We are constantly asking our sales representatives for projects that we can use in case studies and project profiles. With blogs and social media now part of mainstream reading, content marketing has become imperative in order to share your brand and message.
We asked Tess Wittler, an experienced construction marketing professional, to share why case studies are important for our, and your, business and how it isn’t as daunting as one may think to write one. This article was published in November’s issue of the DHI Doors + Hardware Magazine and reprinted with their permission.
The Framework for Writing a Compelling Case Study by Tess Wittler
Does hearing the phrase, “We need a case study written on [blank]” make you cringe? If you are like many other architects, engineers and building material manufacturers I’ve worked with, you would rather pluck out every single nose hair one by one than write a case study. For ages, writing a case study in this industry seemed daunting and tiring, and when it was finished, it seemed as if you’d spent all this energy to create a dry, boring marketing piece that would rarely be used.
Not so! Content marketing has transformed how we look at our marketing materials, including case studies. In fact, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends – North America study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute / MarketingProfs, 82 percent of those responding said they use case studies as one of their content marketing tactics – second only to social media content (other than blogs).
Yes, despite so many in the building industry recognizing that they need to invest more in their content marketing efforts, many still aren’t – and their lack of energy toward this effort is precisely the opportunity that can catapult your organization ahead of the rest. Case studies are one of the key components to making this happen.
What is a Case Study?
Quite simply, a case study is nothing more than sharing your customers’ stories. While technically a case study provides detail about certain aspects of the particular products and/or services used, it all begins with your customers’ experience. In fact, many organizations call their case studies something else, like customer profiles or customer success stories.
Case studies have three goals: build credibility, educate the buyer, and provide validation of your products and services.
Build credibility: Consumers want the reassurance that a company they are considering doing business with will be around for years to come, and this has become particularly important post-recession. Not only do case studies communicate credibility, but they often also shorten the sales cycle and help sell more to existing customers (they will not look elsewhere because they trust you).
Educate the buyer: The solutions you provide are often complex, and for potential customers there is often a gap between the descriptions and how the product will work in their specific application. Case studies help illustrate your products and services in action.
Validate the results: With so many options out there, it is only natural for your potential customer to be a tad cynical. They’ve doen their research, talked to your competition and are comparing your solution to the others.
Why Case Studies Work in Marketing
When your company decides to embark on a case study marketing initiative, the goal is to leverage the stories – the experiences – of your satisfied customers. Every story told reinforces your capabilities and sets your company apart from the competition.
The “Sounds Like Me” Factor: Case studies are real-life examples that incorporate a human element that many other marketing materials lack. When the story becomes relatable because it is similar to the potential customer’s situation, it becomes a valuable aspect of the decision -making process.
“It is great to read a case study and relate it to similar situations in our company,” says Chris Matthews, CEO of National Custom Hollow Metal Doors & Frames based in Little Rock, Ark. “Sometimes the case study helps to confirm what we have or would have done in a similar situation. Better yet,” he says, it confirms “how to approach a new opportunity in the future for a more successful outcome.”
Trusting What Others Are Saying: People perceive less risk when others have successfully gone before them, and case studies accomplish this. We are more apt to trust what others say about a company, product or service than we are to trust the company itself.
Earlier this year, Lucy Sanguinetti of Albert & Associates, Architects based in Hattiesburg, Miss. reached out to Hager Companies. “I just read your article in Doors + Hardware magazine regarding the growing popularity of sliding doors” begins Lucy. “Do you have someone from your company who can travel to our office to do a lunch-and-learn presentation? Our firm has 11 employees, and all of our architects try to keep up with the popular trend sin design and building products .. and we have several upcoming projects that could benefit from this information.”
Hearing About Other People: Let’s face it, we all love to hear about other people. In fact, the human-interest stories in media are always the most captivating, and the customer stories provide the perfect framework to capture the human elements of just about any situation.
Valuable to Customers: While a case study is valuable to your organization, it also holds high value to the customer you are profiling. It’s free public relations (PR) for them, and they are eager to share your case study because it makes them look smart for selecting you for their project.
Chris Matthews participated in a case study written by Hager Companies for Doors + Hardware last fall. He explains, “We consider our company to be dedicated industry professionals, so our natural instinct is to give back when asked.” He continues, “Of course, being recognized is flattering and agreeing to be interviewed makes National Customer Hollow Metal Doors & Frames relevant, even for a brief period, and that in turn, gives our employees and customers a sense of pride.”
Strategic Approach to Case Studies
A strategic approach to creating case studies will ensure that the stories you write support your objectives. Case studies take a lot of time and energy, so you want to be sure that the ones you create will be used. This starts with a needs assessment.
To begin, take inventory of the case studies you already have, and associate a category or “theme” to them, such as products/services, industry, customer size, geography, the business problem addressed with solutions or other themes that matter to your company.
From there create a spreadsheet of the case studies you currently have and their associated themes (one case study may fall into more than one category). Once you have your inventory complete, determine what additional case studies you need to match your overall objectives and work towards identifying customer stories to fill those needs.
Creating case studies takes time, energy and even patience; it isn’t a quick process because you need to work withing your customers’ schedules for the interviews and approvals. But once you have a few completed, you’ll begin to see the power of using your most valuable, and trustworthy, marketing asset – your satisfied customers.
Tess Wittler is a freelance copywriter for the building industry. Check her website at www.tesswittler.com
To our customers and representatives, please let me know which Hager project you think would make a case study – I’m ready to write!