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ClickInsights: How should case studies be used in marketing activities versus sales activities?

ClickInsights is an Expert Interview Series brought to you by Connect the Docs (ClickDocuments blog). In ClickInsights Expert Interview Series we feature "top-notch" industry experts and thought leaders and get their insights, opinions and predictions. We also ask for their suggestions on what reports, whitepapers etc to read to keep abreast with latest trends in their industry.

Marketing teams and sales teams are different within a company. Marketing team within a company works to put together and publish case studies to highlight their solutions and products. Sales teams need to engage with prospects through various phases - pre-sales, nurturing them, educating them, contracts, actual sales and post-sales. Marketing customer engagement is clearly very early stage as compared to sales customer engagement.  We asked case study experts "How case studies should be used in marketing activities versus sales activities?". We also asked them to share their insights on the following questions:

  • What is Marketing Team's objective in creating a Case Study?
  • How does a Marketing Team use a Case Study?
  • How does a Sales Team use a Case Study?
  • How can a Marketing Team use a Case Study more effectively than they normally do?
  • How can a Marketing Team effectively use a Case Study through various phases of customer engagement?  

Recommended Resources from Experts on Case Studies

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Cindy King

Blog CindyKing Twitter CindyKing

 “It is important for sales and marketing teams to be aware of each others needs and market needs”

Cindy King's Bio

Cindy King is a Cross-Cultural Marketer & International Sales Specialist based in France.  She uses her dual background in sales & marketing, in international business development, to help businesses improve their international sales conversion. She is also adept at content marketing, international web marketing and social media marketing. 

Cindy King's Tip

Collaboration between sales teams and marketing teams is essential.  You get better case studies when both teams are working towards the same goals.

Here’s why…

The marketing goals for a case study fall into three main categories: to bring credibility, to educate and to validate.  Salespeople need to address all three of these to make sales. Marketers need to keep a clear focus on this goal to create good case study.

And there is something else to remember…

Sales professionals have an accurate picture of what kind of case studies would help them do their jobs.  They can usually bring insights into current trends and even insider news that could be valuable in creating the case study.  Sales teams bring feedback to improve a case study’s relevance for a market’s specific needs. When you use this feedback within a solid marketing plan your case studies become much more effective.

It is important for sales and marketing teams to be aware of each other's needs and to cultivate communication around market needs and the role case studies can play.  A fruitful dialogue can often highlight the need for more credibility, or education, or validation, in different areas of business. When sales teams know what to look out for this usually helps to find the right clients to approach for future case studies.  Teamwork between sales and marketing teams gives you a stronger case study marketing program.

Cindy King Recommends

Casey Hibbard

Blog Stories That Sell Twitter Casey_Hibbard

“Integrate the happy customer's voice in nearly all communications throughout sales and marketing”

Casey Hibbard's Bio

Casey Hibbard is the founder and principal of Compelling Cases, Inc. Over the past decade, she has created and managed nearly 500 customer stories for dozens of companies, including Level 3, USA.NET, Jobfox, Qwest, Great-West Healthcare, Vocus and Verio. She is the author of the first published book on the topic of customer case studies, Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset.

Casey Hibbard's Tip

The lines of case study usage between marketing and sales teams are often a little blurred. The reason: Not every buyer follows the exact same path in the marketing and sales processes, so case studies show up at different points in the cycle.
 
For example, marketing teams create customer case studies usually in a couple of formats - the website format and a downloadable PDF, or maybe a customer video. On the company's website, those serve as educational pieces for buyers to review on their own, perhaps before ever calling the company for more information. But also, sales reps refer to that same content when engaging with prospects in the sales process. They email them to prospects, hand them out, or link to them. It's the same content but used in different stages.
 
However, at times there are differences in how marketing and sales use the customer's story. Marketing might also use case study content in various forms in advertisements, newsletters, blogs, direct marketing, live events, for industry awards, contributed articles or pitching to the media. Sales then uses the content in PowerPoint presentations, sales letters, live in sales conversations, and proposals. They can even leverage them to upsell to current customers.
 
Both teams can use their case study "content," not just the full written case study, more effectively by integrating the happy customer's voice in nearly all communications throughout sales and marketing. Few organizations do this well, but it pays off for those that do.

