How long does it take to publish your case studies? Many of our clients ask this, when we’re planning which customer case studies to write up and how many they want to share. The unhelpful truth is, we won’t know until we start working with yours. The fastest time we’ve developed, written, approved and published a client success story is two weeks – ten working days. More typically, it takes five to six weeks to get a new case study live.
Here’s a breakdown of what affects the timescale to write and publish your case studies – even if you’re producing them in-house instead of hiring a copywriter or PR agency – and what questions we ask to speed up the process:
When will the results really show up for your customer?
Case studies are a brilliant sales tool, no wonder it’s a rapidly growing trend to include your customer feedback in content marketing. But it can be more damaging if the case study content doesn’t demonstrate any concrete results. If your products or services have a defined outcome, it’s best to wait until the customer can give stats as well as anecdotal feedback about your work for them. Too many businesses publish case studies which are vague, focusing on the features of the products or services. As the alternative, we help you explore how the customer felt, the true benefits – in language THEY use – and what the impact has been on their company.
What are the key dates for your customer, what stage is the project at?
If you were working to a deadline for your client, chances are they’ve got an event coming up or a complex project timescale to meet. We know time is precious for everyone, so it’s helpful to know any key dates in their diary. By building a close customer relationship, you can ask your contact in advance about a case study and then agree when to follow it up – after one months or three months. If they give you a date, you know you’ve got their commitment to participate, again, making it faster to get sign-off and publish your case studies online.
When can we take the full brief and book the interviews?
To write a quality case study reflecting the experiences of your customer, we need to speak with them directly, and any colleagues who have benefitted from your services. But as said, getting your clients to give up their time to contribute to your marketing can be a challenge.
Before we speak to them, we need to hear your side of the story – directly from the person who knows the customer best. That might be your project delivery manager, the business development manager, account manager or your customer success team member. The brief is essential for us to understand:
the services you delivered
the process you’ve taken the customer through
what results you’ve achieved for them
Then we can ensure the conversation runs smoothly without wasting their time with questions where you already know the answers.
Next, we arrange a call to hear their views and we don’t script the calls beyond planning the interview questions with you. The interview is designed to get them talking, to give an authentic testimonial, as well as any constructive feedback for your operations. Once the case study interviews are complete, we will return the success story to you within 5 working days.
Who will need to approve your case study? How large is the company featured in the story?
Once the story is signed off by you and your team, we seek the customer’s approval for the final copy. When it’s a large corporate or brand we are writing about, the person we are interviewing may have to ask several others to approve the story – which was true for Uniqodo and BT. If it’s going to a marketing manager or department head, we offer to speak to them directly to save your client the time of going back and forth.
It’s helpful to find out contact names for all the people before we start because it causes delays if additional people need to sign-off the story. If their Managing Director wants to see it and add their input, it’s worth giving them plenty of time to review it. Having more contacts in your customer’s organisation can also work to your advantage in building the relationship – and you’re helping their marketing efforts by publishing more content about them online.
Who will publish your case studies on your website? Do you need more help here?
With all the case study copy approvals complete, the story is ready to publish. We can help you decide where to publish your case studies on your homepage menu and how to drive more traffic to the pages once live. As part of the planning, we’ll talk about search engine optimisation and keyword phrases – to tag every page properly. We can help further with sharing your case study online because we work with a number of digital agencies, SEO experts and website designers in and around Bristol for WordPress, Leadpages, SquareSpace, Wix and bespoke CMS sites.
Our first step for getting the most out of your case studies is a Content Planning Workshop or Case Study Clinic – call Debra on 07815 782696 or book in a date.
Or are you adding value by giving away free advice to help other businesses?
When your customers refer new business, it works really well – because they only do it when they’re confident the other person will benefit from your services. This has fuelled the trend for businesses to share lots of testimonials on their website and share them on social media to spread the word.
Great to see the positive approach to marketing. However, with the rise in focus on feedback from users to tell a story, are people really reading them?
How effective are customer testimonials?
Customer testimonials are great when a recognised brand or person has given the feedback. For me, in a local network, that’s as simple as a business I know from Bristol; for you, it may be more credible coming from a FTSE 500 company or so-called blue-chip brand.
Happy testimonials are a common goal for small businesses everywhere, because Google reviews help to improve their rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). And LinkedIn recommendations appear to have a positive effect too – more people see your posts, from the other person’s network as well as your own.
