Your biggest customer just can’t say enough good things about how much they love your products. If only you could use them as social proof of your ability to solve the customer’s problems. The answer is customer success stories – also known as testimonials, case studies, and today, the new term we hear is ‘social proof’.
Like any good story, your success story needs a beginning, a middle and a satisfying ending. And just like pulp fiction, the storyline is always the same – your customer had an urgent or difficult issue affecting their business, eventually they discovered your product which solved the problem or fulfilled the important need, and everyone went home happy.
The only differences between one case study and another are in the details of the problem and solution – and that’s where the real education of the prospect takes place. Potential buyers need to know if it is worth their time to pursue more information about your product. They are experts in their own application, and they can more easily assess the answer to this question when they see how similar users benefit from your product’s capabilities (read Today’s Buyer Journey Demands New Roles to learn more).
According to an annual survey by Engineering.com, reported in ThomasNet, case studies are one of the top 5 marketing strategies engineering marketers plan to use this year.
Success Stories can be Told Through a Variety of Formats
• In-depth article or native advertisement.
• 1-pager, often with a single large photo to illustrate. This type gives only the basic information, but can be quickly consumed by the potential buyer to determine whether to investigate further.
• Anonymous success stories that don’t name the actual client.
• Testimonial – One or two paragraphs written and signed by the happy customer — a customer quote.
• Video interview with the client.
Working with Your Customers to Get that Golden Success Story
The first step in creating a great case study is to identify potential customers who might be willing to cooperate. It’s important to get the legal question settled first, in order to avoid disappointment after going through the entire creative process, only to be turned down for approval by company headquarters.
Some larger corporations have a policy to never allow their name to be used in a case study. How can you get around this issue? Casey Hibbard, author of Stories That Sell, recommends thinking of new ways to combine your own marketing messages with those of your customer, such as creating a combined PR campaign or creating an award for the customer.
According to John Hayes, at Engineering.com, vendors can offer a larger discount for customers who agree to act as a “reference account.” They can also work with publishers to create articles for publication featuring the customer’s project, which often helps customers feel free to speak to a third party reporter.
Are potential clients willing to register to gain access to a case study?
This brings up another important fact. A digital marketing survey carried out by LinkedIn shows that in the first few stages of the buying journey, B2B buyers look for information about a product through social channels with peers and colleagues, rather than on vendor websites.
Pre-qualified buyers with access to trade journals and other third party sites, such as found at ThomasNet, Engineering.com, and GlobalSpec’s Engineering360, can instantly download case studies from those sites, though they still risk getting an annoying phone call from the vendor.
According to B2B copywriter Rachel Foster, buyers in the early stages of their search are wary of case studies located on a vendors’ site, viewing them as just part of the standard sales pitch, and trust those they find on third-party case study directories.
Engineers R people, too
In order to earn your potential client’s interest you have to make your case study relevant. And most humans – even engineers and technical people – are almost always interested in other humans. According to CNN commentator Mel Robbins, always think about what’s important to the PERSON who will be reading your case study – and what will pique their interest.
No, you don’t want to re-create the Great American Novel – after all, you have serious subjects to discuss, with important information to communicate to potential buyers. But to make your case study irresistible, you need to include a touch of humor, personality, and maybe even a bit of drama. And more credible when you include actual facts and numbers like cost savings, increased production rates, ROI, etc.. Consider:
How much money and production time would be lost when the CNC’s robotic arm failed during lights-out fabrication?
What critical injection molding step was delayed, which could affect the rollout of next years’ model?
Why was a customer’s reputation for quality material on the line?
The structure and graphic layout of your case study are very important. Everyone is under time and deadline pressure, with potentially thousands of distracting streams of information pounding their way into our consciousness.
Visuals are key to not only holding your readers’ interest, but also to convey additional important details about your product – details that could make or break a sale.
A photo of your equipment really does speak 1,000 words, and a video demonstration speaks millions.
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We’re here to help small manufacturers reach their full potential…
My team and I are dedicated to helping manufacturers leverage their customer success stories and other marketing opportunities — especially small manufacturers with great products looking to get to the next level.
I encourage you to contact me to discuss how we can tailor a marketing plan for you.
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I look forward to to speaking with you soon and learning more about your company.
— Jim Gribble