Casey Hibbard Recommends

Jonathan Kranz

Blog Kranzcom Twitter jonkranz

"The case study is essentially a marketing, rather than sales, tactic"

Jonathan Kranz's Bio

Today, Jonathan Kranz enjoys the confidence of numerous clients and agencies, but unlike most independent copywriters, his career didn't begin with them. Instead, he had stints as a follow-spot operator in a regional theater, a park ranger on an allegedly haunted island in Boston Harbor, and as a summarizer of documents in large-scale litigations (think: Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener). After completing his MFA in Creative Writing in 1995 (and publishing a number of short stories in literary journals such as the Missouri Review and the Green Mountains Review), he leap-frogged agency life and jumped into freelancing with both feet. Since then, he has written a huge stack of content, advertising, direct marketing, and public relations materials for consumer and B2B clients in financial services, banking, insurance, high-tech, healthcare, education, and other industries.

Jonathan Kranz's Tip

Frankly, the case study is essentially a marketing, rather than sales, tactic. (No one will sign on the dotted line based on the strength of a case study alone.) As a marketing effort, case studies can help you:

  • Demonstrate how your product/service works in action
  • Clarify the role and purpose of your product/service
  • Reinforce credibility by articulating a real-life (rather than theoretical) application
  • Build trust by centering your product/service story on someone prospects can empathize with — customers like themselves

And the beautiful thing is, the case study is “green” content (yeah, what the heck, I’ll jump on the emerald bandwagon, too): it’s a make-once, recycle-many-times tactic that can (and should be) used for:

  • Website content
  • Something to talk about on your blog and on Twitter
  • Something to distribute as social media fodder
  • Part of a direct mail package (sure beats the slim-jim brochure)
  • Part of a press kit — terrific material for reporters and editors
  • Sales call leave-behinds
  • Trade show handouts
  • Follow-ups to inbound inquiries

If you’d like to learn more about how to write case studies, I invite you to download my free ebook: Making Your Case: Everything You and Your Colleagues Need to Write Compelling, Lead-Generating Case Studies.

Jonathan Kranz Recommends

Michele Linn

Blog Savvy B2B Marketing Twitter MicheleLinn

"Marketing teams should use case studies to generate interest and sales team should use them in a more customized way"

Michele Linn's Bio

Michele Linn is a freelance marketing writer specializing creating buyer-focused B2B marketing content, such as white papers, research reports, feature articles and case studies.  Her business is devoted to making the job of B2B marketers easier by producing effective content and providing insights on how they can market it. Her website is Linn Communications.

Michele Linn's Tip

Case studies are content-rich goldmines for both marketing and sales. Both groups are thrilled to have new story because they feature the voice of the customer and automatically lend credibility to their solution. However, both of these groups use the case studies differently.

Marketing uses case studies to generate interest and move prospects through the sales cycle.  In general, they are looking for stories that have wide appeal. In some cases, the case studies are simply posted to the website, but there are so many more ways that they can be used. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Pull quotes can be used on the website and in presentations.
  • The content from the case study can be used in white papers and eBooks to show how a user has been successful.
  • Excerpts of the customer success can be used in newsletters (both internal and external).
  • Content can be used for press releases and articles (getting the customer’s permission, of course).
  • Case studies can be used as next steps for any type of marketing content.

On the other hand, sales relies on case studies to help them close sales, and they often use them in a more customized way, looking for customer references that really address the specific pains and questions faced by each customer. For instance, earlier in the sale cycle, quotes and facts from case studies can be referenced in sales presentations, matching clients who are in a similar industry and role. As another example, when clients are ready to purchase, sales can use specific customer quotes and results in proposals.

Michele Linn Recommends

Sarah Mitchell

Blog Global Copywriting Twitter globalcopywrite

"Marketing department should consider the case study as more than a lead generation tool"

Sarah Mitchell's Bio

Sarah Mitchell is a freelance copywriter with a focus on B2B content, specifically case studies and white papers. Combining successful technical, sales and writing careers, Sarah provides a rare perspective to every project. She’s especially interested in working with small and medium-sized businesses. Sarah has lived and worked on five continents. Find her website at Global Copywriting.

Sarah Mitchell's Tip

When I worked at a multi-national software company, it wasn’t unusual to have the marketing and sales teams at odds with each other. The marketing people were full of great ideas and possessed a lot of energy. They developed products that didn’t always reflect the real needs of the quota-weary sales staff. Being on the sales end of the equation, I was party to plenty of disagreements about marketing collateral. We all agreed on one thing, however. You couldn’t do better than a case study.

Marketing teams view case studies as promotional material. With a focus on successful conclusions and attractive graphics, they know a stack of printed case studies is going to be easy to push at trade shows, conferences and to the media. The marketing department is usually the originator of the case study and, largely, controls the development and deployment of these documents.

