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Content Writing – 6 Rules for Convincing Case Studies

Tracey James - Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Why great case studies are great sales tools

The most under-rated resource. 

Nothing is more convincing than a customer who’s happy to tell the world that your product solved a major problem in his business. You might say that case studies are a pain to create – especially with the often tedious, multi-layered, time consuming approval process – but we’d say the pain is more than worth the gain. Case studies (or success stories if you like) have multiple uses throughout the sales cycle and elsewhere:

  • At the beginning – to show that this is not your first time
  • During – to overcome objections or refocus the prospect
  • Late – as part of proposals and submissions
  • As handouts at conferences
  • As downloads from your website
  • As content in industry-specific outbound emails.

  

Case studies that persuade

Engaging case studies are surprisingly hard to find. The accepted story line tends to go: problem > solution > decision > outcome. That’s fine, but a bit bland and boring and, if you just stick to this time-honoured formula, yours will be too.

To stand out, to be authentic and convincing, your case studies need energy, colour and the originality of a customer’s own voice. Another rule is: don’t make them poorly disguised promotion. The case study is your customer’s story, not yours, so be creative but also keep in mind these simple rules:

  1. Write from the customer’s and his or her business perspective
  2. Let the customer do the talking, and use real quotes in his words
  3. Get enough specifics on the problems and outcomes so they’re real
  4. Use photos, graphs and diagrams to illustrate key points
  5. Use a template with pull-out quotes and highlight paragraphs
  6. Use video. A talking customer in his own environment is dynamite.

Let the customer do the talking

This is the customers story so let him do the talking. As usual, the questions you ask are key to what the answers will reveal. Most effective are open questions like: how serious was the problem you were trying to solve? In one of our case studies, the CEO of a recruitment agency answered: ‘It was a nightmare, very hit and miss. Candidates would send emails but there was no way to track or retrieve them. We were repeating the same processes over and over, wasting lots of time.’

The quote makes very clear why the agency needed better recruitment software. And the outcome? ‘Our recruiters love it,’ says the CEO, ‘[The new system] is our “bible” now and critical to our business.’ See how the customer’s voice adds authenticity to the case study, while terms like “bible”, and “critical to our business” add flavour and spice?

The supporting cast

Detail is lifeblood of any story, so it’s important to capture the key elements and outcomes. Specificity adds authenticity, an essential ingredient for building trust with the reader. One of our clients makes document automation software, which for one of their customers reduced the creation of complex financial contracts from 7 hours to 40 minutes. That’s the kind of detail that makes prospects sit up and ask: ‘How did they do that? I want to find out more.’

The template you choose for the case study must have strong, relevant headings and make key points and testimonials stand out. Stay away from the standard problem > solution sequence; add life to it with the customer's own words such as 'It's the bible now'. Where possible, use a diagram or graph to illustrate a point, or a link to video. If you have a good customer who is also a confident presenter, a short video can make a lasting impact. Here’s an example http://www.recruitmentsystems.com/resources/video/pca-people/.

For Added Value

A great way to make case studies more valuable to prospects in a similar situation is to have your customer give them good advice. For that purpose, you’d ask questions like:

  • What do you wish you’d paid more attention to up front?
  • What should the key criteria be for evaluating a product like this?
  • What are the worst pitfalls when implementing a solution like this?

It wraps up the case study by connecting your customer’s experience with the issues others in the same industry may face.

Tracey


Tracey James
Chief Executive

I used to be a Biotech researcher but got sick of acid holes in my clothing. After switching to selling the equipment I'd used in the lab, I discovered marketing and loved it. I've been marketing technologies ever since. I still love it.


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The case studies are fabulous. I don’t know how you got quotes like that out of customers. They’re priceless and were written and approved in record time, so customers must’ve been happy about them. More than that, we didn’t have to worry about a thing. It was all just done for us.
Neil Bolton
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