One of the best ways to attract more customers to your brand is to create social proof. People are more comfortable when they see other people who are “just like them” successfully use your product or service to solve a problem. However many entrepreneurs are not proactive in collecting social proof until they need it for something like a product launch. At that point, they find themselves fumbling at the last minute to collect whatever they can find.
One of the best ways to collect social proof for your business is to create a case study. A case study is a story explaining the results of your service and/or products as told by your ideal customer.
Why do case studies work?
Case studies work because they put your client at the forefront of your brand story. Rather than fill the front page of your website with your business mission and vision statement, why not demonstrate your mission and vision through the eyes of your ideal customers? Reading a case study, or a testimonial from an ideal client pushes the reader to think, “This sounds just like me!” Having your customer tell the story of how their lives were changed as a result of your work can be powerful.
Case studies also make excellent content. Rather than hassle yourself with creating fresh content daily, why not use your case studies as a way to batch content you can syndicate on your social media channels?
How to effectively collect case studies
Step #1: Choose your case study subjects wisely.
The first step to collecting an effective case study is to know that you have clients or customers whom you have served far beyond their expectations. Have you ever heard of the term, “Under-promise and over-deliver…?” This customer should have had an exemplary customer experience that went above and beyond what was written in the original business proposal or terms of service. You get bonus points if the customer had gone to similar businesses to solve their problem to no avail. This is a golden opportunity to get your customer to explain, in her own words, what your competitive advantage is over the others.
Step #2: Decide what medium you will use to collect your case studies.
The medium you use to collect your case studies is important. Video is king in social media right now. Try conducting an interview using Skype or another video based social media that allows you to bring on a guest. You can also choose to only record audio using Skype, a webinar tool, or even a free conference calling line. Bring your audio to life by asking your customer for a high quality, professional photo. Also, be sure to use their real name as people can sense a fraudulent testimonial from a mile away.
Step #3: Contact your potential case study participants.
You should have an idea of who would be a great case study participant. Think about your ideal client — who would your next potential client most identify with? You may have 1 to 3 different ideal client avatars in mind. Create a short email inviting them to participate in a case study. Be sure to include the following information.
- First, thank them for being a customer. Everyone wants to be appreciated.
- Tell them you’d like to share their success story with your audience.
- Tell them how you’d like to record their story (video, audio, etc.)
- Give them a deadline by which to respond with a yes or no.
- Offer them an incentive for saying yes to your invitation. This can be an opportunity to share their business website, 10% off their next visit, a personally signed copy of your book, etc.
Remember that your best clients are often busy people so you may have to send 2 to 3 emails in succession to remind them to respond with a yes or no. Plan on sending this email out at least 4 to 6 weeks before conducting the case study. This will give them time to comfortably fit the interview into their schedule.
Step #4: Conduct the interview.
Most small business owners should want to conduct the interview themselves. This is an important marketing activity that is closely related to income generation. The lessons learned from doing the interview yourself will inform how you attract your future clients. However there are times when hiring a freelance writer or an assistant may be the best person to do the job if you are doing other high profile activities.
Before starting the interview, invite your customer to come on 5 to 10 minutes before the interview start time to ensure the audio and/or video is working properly. Be sure to make your customer feel comfortable by thanking them for their time and making small talk. You want your customer to give a natural response to your questions.
It’s also important to be clear on the kinds of questions you will ask your customer. Here are a few questions to help guide you in the right direction:
- Ask them to explain what they do in their business and the problem they were experiencing. If they are not a business owner, ask them to explain, briefly, about the challenge they were having before coming to you.
- How big was the problem they were experiencing? Try to get them to explain their pain in detail and what it was costing them — money, their quality of life, lost opportunities, etc.
- What had they done to solve their problem before coming to you?
- What attracted them to working with you?
- What was the experience like working with you and/or your staff?
- What surprised them the most about working with you? This is an opportunity for the customer to explain how you went above and beyond their expectations.
- Ask the customer if they would recommend your services to others and why.
Step #5: Transcribe and repurpose your interview.
You should be clear about what channels you will use to share your case study interviews. Rather than just post the video or audio on YouTube only, think about how you can batch and repurpose this new content so that your message is syndicated across multiple platforms.
- Your website: Post the transcript and video/audio on your blog. Also, find short quotes you can use in strategic places on your website, i.e., the home page, about page, testimonials page, products and services page, etc. Don’t forget to include their photo.
- Facebook Live: What are 3 to 5 key results pulled from your case studies you can share with your Facebook business page audience or group? This is a great way to promote your “discovery session” or advertise the next step to working with you.
- Instagram: Can you pull out 5 or more short quotes from your customer that can be posted on top of a beautiful graphic?
- Pinterest: The same quotes and pictures from Instagram can be used on Pinterest. If there is an obvious flow or concept that can be explained using an infographic, you can share that here.
- YouTube: Chop the video up into smaller sound bites that can be used as a quick commercial for your business.
- Twitter: Take the Instagram and Pinterest posts and schedule them to post automatically on Twitter.
- Podcast: Turn your audio into a podcast. You can use iTunes, Soundcloud, or a host of other podcasting tools to spread your message.
- Snapchat: Cut your video into snaps that can be uploaded into your stories.
- Lead Magnet: Every entrepreneur should be concerned with continuously building her email list everyday. Gather 2 to 3 of your best case studies and turn it into a lead magnet. Further expound on your clients’ success in an autoresponder series.
- Ebook or Printed Material: If you meet someone at a conference or networking event that you would love to work with, why not further introduce yourself to them by giving them a printed copy of your case study or follow up with them via email with a link to your ebook? You may also utilize it during the onboarding process for new clients to keep them excited about working with you after they have made a payment.
- Press Release: Use some of the most impressive quotes from your interview as part of a press release to unveil a new product launch.
Case studies can become an ongoing part of your marketing process to help you stay on top of what is working best for your clients and customers. Once you understand what is working, it makes it much easier to build a growth plan that can build your business sustainably for years to come.