You know that your company is awesome at what it does, but just because you say it doesn’t automatically mean everyone will believe you right away. When it comes to successful marketing, you need to both shout from the rooftops and also have people on the street do some of the shouting for you – people who aren’t on your payroll and simply love what your business has done for them. Having their support is crucial to gain credibility.
There are lots of ways to do this, from encouraging customers to post on review sites like Yelp, to instituting refer-a-friend programs where they’re incentivized to bring in a new client for you.
Another option, or in addition to the tactics I just mentioned, is to develop testimonials and case studies featuring your best customers. This is less dependent on your customers to do most of the work, and the results can support not just your marketing goals but also your sales and business development teams, too.
But what goes into writing a convincing case study? Have no fear; you don’t need a journalism degree to find your perfect “source” and write a good story. Here are some tips:
1. Identify your “source.”
Every business, including yours, should have a handful of customers (at least!) who are just pleased-as-peaches about how they’ve benefited from working with you. If you don’t know them personally, ask your sales team or on-the-ground reps. Put together a document or spreadsheet listing all your advocates. Then start calling or emailing. Tell them you want to conduct a quick interview for a customer success story. Share what they will get out of it, like a prominent feature or quote on your website, in your email marketing campaigns, on social media and/or in any advertising you do. Chances are, if they love your company, they won’t mind giving up 15 minutes of their time to help you out – especially if they get some exposure out of it, too.
2. Ask the right questions.
The goal of a case study is to show potential customers how you’ve helped other clients in real life. At its most basic, a case study presents a problem and a solution. A typical case study format includes the following sections:
- Background – Where are they located? How many employees and/or customers do they have? How long have they been around? How did they get started?
- Problem – What challenges or struggles were they facing before they found you? What were they hoping to solve?
- Discovery – How did they find you? Why did they choose you?
- Solution – How did you solve their problem? What did they learn from the process?
3. Highlight concrete examples.
Try to get detailed specifics from your customers about how you helped them. If you’re a florist, a good one might be situations where you had to adapt quickly to unforeseen circumstances – your client was a bride, for example, and you had to change outdoor décor into indoor arrangements at the last minute due to inclement weather. If you’re a non-profit, a good example could be how a fundraiser you organized helped advance a cause or pay for something in the community that was otherwise financially out of reach. The more specific and more colorful the examples, the better.
4. Gather images.
Once you’ve written your case study, don’t forget the visuals. You wouldn’t want to read a long article in a newspaper, magazine or online that’s just block after block of text, right? Same idea here. Images can be your customer’s logo, a photo of the founders, or an action shot of the customer doing what they do.
5. Kick your heels up and shout!
You’ve written the case study, now what? Consider creating a special section or page on your website that features your customers’ stories. (Check out VR’s email marketing case study page as an example.) Post it to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media networks you’re active on. Include it in your next email newsletter. Share it with your employees so they can see what a difference they make. And don’t forget to let the featured customer know when the case study is published, so they can share with their peeps, too. The more you can get others talking about how great you are, the more believable the message. Also inform your sales team, so they can direct potential customers to your case studies. Testimonials are a valuable sales tool especially if you’ve got one in the same industry as a prospect you’re trying to close.
Case studies provide a different, fresh perspective on your company: the point of view of your customers. They should be an essential tool in your collection of marketing tactics.
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