You’re so Darn Good… Now PROVE it!

So you’re sitting in front of a prospect bragging about how damn good your company is.  You can tell your company’s story and talk about your superior services or extremely low prices ad nauseam.  If you are smart you take in your prospect’s body language and notice that they look like Robert Conrad in a battery commercial challenging you to “knock it off!”  In short your prospect has a chip on his or her shoulder and expects you to prove your claims.  You are at a point that can make or break your sale, but do you have the necessary proof of product?

Excuse me while I whip this out…

Your best answer to such a challenge it to whip out a case study that outlines a customer with a problem that is similar to that of the prospect.  A collection of case studies will become one of the most important weapons in your marketing and sales toolbox.  When prospects can read about your solution at work in a company like theirs, they are much more apt to buy from you.  The solution leaves the realm of theory and becomes a real and tangible thing.  This becomes even more important when selling a service; you can not look and feel a service so you need to make it real to prospects.

Anatomy of a case study…

As with any marketing piece, case studies should be written in the form of an interesting story.  The Hollywood formula of “boy meets girl,” “boy breaks up with girl,” then “boy and girl live happily ever after” always works.  For case studies, develop the story with in the following three basic sections.

1) Overview of the customer – Describe the customer’s type of business, industry and size.  This section introduces your main character, the customer, and allows prospects to identify with similarities with the customer.

2) Description of the problem – Take time to identify the specific problem that the customer needed to solve.  During this section you can introduce your company to the story.  Use rough dates to identify when the customer identified the problem and when your company became involved.

3) Demonstration of how your company solved the problem – How exactly did your company solve the customer’s problem and how long did it take to implement?  This becomes the “happily ever after” part of the case study.

A Few Pointers on Case Studies…

As with any story, a case study becomes interesting when it is well researched and written.  Think of the message you want prospect to receive when reading the case study and keep the following pointers in mind.

· Quantify how the solution helped the customer – Saying that you saved a customer money or time is not enough.  Take time to interview the customer and quantify how much time and money is saved.  If possible provide and Return on Investment (ROI) figure with the customer.  ROI figures can be given in percentages or days required for the solution to pay for itself.

· Include quotes from decision-makers at the account – Quotes should be from the type of individual that would sit across the desk from you on the sales call.  Make sure that the individual authorizes these quotes in case the prospect decides to use them as a reference.

· You need more than one case study – Your target prospects may vary in industry and size, so develop case studies that cover as many types of customers as possible.  Create a library of case studies outlining different types of businesses so the sales person can choose the appropriate case study for each sales situation.

· Do not Make the Case Study a Sales Pitch – One of the trickiest parts about writing a case study is to find a neutral tone of voice.  Remember this is not a brochure where you offer superlatives about how wonderful your product or service is.  Rather, a case study should be written like a magazine article that presents the facts and lets the reader come to their own conclusion.

· Use a Simple and Non-flashy layout – Again, let the case study appear as a non-sales pitch.  Include minimal elements of your corporate branding such as a small logo and contact information.  If the case study appears too flashy, it will loose its effectiveness and appear as yet another glossy brochure.  Some of the most effective case studies that I have created are on plain white paper with only black text and graphics.

· Post Case Stories by Category on the Web – Get more mileage out of your case studies by posting them in PDF format on the web.  This will let visitors to your web site quickly see that you have customers like them.   Your web site should be structured to match the various customer types and industries covered in your case studies.

· The Press Loves Proof of Product – I will leave press relations for another column, but your case study can become the basis for positive press coverage.  It is near impossible to get any press coverage without real life examples of customers using your product or service.  Each customer from your case study becomes proof of product for one to two editorial opportunities that may arise.

· Get legal approval – Make sure you have the correct legal approval from the customers to create a success story.  Some companies will not authorize use of the company name for promotional uses.

Answer the Challenge…

Case studies are not the easiest marketing pieces to create as SEO Surrey can prove, but they allow your sales force will go into battle with a powerful weapon.  Next time a prospect issues the challenge of “prove it,” the sales representative can smile, pull out an appropriate case study, and move the sale to the next stage.  Customers will move quicker through the sales cycle and your companies close rate will be sure to increase.