If you add one simple question, when you gather your testimonials, to ask “How likely are you to recommend us out of ten?” you can begin to build a net promoter score from the results. Which is useful to monitor over time. But if you share too many, without considering how they help others, it can get boring for your audience!
My top tip: spread your customer testimonials across several pages of your website, rather than expecting a web visitor to click that one page!
What’s the difference when you write a case study up in full?
The difference when you write up a full case study is the opportunity to interview the customers in more depth, asking them not only their testimonial and a score but also the reasons for giving that score. By hearing more from their perspective, you can write blogs, eBooks and more helpful content with their needs at the centre of your efforts.
Using a set of pre-planned questions, it’s possible to gain more information about your service delivery – and pass the feedback over to the operations team. Customer comments are gold-dust for improving your services and offering useful information, either via your blogs, news or Frequently Asked Questions. The testimonial comments and happy feedback often surfaces early, but it’s great to get the insight and constructive information from the conversation too. The story itself can offer valuable tips on changes which other businesses can make to address a similar challenge.
The result: instead of boasting about your amazing results with customers, you can tell the story – warts and all – of how you solved their struggle. And who doesn’t want to work with a business who gets results – but also cares enough to take time and listen to their customers’ frank feedback?
Search engines prefer long copy web pages which offer value and answer questions. Your blogs have to pack enough information in them to be useful. A case study is more powerful than snippets from your customer testimonials, because you can frame the challenge and articulate the solution your business offers. Most important of all, you must include the results – whether it involved saving time or making money or removing the problem.
My top tip: include a search-engine friendly keyword phrase in each of the sub-headings in your case studies.
How to structure your case study for greatest impact
Start with the challenge; help the readers instantly recognise whether it’s similar to their own situation.
Describe the solution; your process is important to you, not them – only share the nuggets which will attract them to try it for themselves.
Report results! Make sure the reader knows what’s in it for them after they’ve read to the end of your story – which should be an absolute minimum of 500 words. What outcome did your customer have – has it saved them money, made them money or removed a problem? Anecdotal feedback works well here, if the results are less tangible than time saving or money-making. Often people aren’t looking for a pure monetary difference – the results you’re offering have to appeal to their emotions.
My top tip: spend time listening to your customers about their feelings towards your services before you write down their testimonials – better still, cover the full story in a case study.
Contact me for a Case Study clinic if you want to explore how this would work for your business.
Case studies are a great way of using storytelling to promote your business. They offer the classic story format of starting with a person facing a challenge or desirable goals, a middle plot to share what happened next and ending with the results you delivered for the customer. A well-researched case study goes a step further than a standard testimonial by revealing your unique approach in enough detail to prompt the reader into action. The full story will resonate with people struggling with similar challenges because it shows how well you understand the pains and where you can help others.
To prove the value your products or services offer, you’ll want to share case studies which help convert potential customers into actual customers. These planning steps make case studies simple to create and strong enough to sell:
Identifying a great case study
Select the ‘best’ customers to feature in your case studies. This means identifying those who fit well with your brand values and sit in markets where you already sell or want to sell in future. When shared on popular platforms, a relevant case study will increase your brand awareness, credibility and authority. Only choose the stories where you can demonstrate measurable change because we, as readers, all care about results.
Matching the story with your target audience
Review it afresh: who are your ideal audience? What do you know about the specific people you’d like to help and therefore, have to sell to? It’s no good guessing what your average customer looks like. Whoever they are, it matters whether the problem you’re covering in the story is well-defined enough, so that those people recognise themselves and relate to it.
Doing the research before writing your case studies
Book time in to talk to the person in your organisation that knows the client best. Spend time discovering more about the customer as a person and research the company they work for. Having a clear understanding of the relationship history and the industry will save you time. When you’re ready to talk to the customer for their testimonial, you can get straight to the heart of the story.
Interviewing the customer
Many businesses write their case studies without talking to the customer. I always recommend interviewing them, to seek the truth behind the service delivered. I find it saves time for getting the story approved for sharing it publicly. Be open and honest about how the case study will be used and what you hope the results will be. Being more transparent helps the customer feel more comfortable, which in turn gets you detailed and honest answers.
