Case Studies make your solution more concrete, credible and relevant to a prospect. They translate your offering’s features and benefits into moments of truth—“Oh yeah. I understand why we might need that too.”
Customers love Case Studies for their narrative power to simplify a new or complex solutions into more human terms.
Case Studies establish that other companies have solved similar problems using your solution. That makes your solution seem less risky and its benefits more believable.
Finally, Case Studies assist in positioning your solution as viable and your company as trustworthy.
What is a Case Study?
A Case Study describes the journey that one of your customers took in solving a problem with your offering. It starts with the discovery of the problem by the customer and the diagnosis of the root causes and consequences of inaction. It then briefly narrates how the prospect successfully built the business case to acquire your offering and how they navigated through organizational change management to successfully deploy your offering and gain user adoption. Finally, it lists quantitative and qualitative benefits accrued to the business and stakeholders due to adoption of your offering.
An effective Case Study conveys a sense of the Customer Journey and brings the reader to the conclusion: “This could work for us too.”
However, what makes Case Studies effective today represents a big change from traditional success stories and case studies.
- Traditional Case Studies often oversimplify the Customer Journey, presenting a high-level problem and decision making criteria in abstract terms. Effective Case Studies paint vivid depictions of personal high-stakes conflicts and the adverse consequences within the customer organization. Customers want to project themselves into another organization and feel its emotional reality.
- Traditional Case Studies jump too quickly into the benefits and the happy ever-afters of the journey’s end. In contrast, effective Case Studies reveal how a particular customer discovered the critical features of your solution that could also solve a similar problem within the current buying organization.
- Traditional Case Studies gloss over the gritty details of organizational change, undercutting your trustworthiness as a partner in that change. Effective Case Studies showcase the tough decisions at each phase of the Customer Journey, who made those decisions, and who were in the “let’s do this” or “status quo” factions.
The tough decisions include:
- Is this a problem worth solving?
- What are the general contours of workable solutions?
- Is it worth going external with a vendor or keeping it in-house?
- Should we be in “let’s wait and do this later” mode or act now?
- How do we align with our priorities? What use cases will deliver high value?
- Which features add tangible value and solve the targeted problem?
- How we will resolve the change-disruptions that always ensue when introducing a new element (your offering) into a business environment?
In a narrative sense, effective Case Studies create a change simulation, a way to help a customer reality-check their next steps and de-risk organizational change management.
- Traditional Case Studies often highlight well-known “marquee” logos, customers who often have access to huge budgets and a small army of project specialists. Effective Case Studies showcase customers with similar organizational dynamics, business challenges, and budget constraints. The most effective Case Studies will mirror the emotional and physical reality of your Ideal Customers, giving today’s buyer a sense and feeling of “Hey they did it. So can we.”
- Traditional Case Studies rely on document PDFs and slide presentations that upon sending to a customer become dead, orphaned content. Effective Case Studies use connected packages that may contain hyperlinks, videos, infographics, and interactive multimedia slides. The connected packages keep the salesperson informed about their use and sharing within and throughout the customer’s organizations as well as external distributions (suppliers, competitors, consultants).
When do you use a Case Study?
Salespeople introduce Case Studies to a prospect after there is good agreement about the problems worth solving and after they have received an overview of your offering. The Case Study helps them build a consensus among their stakeholders around making needed improvements using your offerings.
Case Studies are also used by prospects as a part of the business case to acquire your offering.
The narrative of the Case Study helps executive management and decision-makers easily visualize the relevance and value of your offering. This leads to speedy approval to release funding to buy your offering.
Key components of a Case Study
An effective Case Study consists of the following components:
- Situation analysis that summarizes in a third-person narrative voice the key facts about a featured customer’s organization, the problems they faced, how they diagnosed the root cases, understood the consequences of inaction and the credible options the customer considered to solve the problem.
- Detailed buyer journey that recreates the organizational dynamics at key decision-points, the criteria used in making those decisions, and why they selected your solution as the best overall for their needs.
- Risk mitigation plan by which the customer surfaced the most probable or highest impact risks associated with deploying your solution and how they proactively addressed each identified risk. Video links summarizing how the customer planned and successfully executed an organizational change management are particularly useful to prospects.
- List of quantitative and qualitative benefits accrued to the organization as well as to individual stakeholders. Video links showing user testimonials are highly desirable, if available.
Best Practices for Case Studies
- Focus with unwavering intent on user stories, how someone in a particular role experienced the consequences of an identified problem.
- Depict with vivid narrative details the consequences of the problem to solve, reinforcing the sense of urgency and real costs of inaction or indecision.
- Make it easy for customers to self-identify with organizational dynamics and situations featured in the case, amplifying the personal high-stakes conflicts and how your customer-as-hero rose to the challenge and how they overcame each key challenge.
- Emphasize why the customer favored particular features of your solution, conveying a sense of watching them make the decision to proceed using features of your product as the exemplar … by which to compare competitors and find them insufficient.
- Disclose the gritty details of change-disruptions that always ensue when introducing a new way of working. In the words of customers or experts familiar with the particulars, have them share how they anticipated key risk and put in place a remediation plan.
To learn more about other engagement objects, please see "9 Engagement Objects that fuel B2B Sales Enablement".