Throughout the marketing and sales process, your company makes a lot of claims about what your offering can do. But without proof to back them up, those claims can’t fully gain trust from a prospect.
“A lot of what you’ll hear from marketing and sales will be more high-level and less concrete. Think features, benefits, value,’” says Head of Demand Generation Guido Bartolacci. “A demo will show you what you can do. A sales process will talk about what’s possible. But, the prospect still won’t know the specific results they can expect.”
It’s hard to know exactly how a prospect will benefit from a product or service, and sales reps don’t want to make promises that can’t be followed through on. Giving prospects examples of how similar companies to them have benefited can help increase prospects’ faith in your solution without requiring you to predict the future.
For example, if you’re explaining how your product can help a prospect with lead generation, you don’t want to promise to double their leads during the sales process. Instead, you can provide them with a case study about how your product increased leads by 173% for a company similar to them.
“A case study is a specific example of the type of work your company can deliver to one of your customers that proves the value that you try to convey during the sales process, and the marketing process for that matter,” Guido says. “They’re normally very metrics-driven.”
Case studies typically include:
- A description of the customer helped: This helps prospects easily relate to the subject of the case study
- The customer’s situation prior to working with your company: This should highlight the common pain points and challenges that you can solve for
- The solution itself: Set realistic expectations about how your solution will roll out and show how value is added through that process
- Benefits of the solution: Explain how your solution solved for the pain points and challenges of the customer.
- Concrete results: Some of these metrics should tie back to some form of ROI, whether that’s time-saving, money-saving or revenue creation.
- Quotes from the people you helped: These offer insight into how your customer feels about your company and your product or service and show your impact in a less metrics-focused way
Case Studies’ Place in the Buyer’s Journey
Case studies are typically leveraged by companies near the end of the consideration and early in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. When prospects are deciding between potential solutions the information within case studies is the most impactful.
However, earlier in the buyer’s journey, the existence of case studies matters. Prospects want to know you’ve had successful customers and see some high-level stats. The details of the solution might not be super important initially, but whether or not you’ve helped a similar company in a similar situation can determine whether someone continues to evaluate your company.
For example, if all your case studies are about B2C e-commerce companies, a B2B SaaS company might conclude that your solution is not a great fit for them early in the consideration phase.
Strengthening your Go-To-Market Strategy with Storytelling
One of the biggest challenges when entering a new market is the lack of recognition for your company and the lack of proof of your solution’s effectiveness for that audience.
Being able to enter a market with some case studies already in existence can help you overcome that initial hurdle. It’s important to focus on closing high-fit customers who result in good case studies as your early customers. Evangelizing those early consumers will help you bring in more customers down the line.
Or, you can demonstrate the value your product or service can deliver by making yourself your own case study.
“HubSpot basically created the inbound methodology, started growing their business through the methodology and built a platform to help other companies leverage inbound,” Guido says. “HubSpot was not the go-to-market; the inbound methodology was the go-to-market.”
All the marketing they did was inbound-driven to highlight how their platform was ideal for adopting that methodology. By building their story around how the inbound methodology fueled their growth and how their platform was perfectly suited to amplify that impact, HubSpot was able to go-to-market with a concrete example of how their new way of marketing could benefit companies.
“Drift did a really similar thing where early on [in the company’s development] they decided ‘if we’re a conversational marketing platform, we need to drop forms from our website,’” Guido says. “At the time, forms were the way to generate leads. Conversational marketing was an afterthought.”
Drift was going up against the status quo with their product and challenging the idea that conversational marketing couldn’t effectively generate leads like forms could.
“They wanted to prove that conversations can be the driver of leads for a company and built their own story around it, made themselves their own best case study and showed other companies ‘look, this is how we’ve done it, and you can do it too,’” Guido says.
By demonstrating that they could go all in on conversational marketing and succeed, Drift was able to convince other companies who wouldn’t be willing to take such a risk to give their product a try.
The trust buyers place in businesses and their marketing and sales materials has been trending downward. 81% of people trust their friends and family’s advice over advice from a business.
Case studies are a way for you to present an outside perspective on your company while still retaining some control over the narrative.
“Even though you’re the one producing them, case studies are about the customer. They’re not about you,” Guido says. “The majority of your marketing website is from you about you. This is one of the times where it’s from your customer, but about you.”
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.