Adapting the interview questionnaire
Effective interviewing comes with practice, but an easy first step is to plan and adapt your questions. Plan beforehand based on the information you want to get, but be prepared to adapt it on the call to gain deeper insight. I design a custom questionnaire for each of my case study clients, to make sure the practical results and emotional impact are covered. Using prompts to explore the interviewee’s answers will get more honest feedback to create a compelling story.
Demonstrating the impact of working with you
To be strong enough to sell your services, case studies have to prove why it’s worth spending money with your business. The most powerful case studies feature measurable results. Instead of tailing off the story with anecdotal feedback, aim to showcase impressive outcomes – the more numbers, the better. To uncover these, your questions would include:
What differences have you seen since buying this service?
How is the product or service helping you save time?
What £ costs or revenue impact has there been from using this service?
How does it enhance your competitive advantage?
A final note: before you define what makes a great case study for your business, it’s critical to consider, what are you trying to achieve? Case studies can certainly help you sell, but if your challenge is gaining greater brand awareness, you could choose a different range of case studies to feature – and make them wider-reaching instead of detailed stories.
Identifying a baseline before you start helps you track the effectiveness and marketing metrics of each case study you share – to see how many people engage with it and goal conversions. Then you can see what’s working well and what isn’t. Use this data to tweak your plans; move on by testing different approaches or find ways to inject a little humour! Contact me if you’d like more help to plan the right case studies for your business.
Creating content takes planning, routine, and plenty of ideas. But for a small business with a solo marketing manager or owner-director writing about the business, it’s hard to find time because you’ve got many other responsibilities. And it takes time to shape raw ideas into compelling content. So, how do you plan your marketing and allocate enough time to serve up consistent content? And why is consistency so important to attract new customers?
For me there are three reasons why consistency is important:
1. Extend your brand identity
2. Build trust in your expertise
3. Prove your reliability
Your brand identity shines when creating content consistent with your values
Having a strong, consistent brand identity helps to build trust with potential customers and people are more likely to buy from businesses they trust. It’s so important to reflect your business values in your marketing messages, because people are instinctive – they know when the two don’t match. Sharing the same message consistently helps to build confidence. Your style of language, brand colours and logo on your marketing materials all help people recognise and believe in your service – as long as you can demonstrate the return, of course. With consistent words and actions, you reinforce that you will meet their expectations.
Your expertise stands out when sharing it to help others
Building trust is about serving customers’ needs with your expertise, but also continuing to develop it. Sometimes businesses are afraid to admit their people are still learning; some shy away from promoting themselves as experts. The truth is, every area of knowledge is growing exponentially – it’s impossible for anyone to know everything. But your loyal customers need reassurance that you’re keeping your knowledge up to date. If you’re solving a problem for them, they don’t want to find out later (or worse, from your competitor) that your methods are outdated. They’ll only see you are learning when you share fresh information from your field. To help my clients boost their website traffic by sharing case studies, I’m researching more on key words, search engine optimisation and creating cornerstone content. My theory is, with so much content already out there, yours has to become a well-structured jigsaw puzzle – all linking back to one big picture of how you help customers!
Prove your reliability
For attracting new audiences and retaining loyal customers, consistency is key across all areas of your business. A good reputation depends on delivering excellent service and business systems like paying invoices on time, and regularly listening to employee or supplier feedback. Consistency in your marketing reminds people you are reliable. When you use consistent messages, your ideal tribe are more likely to hear or see them through the busy ‘noise’ of life. Repetition is positive, when you link the messages to the pain points which are most relevant for your audience. However, even as a copywriter, I’ve found it really tough to write about my own business to keep my marketing flowing. The solution to help me run a monthly blog was to brainstorm it with Kimba Digital and plan the first set of blogs in one session. And for my clients I do the same – we plan 3 months ahead for creating content, which links into the themes covered in their customer case studies. It still takes time to get content produced and agreed…
Planning to achieve consistency – how do you prioritise your time?
For most businesses, client work comes first, and marketing comes second. Until you hit a quiet patch. Then your focus switches back to sales and marketing with fresh energy to reach new audiences. Of course, this doesn’t allow for the time-delay in getting your message out there and the lag before people begin to respond. By planning in a weekly slot for your marketing, it becomes possible to run a consistent set of core activities. These must focus on growing your database of enquiries and following up with them. As a default, you’ll need to allocate at least three hours per week – two hours for creating or approving content and one for monitoring the results. For your social media, you’ll need daily routines, to reply and engage with your connections. If you outsource copywriting and marketing, you’ll still need a minimum of one day a month (in weekly chunks or as a single focus day) to set the direction, approve the content, and evaluate the results.