While case studies are often part of a marketing strategy, they are invaluable in a sales cycle. As Word of Mouth (WoM) becomes a heavy influencer in how consumers are making acquisition decisions, the role of the case study is intensified. By documenting the benefits of a particular product or service and establishing a reference customer in the process, the decision to purchase becomes easier. Replies to tenders, bids or RFPs are always enhanced when a sales person can demonstrate the successful implementation of their solution with documented evidence.

For this reason, it’s imperative the marketing department consider the case study as more than a lead generation tool. It must also be viewed as a means to help close a deal. In this light, the case study has to provide more than a good story with a happy ending in an attractive package. It must present hard data demonstrating specific benefits to the client. Statistical data outlining cost of ownership, payback periods, and the investment required for implementation and training all help build a successful business case.

The good news is a well-planned and executed case study can satisfy both the marketing and sales teams. A knowledgeable marketing team can repurpose a single success story into many different formats including print advertisements, online campaigns, newsletters, and direct mailings. Rich in facts, the same document will assist the sales department in their task to generate revenue for the organization. Ultimately, the goal for both marketing and sales is to close business.

Sarah Mitchell Recommends

Stephanie Tilton

Blog Savvy B2B Marketing Twitter StephanieTilton

 “To squeeze the most value from case studies, don't relegate them to the case study library”

Stephanie Tilton's Bio

Stephanie Tilton is an expert case study and white paper writer who helps B2B companies advance the sales cycle by engaging prospects and customers. Harnessing her unique blend of technical knowledge, marketing savvy, and writing skills, Stephanie has crafted nearly 100 case studies and white papers for leading brands such as Akamai Technologies, EMC, Macromedia, Novell, SAP, and Symantec. Her website is Ten Ton Marketing.

Stephanie Tilton's Tip

Increasingly, B2B companies are viewing their engagement with prospects from the buyer's point of view – and delivering content that's relevant at each stage in the buying cycle. This strategy is key because today's prospects often don't interact with a sales rep until the decision stage. As a result, the onus is on marketing to develop enough valuable and engaging content to keep prospects moving along the path until they're ready to talk to sales.

At the beginning of the sales cycle, marketers can present case studies to overcome objections.  After identifying common reasons that prospects are hesitant to consider the company's solution, pinpoint existing customers who had the same concerns initially. Develop a case study that highlights one or more customer's concern with this issue and why the company's offering ultimately won them over. This story can be offered as a downloadable PDF, a video on the website, and as a featured story in a newsletter.

In the consideration and decision stages, offer case studies that follow the standard "problem-solution-results" formula. This type of case study helps business buyers envision how the company's service or product can help them change their current situation for the better.

But don't overlook the needs of technical evaluators. According to a poll of CIOs conducted by Scott Vaughan of TechWeb, people in this role are interested in the evaluation and implementation process, the technology architectural approach, and lessons learned. Be sure to craft case studies aimed at the technical audience so they can understand what it takes to successfully implement the solution.

To squeeze the most value from case studies, don't relegate them to the case study library. Excerpt customer quotes and summaries to include in white papers, webinars, presentations, prospecting emails and voice messages, and on relevant web pages. Rotate featured quotes on the home page. Share a compelling story in the company blog. Highlight a customer success in a lead-nurturing newsletter. Promote a case study in a keyword-rich press release that will show up in the search results.
 
Assemble all case studies in a playbook, on the intranet, and in any other relevant systems, categorized by industry, prospect role, challenges, and stage in the buying process. Then make these available to sales reps so they know which case study to offer in any given situation.

Stephanie Tilton Recommends

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Ambal has robust 17+ years experience working at and partnering with high-profile technology companies in both B2B and B2C marketplaces building scalable, reliable, high performance products (both hardware and software) for business with multi-billion dollar in annual revenue. She has done various roles that includes engineering, program management, business development, strategy and marketing for premium and fast growing product divisions at Cisco, Telecordia (prior name Bell Labs) and strategic marketing consulting firm ClickDocuments. At Cisco, she focused on world wide marketing and positioning of Cisco's Cloud & Data Center switching business. She brings both strong engineering & marketing skills with verticals experience from many different industries. Ambal received her Masters in Computer Science from Purdue University and an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship from Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Ambal is an avid reader and hiker. Her hiking pursuits have taken her to several mountains including Mt. Whitney at 14,500 feet (which she managed to climb in 1 day). Ambal lives in Austin, TX with her family of 3 boys (that includes her husband!) and a border-collie+lab mix dog named Rainbow.

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