Stronger B2B case studies in 4 steps

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Case studies are one of the most polarizing things you can produce to support your B2B marketing efforts.

Why?

Because you to like your case studies, but many of your prospects find them boring and irrelevant, undifferentiating and unconvincing.

All of us in B2B business development find this hard to accept. We are proud of the work we have done. Our prospects should respect and aspire to the same. I mean, that’s why we’re in business in the first place, isn’t it?

But you must at least accept the possibility that your case studies may not have the desired impact.

Just because the results you got aren’t worth talking about. It’s that the way you talk about it doesn’t connect with prospects the way it should. And it’s because you talk your language and use it in the way you understand and respond to it. you do not speak their language (i.e. prospects) or giving them what they need to see the case as meaningful.

Do your case studies follow this basic format?

  1. Task
  2. The solution

To quote the song, it’s a tale as old as time:

  • “Our client needed a new website. Here is the site we developed!”
  • “Our client asked us to recommend a new brand name. Here is the brand name we created.”
  • “Our client needed to cut their budget. Here’s what we cut and what we have left.”
  • “Our client needed a link to [this property]. Here’s what we did.”

It’s easy to see why this format is appealing. It’s easy. It’s true. It presents your solutions, a work of which you are proud.

What it does not do is provide relevance for your prospects – reasons for them to believe that your solutions would work just as well for them as for the original customer. And that doesn’t provide meaningful differentiation: after all, everyone is going to have great cases with great solutions.

There’s a better way: a four-part case study format that takes your work and presents it much more effectively.

The most effective case studies have these characteristics:

  • They show how you solve a problem that your prospect can relate to.
  • They provide a repeatable process: they provide proof that because you solved this problem for someone else…you can also solve it for the prospect.
  • They provide measurable results that matter to the prospect.

Part 1: The challenge

The most reliable way to grab a prospect’s attention and make yourself relevant is to first focus on the problem your customer has asked you to solve. That’s the real reason a prospect will choose a vendor: to solve an unsolved problem.

Not just the mission, but what made the mission so difficult that only a company with your expertise could solve it.

“Our client needed a new website. He needed to communicate in a way that was faithful to the brand’s heritage, but also to move the brand forward in its new identity. The client urgently needed to set up the new site before the annual sales meeting, and he had to take into account that his sales force had expressed a real interest in the current site.”

Part 2: Insight

The case study is about a problem you solved. How did you do? Luckily? By creative magic? By following the same processes that everyone else follows?

This is the part that makes the prospect believe that what you did in the deal can be replicated for them. This is because you based your solution on knowledge which you can discover also on behalf of the people who will read the case.

“We applied our ‘Total Listening’ process to better understand the market of our customers, website visitors and sales force. Total Listening revealed several consistencies between these three important areas, which informed our approach to website design and content. It also helped us prioritize areas that might be important to two of the three or one of the three groups.”

Part 3: The Solution

This is the easy part. This is what you had in your case study from the start.

Part 4: The results

High-level decision makers don’t pay for solutions. They pay for results. And those results should be relevant to decision makers, not to your organization.

That’s why this might be the trickiest part of the case study, and also the most important. Because this section must be quantitative and relevant. You should be able to show some numbers. And you should be able to show the impact these numbers about your client’s business.

“The new website generated 15% more time spent on site, with 10% more page views and, most importantly, 20% more inquiries. The sales force was asked about the old and new website. The new site generated a 12% increase in satisfaction in the first two boxes. More importantly, our client reported a flood of positive feedback from employees and users.”

* * *

The four-part case study format can be applied to almost any B2B case. You may need to reframe your work because you may not have read all the required items for these cases. Its good. You should now be much more aware of how you will turn your current and new projects into compelling four-part cases, which will increase the likelihood that you will have the information you need.

Ultimately, the strongest cases will be differentiating and compelling. You will be one of the few in your space with an in-depth, resonant and readable case study. And, in the worst-case scenario, if multiple competitors approach cases the same way, you will be judged on your content, quality, and results, not your style and design. And that’s how it should be.

More resources on B2B case studies

Five tips for writing case studies that aren’t boring as hell

Convert prospects with the power of case studies

How to Create a B2B Case Study Program to Promote Your Business

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