And if you’d like to include customer success stories in your content marketing plans, but you haven’t had time, this is exactly where I can help. I always create a case study blueprint before calling your clients for their honest feedback – to ensure the story will reflect your brand and meet your marketing goals. Case studies are a fantastic way to share your good news and results. And your customers’ insights provide a foundation for creating content which will help you engage new audiences and grow. To find out more, contact me or book in a free consultation.
Case studies are a fantastic marketing tool. It’s a theme where I’m in grave danger of repeating myself! But repetition leads to consistency – which will reach your ideal audience when your content is helpful for them.
Imagine you’re a marketing manager, about to share a case study on several different social media channels. How do you make each post stand out? And entice the right kind of people to read the full story on your website? Let’s look at 6 ways to ensure your case studies are punching their full power to market your business:
Plan your case studies to match your future goals
You may have lots of happy customers, but if none are grounded in the market where you want to focus in future, you’ll waste time writing up irrelevant stories. Before you start writing, plan your suite of case studies to cover the industries you specialise in and the type of customers whose problems you can solve. Then you can ensure your blogs and social posts are relevant too.
Use compelling storytelling techniques
Case studies are a fantastic way of helping potential customers to understand what you do. The purpose of every story is to show how you helped your customer accomplish their goals. But first, reveal the detail of the pain your client was facing. Highlight the emotions and the struggle, even in a business context. When you’ve helped a customer to tackle a major issue, it will help others see the value in your services. Share your approach for solving the problem using words others can relate to; because they don’t have much time – you need to get quickly to the heart of how you work. I’d recommend showing off the results up front, but saving some juicy facts for the ending. When you use storytelling techniques, a case study leaps beyond a standard client testimonial.
Test your headlines
Writing a hard-hitting headline comes down to who your ideal audience is and your brand style; it’s no different with case studies. Identify who your audience are, and what your ideal customer persona looks like. Then when selecting case studies to feature, ask yourself – is this problem broad enough that a wide range of my audience will relate to it? To write great headlines, focus on the call to action or impact you want to make. When you want to provoke a response, go controversial. When you want to educate, start with “How to”. Or when you want to tempt, talk about “the why” and the results rather than “what you did.”
Include real life feedback
You will attract more attention from your ideal audience when the story is authentic. Pick a case study subject who has had ups as well as downs and before you talk to them, and do the background research with the person in your team who knows the client best. By asking the right questions, you’ll gain a greater insight into their pain points and the emotional impact your business had on them. Plan your interview questions for the customer beforehand based around the information you want to share. Use prompts to explore their answers to get honest feedback. Sharing a brief but clear understanding of the client’s history and the industry they work in will attract people in a similar situation – and authentic wording will help the story resonate with them.
Answer common questions
Your case study story will rank with search engines if you use sentences which answer questions. Find the long-tail phrases which work as keywords for your business and add them into the case study narrative. The thing is, this can affect the quality of your writing. You’ve got to walk a tight balance between boring people by explaining the whole problem and letting your ideal audience know you can help solve it.
Show the results and impact on your client
Case studies are all about demonstrating successful results, so add measurable outcomes into the story – the more numbers, the better. To uncover these, use questions such as:
What challenges were you facing?
And what were the results of using the product/service?
What effect has this had on your team?
How is this helping you save time/money?
How does this affect your customers or enhance your competitive advantage?
Results will hit home when you include them upfront in the headline, but you can save them for the end of the story because you want to keep readers in suspense.
Track the marketing metrics of every case study – levels of engagement and goal conversions. This will help you identify what’s working well and what doesn’t. Use this to tweak your plans and don’t be afraid of testing slightly different approaches and find ways to inject a little humour!
Creating authentic, powerful case studies does take time. Book a FREE consultation if you’d like to understand how to speed up the process – then we can review your options in a Case Study Clinic if you want help to revise your stories.
Last year 63% of marketers said generating traffic and leads was their top challenge (Hubspot 2017) – which can be tackled with a strategic approach to content marketing. “Storify” isn’t a proper English word, but it’s out there, and I’m willing to bet we will identify 2018 as the year of stories. When written well, they support human-to-human content messaging – geared towards customers’ emotions – replacing traditional approaches in the business to business market.
