It’s NO secret that our current inbound marketing world has created a B2B buyer who is MUCH more informed before your company reaches them! And TRUST ─ that critical component of the B2B buying decision ─ is MUCH harder to come by!
You see… it’s just not enough anymore to TELL your prospects how your products and services will benefit their business (and their career!) You have to SHOW them!
And there’s nobody better to show them than your current customers…. in the form of a compelling and meaningful case study…where your ideal prospect can envision THEIR needs being met and THEIR problems being solved through the story that’s being told.
But, before approaching your current customers for that invaluable social proof, here are some key steps you should take to make the process more efficient and the finished product much more valuable to your target audience and ultimately your bottom line!
1. Choose the RIGHT Customer Candidates for Your Story!
It might be a lot easier to get buy-in from your smaller customers with a smaller permission chain but your larger customers (Fortune 500, if you have them) will give you more credibility in the eyes of your target audience. That extra time and effort you’ll need to put forth might just be worth it if it means larger accounts in the future.
That being said, you might be targeting companies of various sizes in your marketing campaign so it makes sense to have a nice library of case studies featuring various size customers so you have all of your niches covered.
Another good candidate is a customer you’ve stolen from a competitor. What could be MORE powerful than a story of how your company delivered in a way your competition could NOT!
The important thing is to choose the customer candidate whose size, industry and situation BEST fits the size, industry and situation of the company you’re targeting. Your audience will quickly loose interest in the case study and your company if… AGAIN… they can’t visualize their problem or their company’s problem in the story.
2. Make Sure the Timing is Right
Is it an optimal time to share the impact that your product or solution has had on your customer? Has it been up and running long enough to provide the ROI numbers that will be critical to your report? Have there been any problems or roadblocks that are still being worked out? Has there been turnover of key people who were involved in the implementation of your solution?
These are all things to consider before you approach your customer. Telling the story too soon or too late could be equally detrimental to the impact your story will have on your target customer’s buying decision.
3. Choose Interviewees Who are Both Willing and Able to Contribute
From Engineering Managers, Systems Integrators, to CIOs and CEOs, you’ll likely have a good selection of credible candidates who were a part of your product’s success story. After you’ve made your list, it’s important to make sure they have the green light from the appropriate “powers that be” and aren’t sharing information that will jeopardize their company or their career.
You don’t want to waste too much productive time on the phone with someone who greets your request with an enthusiastic “Yes” one day, only to have them call you the next with a big fat “NO CAN DO “ after Marketing or Legal got wind of the idea.
4. Make it Worth Their Participation
If you’re lucky, your chosen customers will be so happy with the value your product or service has brought to their business (in the way of revenue growth, increased process efficiencies, reduced costs) that they won’t hesitate to help tell the story.
But you also have to be prepared for some push-back. Some might be reluctant if they don’t know your company well or they might just need reassurance that the piece will be both professional and respectful of their brand.
Get ahead of their concerns by stressing the “win-win” factor for both companies. Let them know the positive PR both your brands will benefit from in the form of sharable content or maybe a press release. (ONLY IF they’re open to it. Some may not want their company information shared in a press release.)
Also…reassure them that you will portray both companies in the most positive light ─ not dwelling too much on the negative aspects of their situation prior to finding your product or service. (No one wants to risk looking like they weren’t on their game! Especially, your valued customer who’s giving up some productive time to help your brand!)
If you have other case studies in your library, you can share them or consider sending a detailed outline of the project up front to give them that piece of mind that it will be a quality piece.
4. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
You don’t want to surprise your interviewees with questions they can’t answer and commitments they weren’t prepared to make. Before the call, lay out the expectations in a professional email and make sure to include:
You’ll also want to include “Why” and “How” the case study will be used so you’re sure to get approval from all the key stakeholders, particularly Marketing and Legal.
5. Ask the Right Questions
You can’t have a rich and compelling case study if you don’t ask the questions that will get to the heart of the company’s business problem and what went into your company solving it for them. That means open-ended questions that focus on:
Make sure to tailor your questions to your interviewee, keeping in mind their job title and role in the project. Engineers and Plant Managers will speak a different language and have different concerns and time constraints than a CIO or CEO so be sensitive to that.
Also keep in mind that some of your most valuable details might come from questions asked by your interviewee so don’t be afraid to veer off the course of your interview. Just know when it’s time to re-direct them back to your questions so you don’t waste time and end up with holes in your story.
6. Write to Your Target Audience!
Just because you’re in a technical industry doesn’t mean your target audience will respond to a lot of technical jargon. Use acronyms and tech speak strategically so as not to confuse them or…at the same time… insult their intelligence because you’re not speaking to their level.
Voice and tone are important too. An authoritative or educational tone in the voice of your company would not have the same level of impact on your target audience as a more conversational style in their language, coming from their peers.
So there you have it! 7 tips to make your case studies more impactful to your prospects.
Remember….there’s NO better sales team than your current customers. So make their story shine and your business will reap the profitable rewards!
Visit my web site at www.resultswriter.com for more B2B content marketing tips!