Great customer insights are born out by watching customers use your offerings and during the product development and delivery process. Both give managers a solid, in-depth understanding of real-world user stories. Once product marketing gets involved, they collect those experiences and transform them into case studies – a time-tested classic output of B2B marketers. Even in a world of social media and brand publishing, the case study lives on, produced now in more formats (video, animation, paper and digital form) and across many more channels (twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube).
But there’s a major problem case studies don’t work. They don’t help sales what they need to tell great customer stories.
The core elements of a case study are important, but here are 5 reasons why case studies don’t work for sales.
- Case Studies Target the Prospect, Not the Seller – Writing to and for prospective customers is good, right? It is most of the time, but when prospects engage with B2B brands, they expect individualized, relevant and timely communication. That’s where sales reps shine – learning and sharing with prospects leads to more meaty conversations. Rather than hope the sales force reads the case study and each rep synthesize it into 6 compelling stories they can use in a conversation, marketing should do that for them. Reps need the 3 – 5 bullet golden nugget, not a reading assignment.
- Best Stuff Edited Out by Legal or Brand – The road to hell is paved with good intentions so the saying goes, and this is true with customer success stories. Brand is looking for consistency and legal is avoiding risk. The result is a story with words that are safe and generic instead of language that might be authentic or emotive. You get percentages, not actuals. You get “improved productity” not “increased production from 2000 to 20,000 gonculators an hour because Susan didn’t have to move the bin back and forth every ten minutes.” For prospective customers, the case studies look good and lend legitimacy to the offering. But for the rep, it is typically too abstract to use in conversations.
- Case Studies Take Forever – The process of gaining approval from brand and legal; of routing the copy by the customer featured in the case study (and their legal and brand teams) means that a brief, two -page piece of collateral may take months to complete and get into the hands of reps and prospects. Quota’s are made and missed in that timeframe – it’s just too long for sales.
- Case Study Format Doesn’t Aid Good Storytelling – Product management spent hours upon hours working directly with end-users or beta customers, learning about their jobs, identifying what challenges they have and how they work within their respective organizations. Product managers in return develop use scenarios and test them with focus groups. They develop prototypes and interview end-users to identify minimum requirements. Then they sit with users and guide them through new ways of doing their jobs. All the beefy knowledge that arises from the process is then reduced into a formulaic 300-words-or-less brief that goes: Situation, Problem, Action and Result.
- Case studies are a conversation killer – The most important aspect of a great story is the human element; real people dealing with real issues. It is that same human element, loaded with emotions and professional anxieties, that connects the stories of a manager at a pharmaceutical company with the vice president of client engagement at a management consulting firm. Since that kind of information is generally stripped out of the case study, prospects will quickly dismiss them as “too different” from what they’re facing. Sales reps will not get an opportunity to address questions that are never raised.
Sales enablement and alignment are much more important for B2B marketers than ever before. Simply put: sales reps depend on marketers to produce the right tools to meet the needs of increasingly educated buyers.
Create a Story Program Instead
Establishing a story program – where marketers, product managers, service reps and sales professionals record and share stories about customer successes, is a much more efficient, timely and effective way for employees to evangelize the brand. Since each person has different learning styles, viewing and hearing stories increases retention and improves the ability to delivery the story to others.
Stories collected for internal audiences speed the process greatly so that a successful engagement with a customer in Phoenix can be shared across a global organization in hours. And over time, brand-defining moments become a library for onboarding new sales reps and for upskilling existing ones.
If you’d like to learn more about how a story program could help your company, please contact us.
Mark Heisten is a seasoned marketing and business development executive with more than 20 years of experience at Fortune 100 firms and start-ups.