10 Tips to Write Effective B2B Customer Case Studies
A well-written case study can be a valuable sales aid, especially in B2B (business-to-business) sectors. Case studies provide third-party validation and allow prospects to understand the benefits of a product or service in real-life scenarios. However, customer case studies can make a tedious read if not structured and written with care. All too often, what should be a relatable endorsement becomes nothing more than a lengthy description of the features of a product.
Case studies can take a substantial amount of time and effort to create. Furthermore, you will involve a customer in the process. Consequently, you will want the finished article to be something that will provide value to the sales team and a source of pride. Here are ten tips to help you write customer case studies that help you sell your product or service.
- Collaborate with Stakeholders
The first thing to decide is what you want to achieve with your case studies. And the best way to do that is to ask the various stakeholders in the business what they want. For example, the sales team will have their ideas on what they need on the ground and the best customers to feature. The marketing team will also want to have input. Senior management may have objectives, such as targeting specific vertical markets.
- Identify Suitable Customers
Based on the objectives identified by stakeholders, you can then identify suitable customers for your case studies. You will, of course, want to select customers that are happy with your product or service. However, there are other considerations, too. For example, choosing businesses representative of your typical prospects would be advisable. Well-known names in a sector will carry more weight than unknown companies. And ideally, you will want something that will make an attention-grabbing headline, either in terms of the benefits the customer gained or their innovative use of the product or service.
- Design a Template
You don’t want all your case studies to look the same. Still, a template will help you structure the document and ensure you don’t omit any crucial elements. You will need a catchy headline and an opening paragraph that hooks the reader and encourages them to read more. Then, set the scene by introducing the customer’s business and describing their challenges. You then can explain how your product or service solved those issues and other benefits the customer gained. An explanation of why the customer selected your solution over competitors will also be helpful.
Like most sales documents, a case study must be easy to read. So, use subheadings to break up the content and use images where relevant. One critical component of a case study is customer quotes, which are best highlighted to attract attention. In B2B case studies, the customer’s logo and the contributor’s name should also be prominent.
- Obtain Customer Permission
You could write a case study with no input from the customer. However, you will need the customer’s written permission before starting work on a case study. You will also need permission to use logos and images. Obtaining the customer’s consent will cover you legally, and a customer who is fully on board with the process will provide a more convincing and in-depth case study.
- Do the Groundwork
Customers may be willing to help you out with case studies. Still, even the most cooperative customers will not appreciate you wasting their time. Doing your homework will save time for you and your customer. Start with the basics, such as what products or services your customer has purchased. Check that there are no outstanding issues with the customer. Talking to the sales team will reveal the critical factors in the customer’s decision to buy. Researching the customer’s business will provide background to the story.
- Interview the Customer
It is best to have a plan for your interview with the customer and a list of questions you would like to ask. The conversation may go off at a tangent, but at least a plan will outline what you want to achieve. The questions will revolve around the case study template, including giving the background, identifying the problems, and expanding the solution and the benefits. It can also be helpful to cover how the customer will benefit from the product or service in the future.
You can conduct interviews in person or by telephone or video chat. Alternatively, you could ask questions via email or use a survey. In-person interviews provide the best results. However, it is crucial to keep discussions to a reasonable length and agree on the timing with the customer beforehand. Recording interviews can be helpful, but you will need to get the customer’s permission to do this.
- Tell Stories
A good case study paints a picture that enables a prospect to visualize the product or service’s benefits for their organization. And the best way to do that is through storytelling. Indeed, the case study structure mentioned above has the elements of a three-act play; scene-setting, the challenge, and the resolution. The objective of a case study is not to entertain the reader. Nevertheless, if the story flows and reads well, a prospective customer will be more likely to read the entire document.
- Answer Common Objections
Case studies are one of the documents that continue to sell to a prospect when the salesperson is not with them. For example, people might read a case study back at the office or on the train home from a meeting. The document will likely be shared with other stakeholders, too. So, it will be helpful to highlight answers to frequent questions and objections within a case study. For example, suppose support is a topic frequently raised by prospects. In that case, you might want to highlight satisfaction with the support services in case studies. Or, if the price is sometimes an issue, emphasizing return on investment might be helpful.
- Highlight Benefits
Case studies are usually written in the third person, describing the benefits gained by the customer. In other words, the story is about the customer, not about you or your company. You want the document to represent your product or service positively. Still, your customer’s words will carry more weight than your own. Consequently, it is best to use the customer’s narrative to describe the benefits they gained from selecting your company as a supplier.
You can add further weight to the argument by quantifying the benefits. For example, if the customer says your product saves them time, ask if the time saved can be quantified. Then, prospects will be able to calculate the savings they are likely to achieve.
- Obtain Internal and Customer Sign-Off
Finally, it is advisable to have a completed case study signed off by relevant people within your organization and the customer. Internally, the document might need checking by the appropriate account manager, salesperson, and the marketing team. And a draft should be sent to the customer for final approval before publication.
Customer case studies provide social proof. However, unlike customer reviews on an eCommerce site, case studies are written by the business. If you are not careful, the document can read like an advertisement, which would defeat the object. You will want a case study to cover the key benefits of your products or service. However, for a case study to ring true, the narrative should be that of the customer.