Satisfied, happy customers extolling the virtues of a product or service after they’ve tried it and gotten the results they wanted. It’s the one sales and marketing message that never goes out of date, and never gets old. Finding customers willing to do that isn’t always easy, which is why using case studies isn’t first on every marketer’s to do list, every day.
Some of our largest clients consider our products to be part of their “secret sauce” and won’t let us name them. Yet one of the key selling points we make in every sales presentation is based around proven, measurable results generated for companies in our target industries. How do I do that without customer case studies?
I started by recognizing that I had two problems, not just one. One of the problems is obvious: clients who are reluctant to allow us to talk about the problems we helped them solved. The other is that not every customer measures marketing communications success the same way.
The way I tied the two together without adding more gray hair was to focus on our try-before-you-buy campaigns, where customers are happy to report results because that’s part of the process: we offer a 60-90 day Quick Start program that lets customers select one pain point – identified during an assessment by our professional services team – and execute a campaign designed to show them how our products can alleviate that pain point. We measure the results with them, and at the end, help prepare a business care that supports a full deployment of the product across the whole marketing organization.
One of those programs grew into a purchase that deployed the solution throughout the property & casualty insurance company’s widely distributed marketing organization. I retold the story in a collection of customer case studies offered on our website, and added a slide to our corporate presentation deck that uses the key points. It is, I think a good example, of how a powerful case study can be built even without using any identifiable information that would give away the client’s “secret sauce” recipe.
The Surprise Benefit a P&C Insurer Found
For years, the company had difficulty convincing independent agents to opt-in for campaigns or reuse the company’s collateral, so their primary goal was to improve brand and messaging control by making it easy for agents to find and use the materials corporate marketing created. Other challenges included:
- Reducing customization costs
- Eliminating a reliance on inefficient print collateral
- Improving tracking and reporting capabilities
- Providing anywhere, anytime access on any connected device (including iPads and smartphones), so agents could show a presentation or share content during client meetings
A Quick Start program delivered a branded, ready-to-go solution that was customized for the company’s needs and included email and print capabilities. Regulatory and brand compliance, complete visibility into system usage and campaign results, and the ability to control costs were the key pain points in the initial purchase decision.
During the try-before-you-buy Quick Start, the company focused on faster, easier delivery of printed collateral to its far-flung network of resellers. After 90 days, they assessed results, and deployed the system across the enterprise. Their sole reason for buying it was to save money on printed collateral, because that’s what they thought the benefit was going to be.
A year later, however, the primary benefit proved to be increased loyalty from independent agents and CSR’s, who appreciated the easy-to-use multi-channel communications that was possible with the marketing and sales tools the company provided. The measured results that top management liked included:
- 22% reduction in print and direct mail costs
- 18% reduction in ad hoc Ad Builder costs
- 25% reduction in time spent creating, reviewing & updating marketing collateral
Each of these results translated into painless ways that the marketing team could create new marketing initiatives with the budget savings that allowed them to do so without slashing other programs they valued.
Creating Your Own Case Study Campaign
If you’d like to see some additional examples of the kind of “blind” customer case studies that I use to make my point, click here. If you’d like to create case studies of your own, here are the five steps for using customer case studies that I find most helpful in my marketing activities.
- Educate your sales, customer support, and product teams about the kinds of information you want. Recruit them to help you identify potential customer stories that you can tell — with the customer’s permission and review as a named client, or without their review if you make sure there is no identifiable data that would compromise your relationship with the customer.
- Once you identify a potential customer, gather the “5 W’s” you’ll need for your case study. Who purchased the product? What problem were they trying to solve? Where did the product provide a clear benefit for them? When did they achieve results? Why did this solution work for them?
- Do your homework — what are your competitors saying about their products? How does your product out=perform the competition? Look for case studies that help you make your point. Explain exactly what your product does that the customer couldn’t do before — or how you saved them time, money, headaches or problems.
- Circulate your case study for internal review. Make sure that you have your facts correct — and that you aren’t oversimplifying the outcome or the process. Then, if the client will be named, circulate it in the client organization. Make sure you get approvals in writing, and allow plenty of time for their review.
- Publish your case studies in multiple formats to reach the largest possible audience. A case study is a form of content, and like the five things to do after you’ve published new content article published here, you’ll find that actively promoting your case studies will create many new opportunities for your company. Don’t just put them on your website, and hope that they’ll be found by prospective customers — publish them in printed form for your next trade show, link to them from social media and email, and submit them to trade publishers and industry blogs for possible inclusion in a round up ot as a guest article.
The sales point of this blog post is simple: figure out exactly what problems your product solves for your current customers, and use those case studies to sell to new customers. If case studies aren’t already a part of your marketing plan, add them now!