Although I have written hundreds of them over the years, customer success stories and case studies are still my favorite copywriting project and tool for technical sales and marketing. If you are a technology marketer, you know the power of customer stories for bringing life to complex and sometimes boring technology products.
Whether you're a marketer or a writer, I'm happy to recommend a terrific new book, Stories That Sell by Casey Hibbard. It presents clear, in-depth, and relevant guidance on producing case studies and managing customer reference programs. I rarely give a five-star review on Amazon, but this book deserves it -- and a place on your marketing bookshelf. Check out the book here.
Read on for a taste of Casey's ideas. In this guest post, she discusses a case study challenge that often arises in technology sales: purchase decisions that are made by both business and technical buyers.
Consider Casey's insights, then share your tips for targeting decision-makers with customer case studies and success stories by commenting on this post.
Speak to the Right Decision-Maker in Your Case Study, by Casey Hibbard
In selling technology, customer case studies educate buyers about complex solutions and validate a pricey investment better than just about anything else.
Yet many technology companies miss the mark with case studies. They break a major tenet of Marketing 101 – failing to target the right audience. A case study simply isn’t one-size-fits-all.
If you’re selling a technology solution, a case study should address the technology benefits, right?
Wrong. In fact, a case study should only focus on technology benefits if the key decision-maker is in a technical role. Maybe the reader is an executive, a business unit manager or an end user.
Ideally, the decision-maker should see themselves and their organization reflected in a case study. A case study will “click” for readers when the industry matches, the challenges match and the individuals quoted match the prospect’s situation.
Whether you’re a writer or marketer, here are four questions to ask to help you target the right decision-maker with the right information.
Who’s the primary decision-maker?
Find out who in the customer’s organization typically makes the purchase decision. Is it one type of professional or usually a selection committee comprised of various types?
If you can’t answer this question, survey the sales force formally or informally. Ask a few sales reps to tell you who (roles) actually made the purchase decision in recent sales.
What matters to the audience?
If the key decision-maker is in a technical role… focus on the specific technology benefits that person cares about. Technical people typically want more “how it works” information, as well as details about maintenance, training and support. Find out from internal sources about the technical decision-maker’s common concerns, and ask interview questions accordingly.
If the key decision-maker is in a business role… emphasize business benefits and measurable results. Also learn the business decision-maker’s primary concerns and ensure you address them in the interview.
Can you accomplish the goal in one story?
When multiple people are involved in the purchase decision, decide whether you can achieve your objectives in a single case study. Some organizations create “technical case studies” and “business cases” to address multiple audiences.
But not every organization has the resources for both. If you create a single case study, include more business benefits with some mention of technical benefits. Then supplement the case study for technical audiences with other marketing materials that address technical “how” questions, such as white papers or other collateral.
Can I interview a person in a similar job title?
For the greatest impact, match the person quoted in your case study with the type of person that will read the story. The job titles should be similar. Again, if the story addresses multiple decision-makers, try to interview more than one person.
Always keep your audience top of mind, and check back regularly with sales and marketing contacts to ensure that the case studies continue to hit their targets.