The Importance of Using Case Studies in B2B Marketing and PR

In marketing and PR terms, a case study is usually a written account (increasingly also produced in video format) of a project or application where a company’s products or services have been used to good effect. When drafted and used correctly, case studies are a rich powerful tool that can provide you with a whole host of collateral to use for your marketing and PR. We’ve pulled together a selection of tips that we think will help you get the most out of case study content:

1. Customer perspective
Creating a balanced case study is key to having something that will provide you with shareable content. While you want to showcase how effective your product or service has been, you don’t want to be overly gushing about it. Keep to the facts, how did you help your customer? Can you add any measurable values to it? For example did you save them money or time on a project? How much? Use values that will allow readers to build up a tangible picture in their head of just how valuable you are.

2. Structure it
Implement a house style for your case studies, this makes it easier and less time consuming for you to draft, and easier for the reader to absorb. A standard case study structure might look something like this:a.
a. The challenge faced – use this to create context for the reader
b. The solution you provided  – how did you address the issue?
c. The results – try to use measurable, numerical data to build a clearer view
d. Lessons learned – not always essential but can add value

3. Seek approval
Pictures are a great way to bring your story to life, and a must for breaking up big chunks of text, however if you don’t have access to your own photography don’t use images from websites without permission. While it might seem long-winded, it is worth the effort to gain third party approval rather than face the consequences of using material without consent.

4. Follow protocol
This ties in with seeking approval, but if you want higher value content it really is worth putting in the legwork to build relationships with third parties in order to get what you need. If there is a chain of approval, follow it. If the person you’re speaking with suddenly becomes distant or reluctant, stress that you appreciate their time is valuable and you’re hoping to pull something together that will be of benefit to everyone.

5. Treat it as raw content
While it might be easy to file the case study away and class it as a box ticking procedure, don’t let your efforts go to waste! Treat your case study as a raw piece of reusable content, which you can use in a number ways such as:

  • Twitter: Tweet short, succinct fast facts
  • Website content: Host a case study page on your website
  • LinkedIn: Share via your LinkedIn status but also in relevant industry group discussions
  • Sales collateral: Use in direct / email marketing campaigns to attract new customers
  • Press material: Case studies are really just stories, this makes them perfect for feature placement in industry magazines or use quotes from case studies in press releases
  • Internal communication: Don’t forget to share your success stories with the entire business, be proud of your work!
  • Industry awards: Add some credibility to your award entry by using your case study as a customer reference/testimonial

Remember, in B2B marketing case studies really are one of the most valuable tools you can produce. While you can sometimes be met with some resistance it’s worth persevering so you have a bank of evidence that shows why your brand is worth shouting about.

How Do You Draft Award-winning Copy?

As we approach award season – across various sectors – we are beginning to prepare entries for our clients, but just how do you draft award-winning copy?

  1. Stick to the word count
    This might seem obvious, but it’s very important. I have lost count of the number of times I have drafted an award entry and sifted through trying to remove every irrelevant ‘that’, ‘the’ and adjective, it is tedious. But the word count is there for a reason. Sadly while you may think your latest campaign deserves 1,000 words instead of 500, nobody else does. Challenge yourself to be eloquent enough in the limit you have been given. Judges have many entries to read through, if it says 500 words is the limit, stick to it.
  2. Keep it to the point
    This ties in with sticking to the word count that has been set, but while you are drafting the entry keep refreshing yourself with the question, are you really answering it? Or have you gone off on a tangent?
  3. If allowed, use supporting evidence and/or references
    Alongside writing an award entry it can sometimes be a challenge to obtain supporting evidence, such as case studies or references from customers. However if the opportunity allows you to provide this detail then it really is a must, it will strengthen your case and set you apart from the competition.
  4. Avoid industry jargon
    While you may be proud of being fluent in a sector not known to most, now is not the time to show off! Industry jargon can be off-putting, hard to decipher and frankly it’s just not necessary! Don’t hinder your chances just tell it how it is in plain English.
  5.  Proof read!
    This really can be as simple as hitting ‘spell check’ on your keyboard, just make sure your language settings are sent to English UK! Another function I like to use is the dictation setting, it’s really helpful to listen to your copy being read back to you. It’s perfectly understandable that after reading through your entry what feels like a million times, it can be hard to see the wood from the tress with accuracy. Using the dictation setting is really useful for flagging any grammatical mistakes or missing/additional words.
  6. Ask someone else to sense-check
    As I’ve said, you’ve read your entry what feels like a million times, you’ve removed as many words as possible without it sounding like bad English but ask someone else to have a read through as well. Give them the entry criteria to make a call as to whether they think you’ve answered the question, and ask them to pick up on any spelling and grammar mistakes.
  7.  Check it again – have you kept to the brief?
    Are you happy with what you have written? Remind yourself of the category, the brief, look through your draft and check your words against the criteria to make sure you’ve met it correctly. Ask yourself if you think this is the best it can be possibly be.
  8.  Keep to the deadline
    Now we all know that award entries are renowned for being extended, we also know that despite this we are always undoubtedly drafting copy right up to the eleventh hour! So, first of all don’t assume the deadline will be extended – they might call your bluff. Secondly, draft a timeline with actions, responsibilities and deadlines. This will help you to manage the process through far more efficiently. It’s also handy to have all the actions that need to be completed in front of you as a good starting point.
  9. Show some enthusiasm!
    You’d like to win right? Of course of you would! So make it sound like it. Be proud of your work, this is your chance to tell someone who knows absolutely nothing about your project and all that you have done to make it a success. I like to think of it as if I’m explaining to my parents what I do for a living…! Write with enthusiasm, this is your chance to shine.
  10. Be realistic
    You may have followed all the guidelines, and written the most compelling entry that you possibly can, but remember it’s a competition. The judges will receive many entries, and it’s difficult to make an impact when you’re up against 10, 20 or even 30 decent entries for your category. Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t make the shortlist and you’ve done your best, there will always be other opportunities

