Content marketing is a high priority for many businesses, and the proportion of a marketing budget that is typically allocated to content marketing is growing.
It will not surprise you to learn that for technology companies, customer case studies are extremely popular for content marketing. To be effective for content marketing, a story has to be unique and it should not be available anywhere else on the Internet so case studies are ideal.
However, companies can work with other forms of content as well. “How To” articles and guides to best practice are popular too. A new piece of research, presented as a report, can work particularly well, because the information it contains is genuinely valuable to the reader.
While this sounds easy, many businesses are finding it challenging to create enough “content” that is of sufficient quality to be attractive as a content download and many companies are struggling. It requires an editorial approach and a “content strategy”, plus some investment in research and careful writing to create the kind of genuinely worthwhile documents which the website visitor will want to download and view.
It takes more effort than many people realise, but if you compare content marketing with other ways of making new marketing contacts, such as gaining sales leads at a trade show, or staging a marketing campaign with a publisher, you soon realise that if it is to be effective, it is unlikely to be easy or free.
Here’s a quick article to suggest some more ways to use those valuable customer stories. Ideally you would make a case study for every market sector you sell to. First, collect the details of the story and have it written up as a case study, to make a marketing document that can be used as a sales tool. Then..
Case studies for marketing
- Number one on my list has to be Content Marketing because it has become so important. There are a few different ways of doing this, but the principle is simply to display a brief version of the story on your website, and collect the email addresses of the visitors downloading the story.
- Use the customer story in a PR campaign. Interesting stories about well-known organisations and forays into new technology are very often suitable for editorial news and features.
- Email marketing – refer to the customer story in an email marketing message, and use a link to track “opens”. Many companies are now using a marketing automation system such as Hubspot to streamline this process.
- Share the case study with existing customers. A new case study is a great topic for a company newsletter or a presentation to a user group.
- A ground-breaking case study is a brilliant topic for a conference presentation.
- Do something different and present the story in other ways – for example it’s no trouble to use a smartphone to make a video for posting and sharing.
- I have seen detailed technical case studies being used very successfully for training sales people and distributors overseas.
- Why not enter a customer success story for an industry award?
- Add case studies to tender submissions to build credibility and strengthen a bid for a major contract.
- Finally, this is one to make your internal team feel connected with customers, even if they are not in customer-facing roles. Use glossy pictures of customers using your products to brighten up your offices. It’s also good to have them in reception and meeting rooms. Of course, this only works for certain kinds of products and services!
With so many ways to use a customer case study, I believe it is well worth taking the trouble to put a story together and have it written in the right style and format for your business. The first customer in a new market sector could be an ideal candidate for a case study, as their story will help to gain a foothold and build credibility in the new market area. Ideally your case study library will contain examples from every sector of your customer base. Depending upon how you plan to use your case study, you may need anything from 500 to 1,500 words of text, but the average length for a business case study is usually between 800 and 1,000 words. That’s long enough to convey a lot of detail, but still short enough to be an easy read.
Recently, I found myself scanning through a catalogue of about 1,000 exhibitors, looking for companies who supply some particular products I am researching.
Writing catalogue entries is usually treated as a rushed administrative task, but could it affect the outcome you get from a tradeshow?
Many entries state that their company is “leading”. Sadly, this is meaningless corporate vanity. It’s also subjective, and editors usually remove “leading” from any edited, published PR content. Besides that, it doesn’t tell anyone what your company does.
At this particular show, a number of companies wrote that they have been in business for 40 years. Well to me, that makes you sound old fashioned if you are a technology vendor, and implies that you might still be doing things the way you did then. Although the history is interesting, I would add it as a statement at the end of the catalogue entry. I am interested in what you have achieved, and in particular what you have achieved recently – and what you have that is new at this show.
Ideally, the catalogue entry will answer the questions – who are you? what do you do? And what can you do for me? And if what you are selling is really your expertise, why not state the exact areas where you have this expertise? It’s particularly important for a newcomer to the market to get the messaging right.
I think there is often reluctance to be so specific in the description of a company’s service, in case any broader sales opportunities may be closed off. However, for most SME companies and technical companies the key to success is specialising in what you do and delivering a better product or service than the competition. If you can begin to convey this in your PR, trade show marketing and catalogue entries, then there’s a far more compelling reason to bring people to your show stand.