Length: 11-minute read.

Quick Summary: Business case examples are valuable marketing tools but with industries such as construction, engineering and architecture (built environment), they can be difficult to produce. This article discusses the methods to get the customer case study process running smoothly to generate a beneficial sales resource.

Customer endorsements carry weight in the sales stage

Case studies, also referred to as business cases, are an essential piece of the communication puzzle because they let other people tell your target audience how great your brand is. Customer endorsements generate what is known as borrowed authority and can carry more weight in the consideration stage of a sale than a product brochure or a sales document.

Even though customer business case examples are valuable marketing tools, they are (like most valuable things) hard to produce for many built-environment companies such as construction, engineering and architecture

In our experience working with dozens of large and small built environment companies, there are two common problems when it comes to producing good customer case studies.

  1. Finding customers who are willing to participate in the process to keep the pipeline full.
  2. Producing high-quality business cases that connect with your audience.

Creating a pipeline of case studies

By building a pipeline of case study content, you will have a wider variety of use cases to share, and that means a greater chance of building rapport with a wider range of prospects. It also ensures your content remains fresh and, when you have a large library of published stories, your prospects can see that your success is long-lived.

However, while most companies have plenty of happy customers, writing business cases about them can be challenging for a variety of reasons, including:

  • lack of direct access to customers if your products are sold via a trade or retail channel
  • time-poor or disinterested customers who see no benefit to them in participating in the process
  • protective sales teams that restrict marketing from speaking to their accounts
  • lack of resources to manage an ongoing case study program.

There are some ways to overcome these issues and create a strong pipeline of case studies:

1. Use social media to find and contact end customers

Depending on your product, you can often find happy customers sharing their brand or product experience, unprompted, on their own Instagram, Facebook or other social channels. If these are publicly accessible, then they can be a great way to find potential brand advocates directly and offer them a chance to feature in marketing campaigns. This research and customer outreach is something your PR agency can drive on your behalf very easily.

2. Allocate a dedicated resource

Most organisations can’t afford a dedicated resource to focus on case study production. However, a full pipeline depends on having someone who can develop relationships with all stakeholders, review projects for potential stories, speak with equal knowledge and confidence to on-site project contacts and in-house communication teams, and shepherd the story through various approvals. Generally, the careful process of getting business cases off the ground puts them in the too-hard basket for organisations, and they become rare and difficult.

By working with public relations company that specialises in the built environment, you can gain a dedicated case study resource at a fraction of the cost of an in-house resource. Managing various (and sometimes, conflicting) stakeholders, gathering the necessary information, and creating a compelling, impactful story takes well-honed and practiced skills. Look for a PR agency with a strong and proven track record of managing case studies and ask to see samples of their work.

3. Create a case study culture

When business cases are seen as an afterthought, it can be tricky to gain buy-in from salespeople, which can mean that communications teams struggle to gain visibility into potential stories. The salespeople also usually need to introduce the team to the customer; without a strong culture around business cases, this is unlikely to happen. Here are some examples of ways to create a strong culture around case studies:

  • when sales teams know that they will be rewarded through recognition and praise for identifying and supporting case studies, they will be more likely to put their customers forward
  • additionally, when they see their peers’ customers in the spotlight, they will be more inclined to want to put their own customers in that same spotlight
  • consistency and visibility are key to creating a strong culture. This requires teams to have regular contact with salespeople to ask them for referrals. However, be aware that if the quality isn’t there, or the cadence is unreliable, salespeople will soon avoid putting their customers forward
  • working with an agency can help overcome this issue, since the agency can manage both quality and consistency. It’s important to work with a PR agency that is highly capable and proven to develop strong relationships with internal stakeholders. This requires an agency with extremely strong domain knowledge and experienced consultants who speak your sales team’s language.

4. A track record of treating your participants well

An often-overlooked element of developing a pipeline is the experience that your customers have when developing the case study. Is your PR firm just giving your customers another job to do? Are they being too pushy, not assertive enough, or creating friction for your customers? It only takes one or two customers to have a negative experience and you may find your well of willing customers drying up.

How the right agency can help

Asking customers to participate in case studies can feel to them as if they’re being asked to take on an extra job. Many refuse to participate because they feel they don’t have the time. An agency can help overcome this through long experience working with customers of varying degrees of willingness, availability, and enthusiasm for the case study process. The right agency will know how to minimise the pressure on participants and find ways to make the process frictionless and even enjoyable for them.

Creating excellent case studies

A great business case tells a compellingly detailed story about how your brand helped a customer to achieve a key outcome. It’s a real-world example of what you do, presented in a way that gives your customers context and lets them understand exactly how you can help them solve the problems they’re experiencing.

The ideal case study is one where your prospects recognise their own pain points and identify with the outcomes. It prompts them to investigate what you have to offer.

That may sound easy enough to do but, in truth, creating a great case study takes a lot more than a knack for storytelling. In our experience writing hundreds of business case examples (or maybe use “customer stories”?), there are four factors that make them impactful:

1. Demonstrating deep knowledge about the industry you work in

The challenges and opportunities that face your customers are unique to the built environment industry. Without a deep understanding of and passion for the sector your customers operate in, your case studies will always lack authenticity. It’s why using generalist freelance writers can be so hit and miss. The nuances of language, unclear common scenarios, or poor product or sector knowledge is very easily spotted by informed readers.

2. Find the colour to bring them to life

Just telling the story of the products or services you provided to a customer won’t necessarily cut through to readers. When creating case studies, you need to know what makes a story unique, interesting and engaging, and you need to be able to tease that information out of your customers. Focus on storytelling and use plenty of customer quotes so they tell the story, not you.

3. Design to a high standard

People connect to well-designed content. If a case study isn’t visually appealing, then it won’t be as engaging or effective as marketing content. Invest in design, graphics and good writing. Your case studies are part of your brand presentation to market.

4. Leverage your business cases as marketing assets

Producing a case study takes time, money and effort so make sure they are put to work once complete. Build landing pages and make them downloadable, email them as part of your nurture streams, use them at expos or shows, write blogs or social posts and encourage people to read the full story on your site. You can even ask your advocate customers to present in person at customer workshops, marketing events or in advertising campaigns.

Elevate and accelerate your case study program

By working with an agency to create a pipeline of customer stories, then turning those stories into impactful case studies, you can amplify your successes and unlock significant value from the work your business has already done. Working with an agency helps overcome the barriers to success that most in-house teams face; working with the right agency can take your program from an annoying line on people’s to-do lists to an enjoyable, engaging and extremely valuable part of your marketing mix.

As a result of working with the right agency, you’ll be able to engage the wider business in your marketing efforts, build stronger relationships with stakeholders across the board, and help de-risk the purchase decision for undecided prospects.

Write Away Communication has worked with clients in the built environment for more than 20 years to develop compelling and consistent case study programs.

Download our tip sheet for steps to accelerate your case study program.

To find out how we can help elevate and accelerate your case study program, contact the team today.