Creating consistent content is still a big ask for SME marketing managers. Many businesses struggle to keep up a continuous flow of digital marketing and social media posts to reach their ideal audience. Email marketing has to be tested and tweaked, and social media algorithms are reducing organic (non-paid-for) reach. Then there’s the explosion of new platforms and automation tools. Regardless of where or how you share your story, it can only provide value for your audience when you keep your customer needs at the heart of it. But it can seem like an endless task, making it easy to lose sight of your goal to help and inspire customers.
Look again at your business data and your strengths – who you serve, where they find you and how your processes are working to support existing customers. When you focus on things that are going well, you can build trust and establish yourself as an expert because you are solving genuine problems for your customers.
Once you’ve built loyal relationships, your customers offer a rich source of stories to support your content marketing in so many ways. Writing up the case studies gives you a foundation to develop multiple versions of the content to share in different ways. Let’s take a look at the benefits of case studies and how to re-purpose the stories in your content marketing strategy:
What are the benefits of spending time on customer case studies?
When planned carefully, you’ll cement stronger relationships with your existing customers when you take the time to help promote them – delivering mutual marketing results. Your customer case studies highlight the foundations of your business success and theirs too. Depending on your marketing strategy, and how you create the content, customer case studies drive three key outcomes:
Increased website traffic.
Improved engagement within your networks and email marketing database.
Greater reach to wider audiences via online press and social media.
Search engines are content hungry; generating traffic for businesses who refresh their page content and signposting regularly. Google My Business posts and LinkedIn articles summarising new case studies or blogs are a simple tool to attract the major player’s attention. A long copy case study article on your website is a great opportunity to include select keywords and create a landing page for targeted pay per click advertising.
Your social media networks and contact database don’t necessarily know all your capabilities. (I recently had a client who didn’t realise I could organise video testimonials as part of their case study program.) By producing case studies from a range of relevant industries, readers are more likely to trust your abilities based on where you specialise and who you have helped previously. Sharing your customer case studies showcases everything about your business. Your audience can learn how it feels to work with you, what your customers love about your service and relate it back to their own pain points. We all love a story, and the best ones inspire people and invoke an emotional response.
Generating traffic by turning case studies into other content types
Providing your customers are willing, you can start by writing up the situation and describing the case study scenario in detail. Once you have the story, you can re-purpose case studies into different formats for generating traffic back to your site:
Develop the pain point into a helpful blog topic.
Include credentials in an online event brochure.
Capture visual photos or voice clips for podcasting.
The tough challenge when creating your case studies is time – getting hold of your customer after you’ve moved onto another project and completing the story. It’s also hard to listen objectively to your clients, when you’re close to the situation. That’s why 27 Marketing specialises in planning, writing and sharing case studies for businesses. Learn more here.
Loyal customers can get forgotten if you’re “busy” and they’re busy. Looking back, I know I’ve made mistakes with my client relationships – which is easy to do when we are in a rush to move fast. The good news is, the new year is ahead to improve. A highlight of 2017 for me was playing scrabble with the visitors at South West Expo – watching business owners come up with a word to describe their tone of voice, their values or their brand. Some really took time to decide on their words. It made me notice that we sometimes don’t take enough time on important things, this includes keeping our existing customers happy. To sum up a few ideas, here are 6 easy steps to help you build mutually profitable relationships with loyal customers from the start:
1. Your customers help shape and fund the business you have; treat them like royalty
Yes, it’s important to win new business. Yet retaining your loyal customers by offering products and services which they need and buy again from you saves time. Businesses often give new clients discounts, offers and bonuses for buying our service. (It even annoys us when the large brands do it – like a discount offer to switch to Sky!) So surely our existing customers deserve a similar gift in return for their loyalty? For existing clients this doesn’t have to be a financial discount. Adding more value into the service can encourage repeat purchases and strengthen your relationship because you are helping them more.
