Product marketers know that well-written case studies play an important role in moving prospects along in the decision process. After all, case studies illustrate the real-world results that prospects want to see. Creating an efficient process for developing case studies is critical to maximizing your productivity, making sure you don’t waste your customers’ time, and telling the most compelling story possible.
Once someone nominates a customer for a case study, find out whether or not there’s a story worth sharing. The fact is that not all customer situations translate into an interesting story (or one that will nudge prospects along in the sales cycle). One suggestion is to create a backgrounder form to be filled out by anyone suggesting a case study candidate. At a minimum, you should gather the following information:
While it never hurts to publish lots of case studies, you want to focus your efforts on the ones that will serve you best. Once you understand the basic customer situation, compare it to your existing library of case studies. Some considerations include the following:
If the story looks promising, make sure the customer is not only willing to be interviewed and to share ROI metrics, but that he or she has the green light to participate in a case study. It’s wonderful to have an enthusiastic advocate within the customer’s organization. But if the customer’s marketing or legal department is not open to going public with details, there’s no sense pursuing the story.
There’s a lot to be said for the element of spontaneity in an interview. After all, the most engaging stories are based on first-hand interviews and include plenty of customer quotes to move the story along. However, there’s nothing more frustrating than starting an interview only to find out that the customer can’t answer the questions.
To avoid this roadblock, send the customer a general set of questions ahead of time, perhaps as you’re scheduling the interview time. This allows the customer to decide if he or she is the appropriate interviewee, and to make sure all information (such as ROI metrics) is in hand during the interview.
The interview can make or break a case study. After all, if you don’t get enough information – and compelling details – your story will fall flat. The following tips will help you get the most out of an interview:
If you can give the customer a general idea of when you’ll be sending the case study draft – and also get their commitment to a fast review and approval – the entire process should go quickly and smoothly. Make sure to tell the customer of anything else you will need, such as a boilerplate company description and logo file. One of my clients has employed this technique to greatly reduce the time it takes to produce a case study and, in a few instances, has completed them in a matter of days.
Don’t forget to maximize the value of your case studies by repurposing them in as many ways as possible. The following are a few ideas:
Here’s a handy checklist that summarizes these steps. Happy storytelling!
Checklist for Case Study Success
Stephanie Tilton has been immersed in the world of marketing for over 17 years, in roles as diverse as product marketing manager, competitive analyst, and marketing communications manager. Harnessing her unique blend of technical knowledge, marketing savvy, and writing skills, she has crafted winning communications for leading brands such as Akamai Technologies, EMC, Macromedia, Novell, SAP, and Symantec. Contact Stephanie directly at email@example.com or visit www.tentonmarketing.com