Top tips: How to produce a good case study
By Jenny Roper Friday, 10 August 2012
PrintWeek is publishing a series of cut-out-and-keep guides to promote practical and affordable methods of improving business performance. In this edition, we look at capitalising on good news stories
You’ve worked tirelessly over the past few months to produce a job for a customer that exactly matches their creativity, price and perhaps environmental criteria. The run has been completed, you’ve billed the client, and the feedback once the job has been delivered is glowing. Job done. Or is it?
Rather than sitting back satisfied, printers would be well advised to squeeze as much value from this success story as possible. That is, with new business tougher and tougher to come by these days, a happy customer can be valuable currency, enabling a printer to show off to other current and prospective clients and so bring in more business.
And just casually referring in a sales pitch to how pleased another customer was recently with your services might not hold huge amounts of sway. Much more effective will be if the customer themselves sings your praises in the form of a well-researched and structured, written case study. PrintWeek’s second ‘Top tips guide’ shows you how to produce one.
IDENTIFY THE IDEAL STORY
Choose interesting yet relevant examples The best case studies will be ones where the customer has entrusted you with a service that others are certainly contemplating, but perhaps need a little extra push to sign up for. Case studies can be surprisingly time-consuming to research and write up so it’s important that you identify examples that will be of broad enough appeal to make producing them worthwhile, but unusual enough that they will grab people’s interest and demonstrate the innovative added value on offer (no one wants to read, or will be impressed by, case study after case study about run-of-the-mill print jobs being successfully completed).
Check the client is happy Always make sure that the subject of your prospective case study is happy with the platforms you will be communicating their details on. Some customers might not want to be included in an award entry or have their case study posted online, so it’s important to check. Ensure also that the customer isn’t going to have to share any confidential or sensitive information for the case study to work. You can reassure any clients concerned about the possibility of accidentally including such details, by offering them full copy approval once you’ve written the piece.
HOW TO WRITE THE PIECE
Start work sooner rather than later Once you’ve decided on a particular project, strike while the iron is hot. Leaving it too long before you ask the customer and your colleagues for help will mean that the details won’t be as fresh in their minds, so start work as soon as the job has been successfully completed.
Ask lots of questions Get an idea of how the job was executed from a colleague at the company, but be sure to then also get the whole story from the customer to ensure that the case study is written from their perspective. Ask them what the original brief was, what challenges were overcome, what options there were for fulfilling the brief, why certain choices were made, what the result was and what the benefits were.
Include plenty of hard evidence to prove what was achieved The more you can emphasise what the results were for the customer the better, as this is what prospective customers will be interested in. So ask the company for stats on how effective the job has been, such as how much less costly the job was than the customer had expected, how quickly it was delivered or, in the case of a direct mail piece, how much higher the response rates were than the customer had anticipated. You might want to include a ‘Key benefits’ box-out, clearly summarising what was achieved.
Include testimonials Remember that the reason a formal case study is so much better than just anecdotal evidence from your sales team, is that it is a way for you to promote yourself through the unbiased – and so much more persuasive – medium of your customer’s words. So be sure to include lots of direct quotes.
Structure the case study in three sections Have the fact that you are telling a story in mind when you write the piece. The reader needs to be led logically through its beginning, middle and end, starting with the problem that existed, the solution you provided and the result it then achieved. This will give the story a narrative structure.
Be sure to strike a balance between including a good level of detail, to ensure the reader is not left with unanswered questions at the end, and making the piece accessible enough that it doesn’t bamboozle all but the most experienced and techy print buyers. Once you’ve finished writing, proofread it thoroughly for grammatical and factual errors, and then send to the client for approval.
Include an attention-grabbing headline Something catchy like ‘Response rates soar with new mail format’, will be much more effective than ‘X Company produce another print job’.
Remember to include pictures Get relevant images of the completed job and its implementation, in a retail setting for instance, or with the person giving the testimonial holding it or standing proudly by it. Pictures will make the document much livelier and more enticing to read. And, with print a visual medium after all, they will better showcase just what was achieved.
GETTING THE STORY OUT
PDFs are a good format This can be the best way to email and print case studies as you can incorporate both text and images into an eye-catching format, rather than relying on the recipient to open various Word documents and picture attachments.
Choose recipients judiciously Make sure you’re targeting companies that might be interested in harnessing for themselves the key benefits outlined in your case study. In fact, a lot of companies reserve case studies for use in one-to-one meetings with clients, where a print-out of the case study PDF acts as strong marketing collateral that the customer can then take away with them.
Incorporate case studies into sales pitches Make your work go further by editing the case study into bullet points for the sales team to use, where relevant, in presentations.
Post them on your website Some companies protect these with a data wall, whereby the viewer has to enter their details to read the piece. This can be a good way of gaining data on who’s potentially interested in this offering.
Present them live at conferences and exhibitions Joint presentations between you and the client at trade exhibitions such as Cross Media 2012, are a great way of showcasing your success story further. The conversations you’ve had to produce the initial case study will hopefully have paved the way for a successful presentation partnership.
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