2. Good first impressions help relationships last longer; make it easy for new customers to buy
Confusion causes misunderstandings and hesitation – you absolutely don’t want customers to regret buying from you. When you start working with a new customer, they need to understand how your service works and what value it will deliver. Even as a small business it’s important to make the on-boarding process welcoming, professional and hassle-free. The way to achieve this? Have clear communications for each step in your process, which you can send via a series of welcome emails. Automation may sound costly and complex, but is designed to make life easier. It ensures that no matter how busy you are, your customers feel like you are taking care of them. If you’re repeating the same step for every customer, get an expert in to help map out the process and support it with an email series for staying in touch with existing customers. And there are lots of inexpensive cloud apps to help small businesses, either via your CRM or an email system like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. It’s one of the points of improvement which I’ve started for my business – to keep my customers informed when I’ve spoken to their clients while developing their case studies.
3. Clear pricing builds trust; additional charges and hidden fees destroy it
Businesses can and do lose customers because they’ve added additional charges in and the customer pays, but doesn’t buy from them again. Both your client and their finance directors will be extremely grateful for complete transparency – they want to know what value they’re getting in return. (see Measures) There are several models for building pricing which small businesses can use – most of us will be looking at market rate and costs plus a mark-up pricing. As business owners, we have the freedom of pricing services at a level which fits the market and reflects our model. This means that on occasion we go through awkward periods of change to adjust our prices. One thing to bear in mind is that new customers don’t need to know that; your key responsibility is to clarify how much you are charging before you start any work or meetings with them. And keep your loyal customers informed when changes affect them. Having a standard tariff or example pricing on your website resolves the first hurdle of your customer not knowing what to expect.
4. Show customers the value – measure it and deliver on the promise
Before you start work with any new client, ensure they understand what your services will achieve for them and measure where you are starting from. That way, you can assess as you go along and be clear of the difference you’ve made at the end. Services like marketing consultancy and human resources expertise can be tricky to measure – especially if the business you’re working with doesn’t track key performance indicators closely. It’s your job to help here too, by starting with the end in mind. For me, my clients are always interested in using content marketing to drive sales – through enquiries, awareness, and engagement. It’s been a big shift this year with the help of my business coach to look at the measures for how case studies make a difference.
5. Loyal customers generate word of mouth referrals; keep in touch
No matter how long you’ve been working with them, or what stage your customer is at, keep in touch. It seems obvious, but in the hubbub of business activities, it can be easily missed. In my corporate life, we spent a lot of time designing a contact strategy to form part of the customer service proposition – with triggers for three-month and six-month calls. Setting a strategy is helpful for small businesses too – to remind you to contact them after sending the invoice and check results and feedback. Using your Customer Relationship Management system helps if you have several staff in contact with the same customer, because they can all see the most recent notes. Managing relationships centrally will help avoid mistakes and keep you in the customer’s mind – so they may recommend you to others.
6. Staying in touch enables you to listen out for areas to improve; seek feedback
Asking your loyal customers for feedback may take extra time or seem daunting, but it’s vital for maintaining great relationships as well as improving your service. The simplest measure is your NPS (net promotor score) which is one question to ask how likely they are to recommend you – and is a recognised measure of customer experience. Or you can use a simple survey using a free tool like Survey Monkey or GoogleDocs to capture more information. The purpose is to take time out to review what you offer; yet it’s another positive way to stay in touch with your customer in between projects.
There are so many aspects to creating positive customer relationships, I would love to hear what you would add to the list? Contact me here. Once you get in the habit of asking for direct feedback, it’s easier to ask your customers whether you can use their story in your marketing. A case study is a win-win if your clients are selling to other businesses because you can help promote them too.
When you’ve made the effort to write up your client case studies, it is important to get the most out of each story, without boring your regular readers by repeatedly sharing the same posts! If you’re regularly producing newsletter content and articles or blogs for other channels, it helps to keep your efforts focused on a few key priorities for your business:
Before you develop a new case study, plan who it’s for:
Stats show that sharing content works best for businesses to pull in more website traffic when you’re sharing more than four blogs a month. (See Hubspot Blogging Frequency Benchmark Data) However, if none of your blogs or case studies are relevant to the people you want to reach – what’s the point? Before you start, get a clear and specific idea of who you are writing for and what will be most relevant to them. A helpful tip for profiling who you want to reach is to use the customer avatar sheet from Digital Marketer. It looks at all the aspects – location, career, interests, sources of information plus their role in the purchase process for your services.
Set themes for all your content – blogs, case studies, and event talks
To make the most of writing up a case study, it needs to fit within a range of blogs and content for social media, where you are sharing your expertise for free. This helps potential clients realise what you’re capable of – and realise how they would benefit from working with you. If you are speaking at an event, you can plan which topics will support what you’re saying on the day, and which client case studies would be relevant.
