Imagine meeting someone who just told slightly different versions of the same story over and over again …it would get very boring very quickly! And yet every day, identikit case studies are boring B2B buyers to tears on supplier websites in sectors like technology, engineering, and construction.
The case study is an outstanding marketing tool when used wisely and sparingly. So, before you plop down the four headings Client/Challenge/Work/Results on a brand new page, be honest with yourself.
Is this a story worth telling?
Knowing for sure if your work has made a big difference to a project or client is never easy. Because you were smack-bang in the middle of it all, it might well have felt transformative. And maybe it was. Whether it’s a niche job for a big name or a game-changing solution for an ambitious company, it must be a story worth telling. There’s a big difference between a story you want to tell and one that your reader wants to hear.
Is the story relatable to our primary decision-maker – will they care?
The story cannot just be about you and your solution. It has to be relatable. Your readers must identify themselves in the story. You want them to be thinking ‘That’s me – I had that problem or I know I will have that problem again real soon’. The hero in the case study story is not you – it’s your customer for choosing you. The challenge they are presented with needs to be common enough to strike a chord, but still require a high degree of expertise/creativity/technical excellence to solve it.
What do we want our reader to think …right after they’ve finished reading it?
In a nutshell, you want them scrambling for their phone, hastily printing off, or sending the story to their boss for a second opinion. Your main messages must be coming through loud-and-clear. For example, if your target audience value specifics like say … design, service, or installation, they must be absolutely convinced that your firm fits the bill, in those terms.
Most of the time, case studies are selling a ‘safe pair of hands’ and a ‘solid track record’, but this does not have to be boring. Think of your buyer pitching your services or solution to their boss. Now imagine how they can sell you if you give them something to shout about. Case studies are a guarantee that you have been there before. Your company has already faced this challenge head-on – and delivered the goods.
Were the results that good – and are they measurable?
At the time, you were really happy with the project. And so was the client. But if there’s a chance that a competitor has done a similar job to you when faced with a similar challenge, then you might not sound so special after all. That might seem harsh but B2B content just has to stand out. And the best way to stand out is to talk about outstanding results.
At the very least, your results must say something about you and your solution or service. And they must be measurable and digestible. Numbers and metrics work best because they mean one thing – proof. They are proof that you have delivered working solutions – and demonstrate in clear and practical terms how much better off your client now is, thanks to you.
Is this our best work – or the best example of what we stand for?
This is a tough question. And this is where we talk about vanity vs. practicality. The project you want to write up into a case study might well have been for a big client and you might have been paid a heap of money. But, does this story demonstrate your expertise, or showcase your point of differentiation?
The easiest way to answer this one is to ask around. Chat to your senior management team and find out if they feel this project was a great example of what you do best. If you are going to write this case study, the answer had better be a resounding and deafening ‘yes!’.
How much can we talk about?
For SMEs in particular, a little touch of paranoia and caution is understandable. It’s natural to be worried about providing too much detail. On the other hand, if you want to tell a good story and then realise that while the beginning and the end is great, the middle is a bit woolly – then you have a problem.
At best, you might sound overly secretive and at worst, you’ll come across as a complete spoofer, leaving out crucial details. This is particularly the case in technology, construction, and engineering where very precise solutions are often devised on a project-by- project basis.
The world is full of boring case studies. And this doesn’t have to be the case at all! Before you pick up a pen, grab 15 minutes to answer these questions honestly and make sure you’re not adding to the pile …
*photo from Marcus Aurelius on Pexels…