Recently, I was at an electronics store looking for a new alarm clock. (I’ve decided to stop using my mobile phone as an alarm so that I’m not tempted to check emails or social media before bed or right when I wake up). I asked a salesperson which one he recommended and he listed off features as he ran through the options on display – “This one has extra USB docks….This one has lights that wake you up slowly….This is the budget option”, and so on. After he ducked off to help someone else, a woman standing in the aisle said to me, “I have this one – it’s really good. It plays nature sounds, instead of normal beeping.”
Guess which one I ended up buying?
We often rely on recommendations from friends, family and others we trust when making purchases. It’s the crux of employee advocacy and influencer marketing programs. But why are these recommendations so persuasive?
Part of the reason is that it is a form of storytelling – someone you trust or who appears to have similar values or needs shares their experience with a product or brand. The stories are engaging and/or bring authenticity and clarity to a situation in which you may lack all of the information needed to make a good decision quickly. And it’s the same reason why case studies are such a powerful business marketing tool.
The case for case studies
Customer case studies have become increasingly popular as businesses search for ways to forge stronger connections with potential customers who are short on time and attention. In fact, it’s among the top three most popular marketing tactics, just behind blogging and on par with social media. But case studies aren’t just popular with marketers. Research shows 78% of B2B buyers use case studies when researching purchases. Many of those buyers even make up their mind before contacting a sales rep. Given how widespread case studies have become, I’ve found it interesting that they wind up in the ‘too hard basket’ for many businesses. This is especially true small businesses where the owner wears many hats. That’s why I want to make a case for case studies.
Here are the top five most common excuses businesses give for NOT creating case studies and the best ways to overcome them.
1. We don’t have time
I get it – there’s only so many hours in a day and as a small business owner, you’re already stretched! But creating a case study can be quicker than you think. I’ve written case studies for global brands and one-person businesses. Some are 2,000-word articles but others are a paragraph or two on a presentation slide. Regardless of the length, case studies generally have three main parts – the problem, the solution and the benefit. And you can uncover this information in a simple, 15-minute phone call or email to your customer.
Focus on describing the problem or challenge your customer faced, what you did to help and why they’re better off because of it. Be specific and provide some context around the results where you can. Consider pairing it with a compelling photo and presto! – you’ve got yourself a case study!
2. I don’t have the resources to get a case study designed
There’s no right ‘look’ for a case study. That’s why businesses don’t need to spend a fortune on a designer or hours in Photoshop for a case study to make an impact. While you might turn some stories into marketing collateral, others might be used for a social media post, presentation or website. The most important part is the story you tell and its relevance to your audience. If you do want your case studies to look more polished, hire a freelance designer to create one or build you a template in your preferred format. You can also take advantage of great, free or cheap design tools like Canva, Snappa and Placeit.
3. I don’t want to annoy my customers
You might feel like you are annoying your customers or jeopardising the relationship by asking them to participate in a case study. If you’re solving a problem for them, however or customers most likely be willing to help you out. Start with your ‘friendly’ customers and remember to make it as easy as possible for them. Set up a call for a convenient time and send a few (3-5) questions in advance so they understand what you need. If you have a good grasp on the challenge, solution and benefits, you may want to write quotes for them to approve. That way, they don’t worry about having to come up with something on their own and you get a case study that sings your praises.
4. We don’t have any good case study stories to share
Businesses often say they don’t think they have a great customer story to tell or they’re unsure of how to tell it. The truth, however, is that everyone has a story to share. Talk to your customers and check in on their progress. This feedback will open the door to interesting anecdotes and successes. Think about how you’ve helped your customer overcome a challenge, even if it seems small.
Chances are there will be other potential customers out there who can identify with that story. People want to know how you can help them. Seeing how you’ve helped others like them makes them more comfortable buying from you.
5. We haven’t achieved a strong enough result to share
“Let’s give it another six months.” I’ve heard this when businesses feel their customer hasn’t achieved results strong enough to warrant a case study. But sharing a small win is better than not sharing at all. Start getting your customers stories out there – don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ story or result. It’s never going to be perfect.
Focus on strengthening your customer relationships by sharing their story early on and tracking their progress. You can always update your case studies with newer, more compelling results in the future instead of missing out on potential opportunities.
I know that your business has a great story to share. If you’d like some help creating case studies that drive better business results, get in touch. And be sure to check out some of my case studies as well!
This post first appeared in Dynamic Business.