By: Brian Moore
Case studies are essential for B2B audiences, however creating them can seem daunting—here’s some help to clear common story development roadblocks from research to publishing.
The first line of my Godfrey blogger bio reads: “I love talking to engineers.” And why? Because, during three decades of B2B writing and content development, I’ve learned that engineers and technology-oriented professionals with engineering backgrounds have great stories to tell:
Engineers make great sources for case studies. Equally important to B2B marketers, case studies are incredibly popular with engineering audiences.
In a 2017 IEEE study on Marketing to Engineers, it was reported that, worldwide, engineers prefer case studies and application notes and find significant value in them: 81 percent of respondents surveyed ranked case studies and application notes as either very or moderately valuable.
Clearly, a steady stream of case studies can be a powerful tool for building a technology company’s brands and contribute to success on the B2B buyer’s journey.
However, there is one drawback: Most experienced B2B marketers know that getting the story—from the first word about a possible success story, down to getting an article written, reviewed, completed and approved—usually involves a lot of legwork and (not infrequently) a lot of dead ends, wrong turns, and barriers to completion along the way.
A fundamental building block for Godfrey’s B2B success has been a focus on story development. Our integrated PR, advertising and marketing communications efforts always include specific plans for working with our clients to identify their success stories, then investing time and effort to capture and tell those stories across as many channels as possible.
Through these programs, our creative and client service teams have developed extensive experience with case study development within the B2B industry. That experience has provided insight into many of the common obstacles and challenges associated with developing this valued content.
We know “the rules of the road” from long experience– where the bumps and sudden turns are, and how to plan the journey to get a finished story done in optimum time.
What are the typical obstacles to efficiently creating a good B2B case study for engineering audiences?
Planning is the most effective strategy for efficient and effective case study production. With the right planning and forethought, the obstacles listed above can be dealt with.
At Godfrey, we have leveraged decades of successful case study development to create dependable, repeatable process for finding good stories, capturing the input and insight needed to complete good drafts, and then managing the review process in a way that keeps the momentum going to a finished story ready to be used.
Content strategies: Having good content strategies that specifically incorporate plans for case studies creates a framework to begin the search for case studies. Content strategies should be part of annual PR or marketing programs for your clients or specific to a target market or technology.
Identifying the potential number of stories and where they fit into the content strategy’s editorial calendar gets the information-gathering process rolling. It also makes it possible for your marketing client to get buy-in from product management, salesforce and engineering management, committing them to helping you produce good case studies.
Simple story start-up tools: We have a standard “New Case Study Backgrounder” that captures basic information about the opportunity. Basic end-user contact information is captured, and then eight short qualifying questions lay the groundwork. Questions can include: the situation before your client’s technology was considered, why the end-user first considered your client’s offerings or solutions, summarize the key steps in the project from initial startup to completion. The Backgrounder should also document any mention of collaboration/cooperation/original thinking your client provided to the end-user customer.
Having this baseline information makes it much easier for you and your client to make the decision to invest in a full case study. It typically provides enough background to begin prepping for subject matter expert input.
If you’ve gotten this far and have the approvals you need and the background on the story, it’s time to begin full scale research and writing. In Part 2 of this blog post, we will step you through what it takes to complete an effective case study. We’ll identify some of the obstacles you may encounter and how to overcome them and provide details on some of the tools and approaches Godfrey uses to create strong case studies.