked is the business case study.
While customer reviews and testimonials have their place in business, they only tell half the story. Case studies dig a little deeper. Having the social proof of evidence-based case studies detailing how you helped a customer solve their problem is what makes the real difference to your bottom line.
Reading and watching reviews is part of most consumer's buying journey. Tech sales are no different, and prospects are doing their own research on a product before purchasing.
Creating empathy with your customer, speaking to them on their level, showing them you understand their problems will immediately get them itching to find out more about how you can help them.
That's how a case study works.
They tell a story
Using a story-based structure to detail your process and your customer's positive experiences involves characters, conflicts, and resolutions. They illustrate the ways your product can be used and activate your prospects' brains and persuade them.
They focus on the experience
While websites focus on the features of a product from the brand's perspective, case studies break this up by focusing on peer-to-peer proof. Coming from their eyes makes it an excellent opportunity to move attention from yourself and shine a spotlight on a real-life consumer.
They generate word-of-mouth quickly
Being some of the most hyper-targeted content pieces case studies allows you to highlight how you help niche business verticals solve industry-specific problems and back this work with customer quotes. Because of this, they can generate credibility quickly across social media platforms and elsewhere.
They emphasize expertise
Case studies are a prime example of your business in action. The more complex and challenging the topic of your case study is, the more you emphasize your tech expertise and how your product achieves success. It explains the "why" behind the "how" and can be used to establish your company's capabilities when negotiating with a potential prospect.
Case studies are inexpensive to produce, with most of the work done internally. All you need is some time to interview, write, and in some cases, design.
They can be repurposed
Case studies can be turned into other content in different formats to extend their shelf-life. All of that content can be incorporated to lead nurtures, pull quotes, or other statistics and place them around your website.
But keep in mind that case studies are real. They're based on actual events with actual customers. And since the majority of sales relies on trust and believability, you're onto a good thing.
Case studies are missed opportunities
However, many case studies are missed opportunities to engage with prospects and businesses, and companies can be dooming them even before starting with writing. This guide presents the best practices to help technology product marketing leaders develop case studies that:
- Targets and engage the right audience
- Delivers key benefits to target audience requirements
- Builds trust
- Illustrates value to convince prospects
With these practices in mind, your main challenge is to maintain your focus.
- Instead of attempting to be all things to all potential customers, stay relevant.
- Instead of addressing several needs of several buyers, prioritize which to cover first.
- Instead of risking losing readers, align the information that is most relevant to them.
This takes us to the first step in writing a convincing case study.
How to write a convincing case study in 4 steps
Step 1: Identify the functional role you are targeting
This is the starting point, and a deep-dive investigation into your prospect's buying role and situation to establish the right communication regarding who you are targeting and what matters to them.
Your goals are:
- Identify the target audience in specific terms laser-focused on a specific stakeholder.
- Identify your stakeholder's functional role they take in the buying journey (decision-maker, influencer, procurement officer, CFO, etc.)
Step 2: Identify what they want to achieve in their buying journey
In this step, choose a storyline relevant to the phases of the buying journey and the type of buyers you are targeting.
For example, a storyline that targets decision-makers who are most likely to be exploring different solutions by different tech providers should be focused on the business outcomes achieved with your product.
But targeting a technical influencer who is more likely to be evaluating tech products from different providers would need a case study with a storyline focused on the technical reasons that made a certain customer choose your product versus others.
So, in short, identify who you are targeting and their activity stream and then focus your storyline accordingly.
Step 3: Identify what you need to demonstrate to build trust
Case studies are proofs made to build trust with someone who may be unfamiliar with your brand. They need to express the value you promise to deliver in your sales and marketing communications. Remember that case studies must focus on outcomes, not features.
Outcomes address what is important to the prospective customer, and they are quantifiable or measurable.
All business outcomes boil down to:
- How growth was achieved
- How expenses were reduced/ money was saved
- How risks were reduced/avoided
How to tell if it is an outcome or a feature?
If your outcome doesn't link to any of the above three, it's a feature.
Using a value assessment tool or developing a planned and structured interview during the sales process will help you capture customer value stories that you can leverage in future selling processes after implementation.
While having quantifiable values is ideal, many times, customers may not have them or are not willing to share. In this case, you need to capture the value as part of the interview. Don't only focus on their working experience with your company.
- The internal process of selecting you
- The reasons and why they considered your offering in the first place
- What they value and how they assessed that value during the selection and buying process
Your questions must be phrased from the perspective of the customer to capture essential points. Our advice is to go for a guided, qualitative discussion for collecting usable content for case studies.
Step 4: Story-tell the case study
Even if it seems more organized to list features or recount events in chronological order — case studies need to build interest, convey emotion, and engage the audience to make them say or think, "tell me more!" And the best way to do this is to create a story.
Here's what a standard storytelling flow looks like:
1. Catch the attention with the outcome. It can be the headline or a byline, just keep it simple and mention only the most important result achieved. Quantifiable results work best, like "X achieved a 50% increase in agent productivity in 60 days." If it is impossible to quantify an outcome, craft a clear and powerful qualitative impact you achieved for your customer.
2. Use real examples of the challenges or problems your customer was grappling with to make it more relevant.
3. Describe how these challenges or problems have impacted them and what would have happened if they had not acted. The impact doesn't have to be money-related; it can be about scalability, opportunities, customer satisfaction, competition, etc.
4. Position your product as a solution and how it helped the customer overcome their challenge and achieve the outcome your highlights at the beginning of the case study.
Finally, two takeaways to remember:
- Only mention details that serve the purpose to avoid distracting your readers and losing their attention.
- If you are going to list product features, make sure to have a clear link to the benefits they provide to achieve the outcome. Do not assume that the audience will be able to make the link as easily.
"The right place at the right time."
The next time you sit down to create some case studies, be sure to consider the right moments of the buyer's journey to provide credibility, validate your product's value and demonstrate how effective it has been to similar buyers.