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!
Last Saturday I crossed the finish line of my 2nd marathon. Last year was my first and I was beyond elated just to have finished with a time of 4:17.
This year I was over the “PLEASE, PLEASE just let me make it to the finish line!” and now desperately hoping to make it to the finish line in 4 hours!
I did PR with a time of 4:12 (and yes…I was happy with that because running a marathon is PRETTY DAMN HARD to do whether your time is 3 hours or 6!) but… it was not the dream finish I was hoping for.
Assessing my race performance, I know what I got right…
The tools and gear for the temperature and the distance. (Good running shoes, a short sleeve shirt and capris kept me comfortable in the sunny, 50-degree fall temps. I also packed plenty of gels and water to keep from getting dizzy and dehydrated.)
And… I know a few things I could have done differently to improve my time:
Instead….I just tried to run a little faster and hoped for a better time.
Going through this assessment of my race, I realized it’s not much different from Content Marketing.
You can’t just put up a web page, write a few blog posts, send out some e-newsletters and hope for some leads.
Just like running a marathon—there are some concrete steps you MUST follow if you want to reach your goals:
1. Have the Right Tools for the Job!
I didn’t hit my time goal, but I knew what tools would get me to that finish line!
Beyond your web site and social media platforms, there are an ENDLESS number of tools available to help you launch your content marketing campaign.
From email marketing, sales enablement, distribution & syndication, paid promotion, social media management and much, much more, there are tools to make your life easier… every step of the way!
You just need to decide what’s right for the size of your business and your budget.
2. Have a Well-Defined Strategy and STICK WITH IT!
Whether it’s generating more leads, becoming a thought leader in your industry or demonstrating your expertise; you need a comprehensive strategy with well-defined goals!
Who’s your target audience? What tone will you use? What topics do your customers care about? What social media platforms are they on? These are just a few of the questions you need to answer.
Just like a marathon plan with speed work, hills, tempo and long-runs— each part is important to reaching your desired outcome and MUST be considered with each blog post, social media post, white paper, or newsletter that’s written.
3. Monitor Your Progress.
Now that I’ve seen my race results, I know what to do differently for next time but it’s too late to change what happened this time around.
I know that running watch would have shed some light on my pace and saved me some much needed energy that last half of the race. Without it…I was running in the dark!
You can’t afford to run your content marketing strategy in the dark either. Constant measurements are essential so you have immediate insight to what’s working and what’s not.
It’s not always easy to tie your content marketing efforts directly to sales.
But… with tools like Google Analytics, Buzzsumo, Docalytics, Crazy Egg, (and far too many more to mention in this post), you can measure things like number of unique visitors to your site, page views, bounce rates, and conversion rates so you know HOW many people are reading your content, WHAT they’re doing with it IF they like it!
4. Get Some Support!
Yes, I made it to the finish line going it alone but a 4-hour marathon is a daunting task and I know a pace group or running buddy will give me that motivation I’ll need to hit it next year!
With SO many types of content and distributions channels, a content marketing campaign can also be daunting task for a small business.
You need to enlist the right support in employees, writers, designers and SEO experts to make sure you can keep up the momentum to reach your marketing goals. And make sure everyone is on board with those goals!
These are just a few of the tips to get your content strategy off and running! Have any more to add? Leave me your comments.
Hiring a Freelance Writer or Designer? If They're Not Asking You for This, You're Wasting Your Marketing $$s!
When I get a new client I’m ALWAYS anxious to dive into their business! Learn their story, their vision and marketing objectives. I can’t wait to hear what makes their business unique from their competitors, who their target customer is and what their problems are.
All that wonderful stuff that’s SOOO VERY critical to producing valuable content that will enhance their brand and engage their customer!
Yet…I find myself filled with a little guilt when I almost apologetically ask my clients to fill out my 3 page Marketing Questionnaire. Their days are full and they’re struggling to stay above ALL this content they have to produce! Or they’re in a hurry to get their website up and promote their brand and they want a life too!