The TMPR Guide to Strong Media Relations

The new media revolution has placed more of an emphasis on digital PR in recent years, however, that’s not to say that traditional media relations is less important. Whether your news is good or bad, having a solid relationship with your core media can really make a difference. Here is TMPR’s guide to strong media relations…

 

Build relationships

Good media relations is strategic and planned. It should form the spine of any PR campaign, particularly in the early stages. By building robust relationships with your core media early you make it easier to generate quality coverage moving forward.
Face-to-face meetings are by far the best way to start building a relationship with journalists and commentators. This does mean that you should allow time in your diary to get out there and meet them. You can also invite them to your trade shows and exhibitions or to visit your own site when you have new developments or something interesting going on.
Remember that journalists and bloggers speak to lots of people and organisations everyday so make sure you have a quality press pack to leave with them. This will give journalists something to reference in the future and will make your organisation stand out.

Know your audience

Make sure you are aware of the types of topics your target journalists are interested in and have a good understanding of their recent work. Also, use your PR team to find out how your target journalists like to work and what their deadlines and press days are. Journalists work under a lot of pressure and disturbing them when their publication goes to print in a couple of hours is not a good way to build a positive relationship.

Deliver on your promises

If you are set a deadline by a journalist make sure you hit it. These deadlines are based on when publications go to print and if editors miss their deadline because you failed to send them your article in time – don’t expect to get another opportunity with that publication anytime soon.

Be available

Make yourself available and useful. Once a journalist or editor knows you are a good source of comment or insight for their publication they are more likely to seek you out for future content. Make yourself available to speak with them whenever you can.

 

Download the ‘TMPR Guide to Strong Media Relations’ here.

How to Create Powerful Case Studies & Testimonials

Potential customers and clients want to know that your company has clients who are completely satisfied. This supports the notion that your company offers quality products, expert services, and exceptional customer support.

 

This evidence often comes in the form of testimonials and case studies, both of which have an important place in your marketing content library. So here is TMPR’s guide to effective case studies and testimonials…

Testimonials

Client testimonials are short, focused quotes — typically no more than a few sentences — from customers willing to speak on the record about a specific aspect of your business. For example: a testimonial about the quality of a product, or its multiple uses; the warranty or customer service provided by your company; or an expert and responsive technical support or implementation team. Testimonials are useful for web content, social media output and for quotes used by journalists and bloggers.

Case studies

Case studies are more in-depth stories that usually follow a challenge-solution-results structure and can touch on a number of topics related to how your company met a customer’s need or solved a problem and produced measurable results. They are often the result of several interviews and multiple drafts.

An important difference is that sometimes a testimonial can be obtained from a customer with only the individual’s approval to use their quote, whereas a case study often must go through more formal approval channels with the customer, including their marketing and sales departments.

Ways to use customer testimonials

  • Add them as sidebars to relevant web pages
  • Compile a number of testimonials into a single marketing collateral piece
  • Add testimonials to proposals or letters to potential customers
  • Use testimonials on campaign landing pages
  • Include them as slides in a presentation
  • Use them in relevant press releases
  • Create testimonials as brief videos, in addition to print

Ways to use case studies

  • Create a library of case studies in PDF format that can be downloaded from your web site
  • Send them to potential customers by e-mail as part of lead-nurturing programs
  • Include them as downloads when exhibiting at a virtual event
  • Use them to pitch stories to media outlets such as industry web sites and online publications

Ask the right questions

The testimonials you get from customers will only be as compelling as the questions you ask them to answer and provide a quote for. Here are some example questions that can elicit compelling answers.

