Case study advice
B2B tech case studies: Setting yourself up for success
B2B tech case studies. Your customers and prospects are crying out to see them. The tech media want to publish them and interview your customers about their experiences. Yet they remain one of the most time consuming and challenging parts of the PR and marketing mix.
There are multiple agendas to serve – the vendor, customer and media all want to see different things in them, typically – but despite this, it’s still possible to get a great story together that can deliver for all parties.
In this piece I’m going to walk you through some of the common challenges I’ve seen in my time as a content creator and how to plan effectively to navigate through them as smoothly as possible.
1. What’s in it for me?
Issue: The client has no personal incentive to participate so is not actively engaged in the process. Why should they give up their working day or personal time to help with your case study?
Resolution: Nail this upfront. First things first, a case study is not a favour you ask for. It’s an opportunity for all concerned to tell their business’ story and further their professional profile.
From personal profiling through to thought leadership opportunities case study contributors get some great opps, so use this to bring them around!
You also need to be very aware of the law and the customer’s own anti-bribery policies to ensure that you don’t compromise them or yourself at any stage.
2. Entering the unknown
Issue: If the spokesperson doesn’t typically deal with marketing or comms people every day they’re likely to be in a very different mindset and can feel uneasy about what lies ahead.
Resolution: What’s new to them is normal to you. Reassure them about the process. Assume nothing. Ask questions to establish their experience and any concerns they might have.
Do this and you’ll get a sense of what makes them tick and that means you can adapt your approach accordingly.
Give examples of your previous case studies bring the importance of the project to life for them. It also means you can discuss the possibility of video case studies, media interviews, etc.
3. Business value
Issue: When the customer’s employer doesn’t allow case studies, or does but only when they help to tell their own story. If it’s not of strategic importance, it’s not on their agenda. The comms team is a gatekeeper to this policy, but it has the backing of the business’ leadership.
They’re also hyper-sensitive about what they will and won’t talk about when they do engage.
Resolution: Take time to understand the broader strategic concerns of your customer beyond the project at hand.
There will be plenty of publicly available information to help you do this – websites, press releases, marketing collateral, etc.
Doing this will help you to establish a closer working relationship with the customer and pave the way for a strategic story down the line.
It might also help you gain access to more meaningful and interesting proof points for your project along the way.
The clearer the link between your project and the customer’s strategy, the better.
4. Pipeline building
Issue: The customer is at year end. The next contract is mid-way though negotiations. The deal hasn’t been signed yet.
None of these scenarios are going to help you get a case study, so it’s vital that your pipeline is based around these customer pain points.
Resolution: Get the right people approaching the right customers at the best possible time.
The person with the strongest relationship needs to lead the conversation. Establish who they are – whether it’s an account manager, sales director or another person – and prepare them with the info they need to pitch the process and its outcomes effectively and accurately.
They should start by approaching the happiest, most friendly customers.
Likewise, don’t approach customers who might be having a challenging time – either on the project or more generally across the business.
5. No stress
Issues: The client doesn’t have time to spend on the project so they’re reluctant to even kick it off.
They aren’t a comms person, they’re a tech leader and they just want their team to get things done, not deal with marketing fluff like B2B tech case studies.
The longest part of the case study process is often waiting for it to be approved. It gets pushed down the list of priorities quickly if it’s not been approved almost immediately.
Resolution: Plan to make the process as light touch as possible for the customer – set clear and reasonable expectations about how much time you need for them to attend a briefing or call, and to review it.
Anticipate questions in advance. Know where the case study will be used – is it a marketing case study, the basis for media placements, etc. – you don’t need precise publications, but you should know the kind of things you’re aiming to do with it.
Establish the approval chain on their side and where you can pick up the role of driving those approvals through yourself.
Do the ground work on research before your first briefing too. It will only help to make things run more smoothly and reassure them it’s a seamless process.