For a service business, you can share a blog or video about the process of design and build, and link it to a case study. The follow up content could cover maintenance and repair or updates – and still link to the same case study, or a different one.
Align case studies with your most profitable products and services
Be aware: even though your client case studies are one of your most valuable sales tools, they should NOT be full of product information and blatant sales messages. The main body of the story should showcase what was happening for the customer before they met you. Then you can and should mention which of your services that client is using, and how your services solve the customer’s pain. A credible case study will talk about the impact on their situation, and measure any improvements and success they’ve achieved. By including a personal testimonial direct from the client, you can bring the story to life – and use that in a considered way on your social media posts.
Share your client case studies with the press
Finding time to contact journalists and share your expertise with them is tricky, however, once you include it in the flow of your marketing, it becomes easier. Select a limited number of media contacts who are really interested in your subject matter and take time to build the relationships. When you’ve got a great story, they will be more receptive to publishing it.
My top tip for making sure your case study efforts aren’t wasted (sitting on your website with no traffic!) is to have a half day media training with a local PR agent. That way, you can learn a lot about the local press network, learn how to pitch your stories and get more confident for telephone interviews with journalists. It’s a positive halfway step towards selecting a PR agent and outsourcing the whole plan.
If half a day is too much time out on a single day, you could try a PR coach who offers online support and regular tips to grow the number of articles your business is mentioned in. You’ll need to schedule 45-90 minutes every week to stay on track with your plan, even if you’re only aiming for coverage once every few months. Once your content gets out there, you’ll find the momentum builds – the important thing is to make a plan and keep going!
I’m a Partner Writer with case study creation service, Case Study Ninja – where PR placement and social media support is part of the premium Marketing Case Study offer. Do contact me if you’d like a 30-minutes case study review call on how to do more with yours.
For small business owners who would like more publicity, there are several options which don’t cost too much – yet will require time and effort to build a process. Your case studies, featuring your clients, can be a great way to share new and interesting stories. So when your clients are happy and willing, you can work together to get more publicity.
Janet Murray, who runs the Soulful PR Studio, held a webinar last week looking at how to create a PR strategy in 30 minutes, which reminded me how to keep the process simple and consistent for producing case studies with clients. Here are my top tips for smaller businesses to create and share their stories:
Be clear about the objectives: why do you want more publicity?
Is it to become recognised as an individual expert in your field?
Do you want to raise awareness of the company name and brand values?
Are you looking to integrate PR with a wider marketing campaign to grow the number of enquiries?
Do you have loyal clients to recommend your products and services, to demonstrate what you can do?
Ultimately, if you’re spending time and money on publicity, you’ll need to track how it contributes to more sales. This will take time and consistent effort, so choosing your strategy will help you plan how to keep going and get your team to help you.
Set up a PR process which works for a small business
To get more publicity, you’ll need a PR process to involve the people who contact your clients every day, either in sales or customer service roles.
A regular PR meeting
Help your team to put on a temporary ‘marketing’ hat, with a short meeting to discuss publicity opportunities every month. You can tell the team what you’re aiming for – and talk about the best ways to encourage happy clients to get involved. You need two or three people thinking proactively, to spot which clients may have similar goals to grow their brand and get more publicity. While speaking to clients on the phone or in person, they can check how happy these clients are with the service your business provides. If they are willing to talk about the results achieved, it’s a win-win situation to write up a case study.
Frequently asked questions
In any business providing services and expertise, clients will often ask questions. It’s worth keeping a log of these queries – they are useful in so many ways and once you’ve given the answer, you or the team may need to find it for the next person. Over time, you can build up a series of case studies and articles which answer the most common questions – providing plenty of material to plan publicity and drive inbound website traffic via blogs, helpful downloads, and email marketing.
Content schedule or editorial calendar
A calendar is most often used for keeping track of key events and a schedule for social media, however, it’s also important for your publicity plans. It takes 2-3 weeks to develop a client case study (sometimes much longer, if people are busy!) and if you want to share it with the press for a particular date, journalists will need the story 4-6 weeks in advance.
People to help
As a business leader, there isn’t time for you to do everything. To keep your publicity efforts consistent, you need several different skill sets involved. These will include:
Someone to manage the plan and talk to the customer facing team regularly.