 

  • What is the single greatest benefit you realised in working with our company?
  • What is the single greatest benefit you realised by using our product/service?
  • How would you describe the return on investment you achieved by using a product or working with the company?
  • What might have happened if you had not chosen to work with our company or invest in our product/service?
  • What advice would you give to other companies who are in the market for a type of product or service?
  • How would you describe your overall experience working with our company?

 

Developing an effective case study typically involves a more in-depth interview, as well as expansive or open-ended questions around the customer’s challenge, solution selected, and return on investment. Here are some examples:

 

The problem

  • Describe the business problem/challenge that you were trying to solve.
  • What impact did this problem have on your business?
  • How have you addressed this issue in the past?

 

The solutions

  • How did you hear about our company/product?
  • Why did you decide to use us/it for your solution?
  • Briefly describe the solution and how it was deployed.
  • Comment on the people you worked with?

 

The results

  • Tell us how the solution helped solve your business problem/challenge.
  • What benefits did you derive from the solution?
  • What has been the measurable impact on your business of deploying this solution (i.e., increase in revenues, savings/productivity gains, safety gains, or return on investment)?

How to develop effective case studies and testimonials

Work with your sales and customer support teams to identify customers who would make good candidates for a testimonial or case study. Have the sales person make the introduction. Ask about their willingness to participate and how the approval process at their company will work. Find out who will sign off on the testimonial or case study.

Let customers know you are recording all interviews; also keep e-mail correspondence to have an audit trail for customer quotes.
Reassure the customer or client that nothing they have said will be used until they have given their full written approval.

 

Download the ‘TMPR Guide to Powerful Case Studies & Testimonials’ here.

 

The TMPR Guide to Digital PR

As technology continues to advance, particularly mobile and smart phone devices, the divide between digital and ‘traditional’ PR continues to shrink at a rapid pace.

 

Any potential customer is almost certain to make a web search their first port of call when researching a supplier and your company’s digital footprint is there for all to see. Companies that are digitally savvy are turning this to their advantage with the PR team taking the lead. Here, our TMPR experts offer a few pointers.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Since Google’s recent updates to its algorithm, any decent SEO strategy is based on quality, dynamic, multi-media content including blogs, social media interaction and regularly updated web content. Within any organisation, the PR team is best placed to produce regular quality content and those with successful SEO strategies have PR at their core.
Improved search visibility helps marketing efforts and it can attract analysts, journalists and bloggers researching your industry.

Social media

Understanding social media is an important part of a digital PR effort. The audience a company is trying to reach or influence will spend time on, and being influenced by, social media. Social participation in a digital PR program means connecting with and engaging influentials and customers to perpetuate a positive brand image as well as identifying and empowering brand ambassadors. Proactive optimisation of social media content and building relationships with fans helps dispel negative brand attention and accentuate what’s positive. It is essential to be open with and useful to social communities and to adhere to both implicit and explicit ‘social rules’ rather than just dropping links to what you’re promoting.

Digital assets

Digital assets such as video, audio, blogs, pod casts, images and online communities are all essential tools for successful digital PR and will all have a positive impact on SEO. Keywords still have a role to play here to make sure you get the most from your digital assets and sites such as Flickr and Youtube are integral to your strategy.

Blogging

When done right, a company blog can be an incredible PR asset. A company blog is an opportunity for a brand to create and publish its own content to a relevant online audience of key stakeholders and opinion formers. Well-optimised and linked blog posts can rank well in the search engines which makes them easy to find for journalists and bloggers researching stories.  Blogger relations is often more successful when the company being pitched has its own blog to point to.

Search and social media monitoring

Producing quality digital content is only half the battle and with all this additional content out there, there is more chance for both positive and negative brand mentions to occur. As with traditional PR, monitoring the result of your digital activity is essential in refining and improving your strategy and there are plenty of tools available to help digital PR practitioners keep on top of the online conversations around their brand. Companies can set up free alerts using tools like Google Alerts, Social Mention or Twitter to watch for mentions of their brand name, competitors’ names, industry news and can respond accordingly. Being seen to respond quickly and positively to negative mentions can give your brand a real boost as well as nip any potential crisis in the bud.

 

Download the ‘TMPR Guide to Digital PR’ here.