Here they’ve hired me to take some of the pressure off and give them back some of their precious time - and instead - I’m adding one more thing to their to-do list!
On the other hand, I KNOW I can’t do my best work, and they’re NOT getting the most of their marketing dollars if I don’t ask them for this vital information!
In this 2012 (yes, a few years old but I think MORE relevant today in our content-driven world than ever!) post for the Content Marketing Institute, Anne Meany, then Managing Editor at Brandpoint details WHAT to look for in your freelance writer and WHY you MUST MAKE SURE you’re freelance help demands that you take the time to answer these many important questions about your business!
YES…it takes some time now, but as Anne points out… “once a writer gets to know you and your brand, he or she can take your ideas and run with them, and provide good ones also. This has the wonderful double benefit of reducing your workload and making you look good at the same time.” And translation….increased ROI for your marketing investment!
As a business owner, do you resent taking the time to provide so much information to your freelancer? As a freelancer, do you ever hesitate to ask for it? Love to hear your thoughts and tips for streamlining this info gathering process!
In the meantime…read the full article here.
We’ve all been there. That dreaded “bad date”….or in my case… “play date” with a fun new mom-friend that quickly goes south when they monopolize the entire conversation by talking only about themselves! They go ON AND ON about their job, their kids, their house, THEIR great life… never once turning it back to us to learn more about our life, our kids, our job, OUR interests!
We’ve all suffered through them. And if you’re like me, you probably never called that person again for another date (or play date) and you were glad when they never called you.
And this happens to us ALL the time on the web, right? We’re looking for that company, that “exciting new connection” who’ll have the solution to our problems or product that's the answer to our dreams! But…. 30 seconds into the site... and they lose us. Sentence after long boring sentence…littered with "I" and "We" and "Our". We know they’re not really interested in US... and it goes South.
But unlike that bad date, we’re not forced to suffer through. Just a click and we’re out of there ...never to be heard from again!
But here’s some GOOD NEWS! You don’t have to drive your customers away from your website with self-serving copy. Follow these 5 tips and they’ll know that you’re interested in THEM And they’ll come to rely on your business…time and time again!
So Let’s get started….
1. Know Who You're Talking to.
Have you clearly identified your target customer or customer groups? Make sure your web copy aligns with your overall marketing plan to reach them! What keywords will answer their questions…solve their problems? Keep those words first and foremost in your headings. ALWAYS, ALWAYS lead with their NEED!
2. Remember That it's Not About You....it's About Them!
You finally get that website up and you’re anxious to share all the wonderful things that make your business unique and special! Or... WHY you love to do what you do.
But guess what? Your customer DOESN’T CARE! They only care about THEMSELVES and how you’re going to solve their problems or answer their questions. And remember those 30 seconds? That’s about all you’ve got. So take all those great features of your product or service and turn them into COMPELLING, attention-grabbing BENEFITS that mean something to your customer.
3. Be Conversational.
Don’t bore your customer with BIG words and long sentences. They don’t want to be impressed by your good grammar and extensive vocabulary. They just want to know if you can solve their problems! So talk as if you’re having a conversation over lunch! (And yes…it’s ok to start a sentence with “And” and “But!” It’s not high school English class!)
4. Don’t Talk ABOUT Your Customer….Talk TO Them!
Instead of saying “we help our customers” say “we help YOU!” Again…..it’s a conversation….and while they’re reading your website or web content, they need to know you care about THEM and nobody else!
And last but NOT least…..
5. Entice Them with an Offer.
We love a good offer and we love the word FREE! So offer a FREE estimate, FREE newsletter subscription, FREE report! Or offer 10% off or a $10 discount to increase your leads!
So now go take another look at your website. What conversation are you having with your customer? Is it about your business or is it about THEM? Armed with these 5 tips, hope you feel ready to get your customer’s attention and start racking up those leads!