Case studies—aka client success stories—are an invaluable way for companies to market their solutions and position themselves with target segments. They provide a number of specific benefits:
- Helps make the intangible tangible. Clients may not fully comprehend the value of your solutions when they scan your website or read your collateral. This is particularly true for service companies whose solutions are by their nature intangible. Case studies help bring your solutions to life by showing how they have been successfully applied to address real-life challenges.
- Highlights your ability to solve challenges. The benefits and key applications of your solutions will resonate more with clients and prospects when the cases show how you were able to tackle—and solve—specific business challenges.
- Captures the voice of the customer. Case studies that discuss solutions based on real-life business challenges help reinforce your customer-centric positioning.
- Supports your targeting efforts. Because clients and prospects tend to connect best with stories about companies that share similar characteristics, case studies should reflect your key target segments (industry, geography, size of business, function within organization, etc.).
- Promotes the power of teamwork within your organization. Case studies that highlight the roles played by various departments in helping clients overcome business challenges can both boost employee morale and foster greater collaboration between groups within your organization.
Unfortunately, due to poor development and execution, many companies fail to leverage the power of case studies. The following are some key considerations for optimizing returns on your case study investment:
- Create a situation-approach-outcome structure. Start with a short summary of the client’s situation and relevant challenges. Then describe how your approach in partnership with the client addressed these challenges. Finally, document the results. And remember, outcomes can be quantitative (e.g., increased sales, reduced costs) or qualitative (e.g., client testimonials on the value provided by your company).
- Develop succinct messaging. Our media and information consumptions patterns have changed significantly over the past decade. Business executives simply do not have the time or inclination to wade through long descriptions. To be effective, individual sections (situation, approach, outcome) should be descriptive enough to enable the reader to retain the overall narrative, but be easily scanned.
- Design your case study to be more appealing to viewers. Mirroring the need to adapt messaging to changing information-consumption patterns, deploy a range of visual methods. Enhance the visual appeal of printable case studies: Incorporate headings, callouts, charts and images, different colors and font formats/sizes to better capture the reader’s attention and to promote important elements of the case study. In addition, many online case studies feature videos of clients discussing their successful projects.
- Weigh the pros and cons of featuring real-life clients in case studies. Many case studies feature videos of real-life clients who discuss their business challenges and their partnership with the company. These often resonate well with your other clients and prospects, and can enhance your credibility and illustrate your focus on customer needs. However, note that there can be some drawbacks. One is time (clients often have lengthy and restrictive approval processes). Another is that other viewers may perceive the featured client as having such a unique set of circumstances and challenges that they are not pertinent to their business. An alternative is to consider using “anonymous” case studies or developing narratives around a series of client personas that are representative of your typical client base.
- Market the case study through multiple media. Case studies work well across multiple marketing channels, including your website, social media platforms, podcasts, webinars and live events. In addition, incorporate case studies into new business presentations, RFPs and proposals to support your sales efforts.
Several factors are leading banks to increase their focus on enhancing the customer experience. Many have taken a more customer-centric approach to regain trust following the Financial Crisis. There has also been a shift away from an overarching focus on new customer acquisition and towards optimizing customer lifetime value. And banks are looking to counter the increasing competitive threat posed by FinTech firms that promise to manage all their clients’ financial needs through a single digital platform.
There are several ways banks can benefit by integrating an understanding of the customer experience in solutions development and delivery.
- Change customer perceptions. Build systems and strategies around the customer experience that retains your traditional strengths (trust, experience, product breadth and expertise) while tackling some of the more negative perceptions of the sector (slow moving, inwardly-focused).
- Differentiate yourself from other banks. To fully embrace the customer experience, you may need to make significant changes in many areas, including organizational structures, marketing, sales and service. And be sure to plan carefully. These types of changes often come with a number of barriers (including organizational inertia and lack of senior management buy-in) and, unfortunately, many banks fail to make the transition.
- Optimize customer lifetime value. By understanding customer needs and challenges at various stages of the customer life cycle, you can reduce customer churn, while improving cross-sell/upsell rates.
- Integrate your sales and service channels. One of the key selling points of FinTech firms is their commitment to providing a seamless customer experience on their platforms. Though banks have traditionally struggled to integrate their digital and human channels, many surveys have shown that customers do use multiple bank channels. Banks that can provide a seamless customer experience across their various channels can both increase customer satisfaction and gain a competitive advantage over the FinTechs.
- Capture the voice of the customer. By developing opportunities for customer feedback at all sales and service touchpoints, you can gain real insights into customer needs, behaviors and preferences; identify gaps in these areas; and incorporate this intel into developing new products and enhancing existing solutions and service.
- Leverage internal stakeholder insights. To gain a strong understanding of how to improve the customer experience, gather detailed insights from front-line sales and service staff who can offer unique perspectives. Along with the voice of the customer, use these insights to develop more informed product development as well as marketing, sales and service initiatives.
- Optimize return on investment. Identify areas that have the greatest potential for enhancing the customer experience, and redirect investment to these areas.
- Create customer advocates. Engaged customers who have a consistently positive experience often turn into advocates (on social media, through word of mouth, etc.) and may even become referral sources.
A recent Forrester/Dun and Bradstreet survey revealed that only about half of sales and marketing decisions at B2B companies with over 500 employees are made based on data. The following summary from MarketingProfs shows that challenges to the effective use of data abound: From gathering to application to measurement, all are seen as either “extremely” or “very” challenging by a large portion of the respondents.
The paradox here is that businesses are awash in data today. Companies are spending vast amounts on software, hardware, and services related to data acquisition, management, and display. Moreover, businesses are constantly talking about data and the need to make better use of it. Unfortunately, neither these solutions nor the organizational desire solves the problem. In fact, the solutions often make the problem worse because they are seen (and sold) as a silver bullet and enable managers to check a box saying they are pursuing a “data initiative.”
The reality is that the problem lies not in a lack of will or technology. It lies in a lack of focus—a lack of strategy around data management and analytics. When you can measure anything, you do…but more measures mean more data and more difficulty making it all align. More data also mean more potential interpretations—and a decreased likelihood of consensus around what the data mean and the implications.
To construct an effective data and analytics strategy, marketers need to answer the five questions below. You’ll see that several are much more about strategy than data. Why? Because to capture and leverage the right data, we must first be clear on strategy.
- What are the key stages of the customer journey? The point of marketing and sales is to influence behavior towards revenue generation. If you don’t know the path customers will follow that will generate revenue, what good is your data?
- What activities are we undertaking today to move people through those stages? Marketing and sales should be targeting points on the customer journey with activities designed to influence behavior. Organizing activities along the journey ensures that you will use data about those activities and customers in the right way.
- What should be the measure(s) of success for the impact these activities are having? Once you have aligned activities with the journey, identify ways of assessing whether those activities are successful, specifically with respect to the goal of moving from one stage to the next.
- How can we align data we have or could plausibly get with these measures? Effectively using data to make decisions depends on being able to capture the right data consistently and with confidence. If it’s hard to acquire data or the data is subject to skepticism in the organization, it will never be used.
- What decisions will we make based on the data? Imagine if, for a given measure or data point, one month it’s high and the next month it’s low. What decision will that trigger? If you can’t articulate the decision that will flow from the data, why capture the data in the first place?
To be clear, answering these questions is NOT easy for most companies. Data strategy isn’t easy. It’s actually much harder than buying software or hiring consultants to deliver more data and more measures through more systems. But without that hard work to decide what data and what measurements can really impact business outcomes, it’s unlikely that surveys like the one above will show any better results.