Writing a Technical Customer Case Study
because you want to showcase your current customers, and inspire new ones.
Customer case studies are not just an essential tool for marketing, but sales, engineering, and numerous other departments across an organization as well.
They’re a win-win for everyone involved. For the customer, it’s free publicity with little work on their end. For the company putting together the case study, the benefits are invaluable:
- Assist with sales process
- SEO juice
- Reinforces relationship with the customer
- Establishes your company as a leader in the space
- Real-life proof your product/company works
- Inspires prospective customers
But on top of the typical benefits, there’s another very useful result of conducting customer case studies…
A Common Narrative
After conducting and writing up dozens of customer case studies at PubNub, I realized that there’s a very common narrative shared by a majority of customers.
Why is this useful?
You now know how you acquired that customer. And based on how you gained that logo, you can tweak your marketing and sales processes to improve on that acquisition.
You’ll also know exactly what sort of questions to ask to spur specific responses. As you continue to conduct more case studies, you can amend your questions to fit exactly what you’re looking for.
So, now onto the walkthrough!
I’ll walk you through the quickest and easiest way to do a customer case study from start to finish. This specific blog post has to do with conducting a case study in the tech industry, but can be tweaked to work for a number of different industries as well.
Below the steps, you’ll also find examples of the sorts of questions I ask to complete each section of the case study.
The Case Study Process
and the steps to take, from start to finish.
Step 1: Research and select the right customer
What vertical are you looking to target? How long has the customer used your product? Has their experience as a customer been positive?
Pick the low hanging fruit first, the ones that you have already established a relationship with. It’s great to do a case study for each targeted vertical. Then open the flood gates and pile them on!
Step 2: Initial contact
Send a short email to the prospective customer to set up a Skype call. Briefly explain the benefits of doing a case study. You’re going to want to get them on the phone or Skype, you’ll have a much higher quality conversation than doing it all through email.
Step 3: Call preparation
If they agree to do the case study and Skype call, send them questions in advance so they have an idea of what you’ll be talking about.
Also, and this is a no brainer, know what the company does. Don’t go in blind, because the better you know their company, the better the dialogue, and as a result, the better your case study.
Step 4: The call
This is the most important part of the case study. It’s best to record the Skype call so you can go back to grab quotes, and you can also focus on the conversation, rather than writing everything down.
Step 5: Draft
Write the initial draft. Follow up with the customer if you need additional information, quotes, etc.
Then send them the draft for additions/deletions/edits.
Step 6: Publish
Turn it into a PDF for sales, create a blog post, and share via social media.
Formatting the Study
and what questions to ask the customer
So that’s standard operating procedure for conducting the case study. Now I’ll show you a good format, and the questions to ask the customer. There are four major areas of the case study: Introduction, Challenges/Concerns, Solution, and Result.
Brief 4–5 sentence introduction on the company and their product
Here you’ll discuss the issues they had before using you and why it was vital for them to fix those concerns
- What problems/issues did you have before us?
- What alternatives did you consider and try before you went with us?What were the problems with those alternatives?
- How did those issues negatively impact you?
This is where you’ll discuss how your product replaced and fixed each concern
- Why did you ultimately choose our product?
- Now that you know each concern, ask how they overcame each issue using you product and what product feature they used to do so.
- What product feature do you use?
- How do you use X feature? How does X feature take care of that X concern?
- How easy was it to implement our product?
- How has our support support been?
The result should always be a quantitative. Hard numbers work best
- Can you put a number to how much you’ve saved using us rather than using an alternative? (For example, developer costs, development time?)
- Can you quantify speed, scaling?
Below are a couple of my favorite case studies I’ve written for PubNub. In the future, we’ll be ramping them up a bit, and including some video testimonials as well. But for now, this a great start for any tech marketer who’s tasked with developing case studies.
- McDonald’s iOS and Android digital billboard campaign: McDonald’s creates an immersive, interactive ad campaign connecting smart phones to a digital billboard in a crowded shopping center.
- Tint builds social media aggregator platform with PubNub: Tint aggregates and publishes social mentions in realtime.
- Artists use PubNub to power live, data-driven visualization performance: Artists collect and publish poll data to create a beautiful visualization based on results.
- Zoomy creates interactive, blazing fast taxi app with PubNub: Zoomy creates a reliable taxi application where all communication, from maps to alerts, runs over PubNub.
Customer case studies are just a cog in our content marketing strategy at PubNub. If you’re interested in seeing it all, check out my “Building a blog for a yet-to-be Defined Industry” blog post.
Shout out to Dan LaBelle, who not only taught me what a customer case study was, but also how to write one and held my hand through my first couple calls.