Someone who is a good writer and understands search engine optimisation to produce the content.
Someone to develop good contacts with the press and share your stories.
Someone to organise your news stories and case studies online and archive them when out of date.
If you can allocate a reasonable budget to it, a PR agency will, of course, cover all of those. If you hire a freelancer or copy writer, check which parts they are happy to do for you – and which you will need to manage internally. Ad-hoc PR efforts might go to waste if you don’t stick to a plan, however, with the right support, you can get a positive flow of publicity over time.
Sign off by all the people involved
People are busy and signing off your case study is usually a low priority. Giving people dates and setting expectations in advance can help – and let them know who else will need to read it and agree the words.
Once written up, a case study can be presented in many different formats – video, email attachment and printable format – to hand out at meetings, or events after you’ve shared it with press contacts. To extend the reach of your published articles, it helps to support your PR efforts with regular social media posts on similar topics. Overall, case studies are great way to prove how you can help your ideal clients to achieve their goals and the publicity will benefit both of you.
Contact me if you’d like to review the opportunities for more client case studies. Or visit Case Study Ninja for more information on creating, storing and sharing your case studies.
Marketing and HR: How entering Awards will boost your business internally and externally
Last week was busy for me with positive celebrations, with the Freelance Mums on International Women’s Day, and then Women of the Year Awards with the Bristol Women’s Tech Hub. These events got me thinking about who wants to be an award-winning business? And why awards are important for small businesses, just as much as for large corporates.
There are two distinct benefits to the label, “award-winning.” The first benefit is all about boosting your marketing. The second benefit is how motivating awards can be for your people. If you ever hesitate to enter your business for an award, have a look at the positive impact they can have on your business, both internally and externally – and go for it:
“My business is too small.”
Specifically designed for small businesses, a new round of awards are open for entries until 31 March – The Small Awards with plenty of publicity from the team behind Small Business Saturday.
“I don’t know which awards to enter”
This is easily solved, when you make the decision as part of your marketing strategy. Applying for any award should always link back to a specific business goal. Some examples:
Demonstrate service quality: if your business focuses on providing excellent service, you can show your commitment by entering UK Customer Satisfaction Awards.
“What difference will winning an award make to my clients or our business marketing?”
To build existing relationships, you can invite clients along to celebrate success with you. To reach new audiences, you can make the most of the publicity and community which builds in the run up to the awards event. The marketing surrounding the event will amplify your message for potential new clients to hear about you, once you’re a finalist.
Becoming an award-winning business
“I don’t think we will win” – well, it’s time to roll out an old cliché – you’ve got to be in it!
Entering awards means practicing and perfecting your written pitch. Submitting the form raises your business profile, because people who may never have heard of you will be reviewing the applications and entry forms. And often, a community evolves on social media among the entrants.
When completing the awards submission form, take a similar approach as you would in a face to face sales pitch. Who do you help, why do they need you and what results do you achieve?
Include your key marketing messages and benefits of your services, matching the tone of your statements or answers with what you say on your website.
Use your planned milestones and key case studies to demonstrate what you have achieved against your business goals. Keep client case studies short, yet tell the story of their pain and how you provided a solution. (Note: You don’t need to use the word solution!)
Even if you only make the shortlist or finalists for an award, you can share it on social media and engage with the other participants in the run up to the ceremony.
“We don’t have time to enter Awards and go to celebratory dinners.”
Here’s the perspective where the Human Resources factors are at play. How much does it affect your business productivity when your people are feeling more motivated, and proud of the place they work?
A method like Insights Discovery profiling (using DISC – which I first learned about, over ten years ago) will show you what mix of skills and personality types you have employed in your company. If your team is made up of an average mix of people, there will be a number of Red and Yellow types (the extroverts) who would care, and be proud to work for an award-winning business. The Greens will care about how their team-mates are feeling. Making an effort to enter awards reflects positive recognition for team efforts – which can have a positive effect on their overall motivation. (And when it comes to submitting your award entry, the Blues can check whether you’ve presented all the arguments relevant to winning the award.)
It’s possible that some Awards appear frivolous, or it may feel slightly embarrassing to nominate your own company. However, to boost your marketing by entering awards, you’ll need to flip that attitude around and start thinking about the positives for your business.
Awards are a great way to reward the hard work of your people – and for some, it will be fun way to celebrate the year of working together.