When customers see themselves in your case history, that's a win for content marketing.

Content Marketing: What Do Buyers Really Want from Case Histories?

What Buyers Really Want

Customers expect a lot from the case histories on your website. Do yours measure up?

Here’s the good news: great case histories can win a spot on a buyers’ shortlist, or break a tie between finalists.

In carefully considered purchases, buyers employ case histories to narrow the field of sellers as they construct a shortlist. An Eccolo Media study showed that 29% of buyers use case histories to evaluate options, and 33% use them to resolve concerns.

Here are 10 ways to make sure your case histories satisfy buyers’ every need:

Be relevant. Use buyer personas to screen case histories for relevance to customers. Look through customers’ eyes to find the case histories that can best solidify buying decisions.

Buyer personas enable you to intimately learn customers’ problems, in their own words. Personas reveal what buyers do to find answers, what are buyers’ moments of truth, and how buyers view your solution, compared with competitors.

Tell your customers’ story. A great case history is your customer’s story, well told, perhaps even in his or her own words. Make your customer the hero of the story.

To propel the story, focus on discovering the moments of truth that provide conflict, drama and action.

Name-drop shamelessly. Gain customers’ permission to use their names in case histories. How? Ask at the right moment, when they’re really happy with the results.

If you need to end-run gatekeepers, have your CEO ask the customer’s CEO.

Insight Q1 2014 Cover
Put your customers on the cover of your magazine.

Pump up customer egos with their photos and quotes. Feature them in videos, in your newsletter, and on the cover of your magazine.

Sometimes it’s not possible to get a customer’s permission. In that case, anonymize the case history. Case histories without a customer name are better than none.

Start with customers’ needs, goals and problems. These form the before of your before-and-after case history.

Go deep as you describe the nature of the problem. How did the story unfold? Did an acute problem crop up suddenly? Or did a customer address a chronic problem that had not been solved before?

How did your solution fit the problem, hand in glove? Was it off-the-shelf, or did it require custom work?

Spotlight what made the problem worse. Problems often get bigger before they get addressed. What circumstances aggravated your customer’s problem?

For example, did your customer face a tight timeframe, a limited budget, a tough environment, or a sudden setback?

Show that you understand your customers’ business. Make sure the story reflects a good working knowledge of your customers’ companies and businesses.

How? Quote customers in their own words. Speak the language of their industry. Ask your internal experts and the customer to check the case history before you publish.

Make it easy for buyers to identify with your customers. Buyers look for a mirror image of themselves – someone in their profession, at their level, with a similar or identical problem, who found a good solution.

As one buyer explained, case histories may drive buyers’ final decisions: “I consider Competitors A and B similar. A had more case histories of projects, but B’s projects were more similar to ours.”

Naturally, the buyer chose B, because those customer stories most resembled his own.

Spell out all the benefits. Benefits are the after in your before-and-after story. Show capabilities gained, money saved, time saved, and return on investment. Be exact.

To buyers, dollars saved are more compelling than percentage savings. If you use percentages, remember that precise numbers like 29% are more believable than round numbers like 30%.

Go beyond obvious benefits. Spell out qualitative as well as quantitative benefits. Look for benefits that were not initially clear, but became apparent to the customer later on.

Make it easy to read. Technical and operational buyers often read every detail, but executive or financial buyers may only want a quick summary. Always include an executive summary for busy executives.

Make case histories easy to skim. Break up copy with heads, subheads and bullet points. Keep it simple.

Organize case histories for instant relevance. Make it easy to find your case histories in various ways:

• By industry. A case history in the buyer’s industry demonstrates relevance and expertise.
• By type of facility. Librarians want to see other libraries, hospital administrators look for other hospitals, and so forth.
• By application. Spell out the exact applications – and be detailed.
• By size of company. Buyers from small companies may dismiss solutions that fit big companies, and vice versa.
• By location. Show customers who are located near the buyer, since buyers may seek to visit customers face to face.

A great case history is a mirror your buyers hold up, which reflects someone like them, with their needs, their problems, and a path to success – buying your solution.

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What Buyers Really Want