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How to make sure your case studies attract your target prospects

by | May 23, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

How to make sure your case studies attract your target prospects

Last year, one of my long-standing clients hired me to write a new case study. From their very brief creative brief, the project seemed to be one of their typical customer success stories. I bid the job accordingly.

As I was conducting my background call with my client’s service reps, however, I discovered this project was very different.

In my background call, I try to get an overview of the customer’s story from my client’s customer-facing representatives who know the story best. The background call helps me ask more insightful questions and elicit more interesting information and quotes during the customer interview. During this particular call, however, I soon found that my client’s customer was not who I thought it was.

I’d been under the impression that the customer was a government military organization, the end user of the aircraft on which my client’s product had been installed. Instead, my client’s customer was actually another subsidiary of my client’s parent company. They were leasing two aircraft to the government military organization I mentioned and providing them with flight personnel and training.

This sister company was also the system integrator for the two aircraft and had recently installed my client’s product to expand their capabilities and win a follow-up contract with the customer.

All of this would have been fine, except for one thing.

An unexpected story

When I began asking about the challenges the customer faced—at which point I still thought the military end user was my client’s customer—I began hearing a story completely different from the one the creative brief had led me to expect.

The two service reps I was interviewing were from my client’s sister company. They began telling me about a series of contacts between their organization and the end user. They described an upgrade to their aircraft planned as a part of one of those contracts, a pre-existing plan to replace their legacy system with the one my client provides, and the challenge of maintaining the requisite level of service to the end user with only one aircraft while the other was being retrofitted thousands of miles away.

They were telling me about the challenges they faced, not those faced by the military end user.

While these challenges were important to their company, however, none of them were challenges my client’s product was designed to solve. I’ll explain the significance of this later. For now, I’ll just say I was puzzled by this turn of events.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before I oriented myself to the story this customer was telling me. That was the story I captured in the case study and that my client and their customer approved.

A case study accepted… and later rejected

Two months after I had delivered my final draft of that case study, my client contacted me about updating it. They said they wanted to “remove focus on contracts and focus solely on capabilities, technologies, and outcomes.”

At first, I didn’t understand what had caused this change of heart. Then, I re-read the draft I had submitted.

I had to admit, the challenges section I had written was boring. Worse yet, it was of little interest to my client’s target market. It addressed challenges that were rather unique to a specific contract, not those that would prompt organizations to search for a solution like the one my client offered.

A 3-step process to ensure case studies are attractive to your prospects

Reflecting on this project, I realized I needed to come up with a set of procedures to ensure such a debacle would never happen again. What I came up with is the following three-step process.

Step 1: Choose a story your prospect wants to hear

Your first step is to know the story you want to tell before you interview the customer. Be aware (as I’ve learned to be) that that story may not be the one your customer wants to tell you about. If that’s the case, you need to be able to head them off at the pass, so to speak.

Gather as much knowledge as possible about the customer’s use case from those in your company who are closest to the customer. If you’re a writer, that’s the purpose of the background call with your client’s account manager or support rep. (I got into trouble because my client’s support rep was also their customer.) If you’re a marketing manager, gather that information and know the story you want to tell before you assign a writer to the job. Pass that information along to your writer in a creative brief.

In choosing your story, focus on your target prospect, not this customer. Make sure your story describes how a customer solved a problem your prospect has. You need to be able to describe benefits your prospect craves. Discard any customer-specific benefits most prospects won’t care about.

Step 2: Provide the information your prospect needs

Business decision-makers read case studies to help them decide if they want to approach a vendor about their solution. They’re looking for certain kinds of information. Your case study needs to provide it.

Prospects want three basic things from your case study:

  1. To be sure you understand their problem
  2. To be sure you can solve their problem
  3. To feel comfortable enough to inquire about your solution

You need to provide enough evidence in your case study to satisfy those needs.

Elicit that information in your customer interview. Shape your customer questions to that end. At the start of the interview, identify the target audience and their needs and ask interviewees to bear those in mind as they answer questions. You may need to remind your interviewees of this with questions like, “How might our target prospect encounter that challenge?” or “How is that meaningful to our target audience?” to keep them on track.

Don’t let your customer tell a different story than the one you had planned. Make sure the challenges the customer describes are challenges shared by many other prospects—challenges your solution was designed to solve.

Step 3: Put your biggest benefit in the case study’s title

Like any other piece of marketing content, a case study has to grab your prospects’ attention before they will read it. That’s the purpose of your title or headline. And nothing grabs prospects’ attention like a benefit they crave.

So, put your solution’s most compelling benefit in your case study’s title.

Start with the following case study title formula: How [Customer X] [achieved a big specific benefit] [by doing something specific]. A big-name customer may attract attention, but it’s that sought-after benefit that’s going to pull your prospects into that customer’s success story.

Then, all you have to do in your case study is deliver on the promise of your title. Describe how your customer achieved the stated benefit by adopting your solution.

Conclusion

In planning the rewrite of my client’s case study, I decided to start with a story within a story.

I depicted a scene from a typical mission based on an account by an end user I interviewed. The scene illustrated in a vivid and compelling way the challenges the end users face on a daily basis and how efficiently my client’s solution helps them deal with those challenges. Best of all, it gave my target audience a compelling vision of what their own future could be.

Setting the stage in this way allowed me to then backtrack to provide some customer background and the challenges that led to the upgrade program. It made it easier to leave out details that were of no interest to my audience.

This new approach let me tell a story my client’s prospects want to hear while efficiently providing the information those prospects need to decide if my client’s solution might be right for them. Naturally, I included the solution’s key benefit in the story’s title to compel our target audience to read more.

My new version was very well received by my client, their customer, and the end user. What’s more, I’ve since been hired by my client’s sister company to rewrite the story, featuring them as the supplier and the end user as their customer.

Takeaway points

It’s important that each case study you create tells a compelling story and offers prospects a compelling benefit.

To ensure you never deviate from that path, use this three-step process:

  1. Choose a story your prospect wants to hear.
  2. Provide the information your prospect needs
  3. Put your biggest benefit in the case title

Next steps

Have a compelling customer story you want to put in front of your prospects? I can craft that story for you in a way that compels prospects to act. Contact CopyEngineer at info@copyengineer.com.

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