When potential clients ask to see my case study samples, I always take a step back to understand what do they think they mean by “case study.” There are many names for case studies, and so many different ways it can look. The bottom line is that you’re showing how a specific customer solved a problem with your solution. Now, other names can be success stories, case histories, customer stories, case examples, customer/member profiles, user stories, user experiences, and testimonials.
I primarily view customer success stories as being one of three types of marketing communication products: success stories, testimonials, and case studies. A testimonial is a short from-the-heart message from a happy client. A success story is one to two pages that goes over the problem and how your product or service solved it, but not into any depth. A case study is two or more pages that go into the specifics of the problem being solved, metrics for how well it was solved, and any other additional detail that will help another person choose your product or service.
These are all very useful in your sales cycle. Testimonials can be sprinkled around your website and your direct sales letters and brochures. They’re the short soundbites that add credibility to the sales information.
A success story could go on your website, and as part of an email campaign, or a brochure at a booth at an exposition or trade show. It’s a simple way for the prospect to remember you (since it’s branded) and understand what your product or service can do. It’s also an excellent way to build up trust in your product or service since you can point to people who have used it successfully.
Finally, a detailed case study is an excellent leave-behind for sales calls and demos. The sales person can pick an individualized case study and explain how it’s similar, and the solution will match the potential client’s needs. Additionally, the potential client can pass along the case study to the decision makers. The case study has the hard numbers needed that helps decision makers evaluate the ROI. It also helps people realize what metrics they should be evaluating (so if your competition is talking oranges, your case study explains why apples are the important metric, and how your apples performer under similar circumstances).
For pre-sales, you can include answers to questions your prospects might be thinking. However, this is not an all inclusive FAQ and is a good conversation starter, but not the end all for information.
All three forms of customer stories are useful in building trust and reputation and increasing brand recognition, and should all be a part of your sales and marketing plan.