First things first, before you start cranking out case studies, find out what your salespeople really want. Are they after desirable logos from select verticals? Start with a long list of happy customers and narrow it down with appropriate filters such as length of customer relationship.
Talk to sales, map the need
Talk to your sales leaders and a handful of sales folks across enterprise and SMB teams to figure out their needs. Ask them:
- Will customer case studies be valuable to you?
- Ideally, which brands would you like case studies on?
- What verticals, geographies, size of companies are you most interested in?
These answers coupled with the strategic direction of the company will map out your targeting strategy.
Prepare a long list with customer success
Consult with your customer success team to get a list of happy customers. Forward-looking customer success teams will have colour-coded and complete lists, just waiting for you to run with it!
This is your long list. Now go ahead and trim it down to:
- Recognisable logos
- Target verticals, geographies, and company size
- Customers who have been with you for > a year
If your list still has over a 100 names, narrow it down to customers who have been with you for five years. That is a lifetime in the SaaS business and it will speak volumes to what a great partner you make. And just like that, you have your shortlist of case study candidates.
Reuse conference sessions
On the other hand, if you don’t have the time to shortlist customers and interview them, a shortcut is to tap into your company’s user conference recordings. If you have recordings of customers sharing their stories in a breakout session, simply transcribe it and repurpose it as a customer case study.
Tips for startups to get case studies
Startups often struggle to find willing customers, some of them even offer discounted product prices as an incentive. I don’t recommend that as it dilutes your value.
If you find that you don’t have many happy customers, then your problems may be more fundamental like a product-market misfit. Now, that’s a totally different beast for another blog post.
Here are some tips you can try to get more case studies, faster:
Offer a sales incentive – Involve your sales folks to solicit case studies, after all, they own the relationship. If budget permits, announce a spot bonus for every sales person who brings in a case study, I have seen this work wonders. Share the shortlist of case study candidates and ask sales to check in on the customer’s willingness to do an external-facing case study.
Use the circumstance to your advantage – Under the current economic climate, your customers are most likely delaying payments. Now is as good a time as any to ask for something you want — a case study.
Look for the right moment – Always be on the lookout for the right moment. Perhaps, it’s after a Customer Advisory Board session or after the customer has significantly broadened product usage. When the customer is mighty pleased with you, pop the case study question.
Look for ambitious champions who like publicity– Look for outspoken, ambitious customer champions who want to be seen as driving change. So you may ask, how will I find them? Typically, they will be seen speaking at industry events and will in all likelihood be active on LinkedIn. If such champions benefit immensely from your product, they will more likely than not want to share their story. Your case study should capture the transformation they have been able to bring about in their organization. Make the customer the hero in your case study rather than your product.
Do the leg work
Reach out to five companies to get one to convert. So if you are aiming for a modest library of 10 case studies, reach out to at least 50 customers.
At the outset, take permission for a public-facing, named case study. Recently, I wasted about 60 minutes doing research and interviewing the HR manager of a large retail brand only to receive a frantic phone call 30 minutes later saying, “Please don’t publish anything I said. I got a call from my boss saying that we cannot do case studies with vendors.”
Simultaneously, work with your demand gen team to work out a promotion plan for each of your case studies. Here are some easy-to-implement ideas:
- Write a customer-focused blog post
- Post the case study both as an HTML page as well as a PDF
- Create a banner on your customer webpage featuring the latest case study
- Send an email to your prospects featuring the latest case study
- And of course, broadcast on social media
How to get the full customer story
Say you have a customer interview scheduled, as a product marketer, be sure to attend the interview even if you have a content writer to write up the case study. You will be able to probe much deeper and uncover a story that syncs with your positioning. Plus, you will learn yet another valuable customer story that can come handy in your next customer demo or analyst presentation.
In the interview:
- Let the customer talk and don’t interrupt
- Ask open-ended questions
- Ask for anecdotes, examples, and all relevant details
- Probe deeper for quantitative benefits
- Gather more information that you need
Find out which departments use and benefit from your product. Interview people across departments and hierarchies so you get the full perspective. Get a benefit-oriented quote from the senior most buyer persona.
For instance, if you sell to the operations team, interview the director of operations, an operations manager, and a warehouse manager, then get a quote from the COO.
Once the customer story is ready
Share the final version of the case study with the customer for review. Be ready to accommodate some edits. Once approvals are in, design, execute on the promotion plan and press publish.
Send your customer a thank you note, try the snail mail variety on your company letterhead, also be sure to thank them on social media.
Rinse and repeat to build up your library of case studies.
In your case studies make your customer the hero and not your product. Interview multiple people across the hierarchy to get a well-rounded story. While qualitative benefits are nice to have, dig deeper for quantitative benefits like a 15% cost reduction or a 20% uptick in sales. Such benefits are impressive and make catchy headlines.
Once you get a few big brands in, you can use those as bait to get more and you will see your library come together up quite nicely.