When is the last time you purchased something on Amazon without the endorsement of customer reviews? Or failed to purchase something because it lacked reviews?
In today’s peer-reliant marketing landscape where social proof reigns supreme, case studies are among the most valuable items in a B2B marketer’s toolbox. Yet as discussed in a recent blog post, a startling 78% of manufacturing companies are missing them from their website.
If your manufacturing firm falls into that majority, no more excuses. Here we provide you with five basic steps to follow to turn past customer success into powerful case studies that convert. It’s easier than you think – so let’s get started!
1. Start with a "Story” Mindset
Everyone loves a good story. That’s the reason storytelling marketing proves time and time again to be the secret sauce for so many aspects of your content strategy. Case studies make the storytelling recipe especially easy – after all, they truly are the stories of how you’ve helped clients in the past.
To make those stories compelling, start by thinking in terms of the simple arc narrative you learned about in grade school. The protagonist is your customer; the villain is the problem they faced. The conflict is the battle of overcoming that challenge. And the hero, of course, is your manufacturing product or service. When you apply these writing principles, even in their most basic form, your readers are more inclined to read on in search of the happy ending.
- Writing Tip: The mere suggestion of a “story” is engaging on any website. Consider swapping out the marketingesque term “Case Studies” on your website with “Customer Stories,” as Salesforce does below.
2. Kick It Off with a Customer Profile
Right upfront, it’s helpful to offer a quick profile of the customer you helped. A sentence or two may be all you need to address the basics – for example, which manufacturing sector are they in? Was it a small family-owned firm or a global giant? Setting the stage with a few basic details will help prospective clients understand the types of companies you’ve worked with and whether the manufacturing services you provided will work well for them, too.
3. Introduce the Challenge
What was the problem (or in most cases, multiple problems) that the customer was facing when they called you? In this section, you’ll want to talk about the main challenge along with some of the customers’ pain points that it caused.
Here’s where you can throw in some plot-thickeners, too. Address any relevant circumstances that may have worsened the challenge at hand. For example, did a government regulation pose additional barriers to a company’s goal in achieving lower cost-per-unit in production? Was there the added pressure of an extremely tight deadline or small budget?
- Writing Tip: Think ahead to the solutions in the next section – the solution should answer all challenges mentioned here, so that will help guide your thinking in this step. Don’t overdo it with extraneous details that don’t apply to the solution you provided.
4. Spotlight the Solution
You’ve teed up the challenge – and now it’s time for the hero to shine. (That’s you!) This is your opportunity to show readers a real-life example of how, specifically, your manufacturing product or service addressed each aspect of the challenge you’ve laid out.
Here’s where details matter most. Provide specifics about your company’s approach in assessing and implementing the solution. Surface all the ways in which your company’s unique differentiators as a company made it a success. Also, be sure to close the loop on any of plot-thickeners you included, and how they lent themselves to the success.
- Writing Tip: Be honest about what went wrong, too! Manufacturing solutions are rarely implemented without ANY hitches and your customers know this. Talk about hurdles that you encountered along the way and how you worked with the customer to resolve them.
5. Make Quantifiable Results Your Happy Ending
How would your client measure the impact of the solution you provided? In this section, hard facts and figures should tie the bow on your narrative.
How many hours did you put back into production time monthly? By what percentage was cycle time reduced? By how much did the customer reduce delivery time, or increase output? You can also look ahead to results that are expected down the road. For example, if the case study is about a customer who just made a large investment in a piece of machinery, you may want to mention the projected timeframe in which those costs will have been recovered. In manufacturing, these types of quantifications are all-powerful.
- Writing Tip: If you have multiple ways to quantify your results, use bullet points to list them all. This helps make your case study skimmable and easy to digest.
Bonus Step: Consider These Add-Ons
Now that you’ve got your five essentials down, these additional elements will help make your story even more compelling.
- Title / subtitle: Restate the main idea of your case study in a results-focused way.
- Pull quote / sidebar summary: Add visual interest by restating and summarizing key points.
- Testimonial: This one’s particularly important! Customer accolades are worth their weight in gold, so be sure to seek approval for a quote that captures a past project’s success.
- Downloadable PDF or “leave-behind” material: Prepare your case studies in PDF form so they can be downloaded and accessed in printable form.
The steps we’ve offered here for creating a compelling case study are not hard and fast rules. While they can help serve as building blocks to help you get started, know that there are dozens of creative ways to change up your case study formula based on the situation. Keep in mind, case studies can be relatively simple to create – but if you need some help getting your content efforts off the ground, just let us know. We are more than happy to help!
Also, for more marketing strategies and techniques that will help drive and convert leads on your website, download our latest helpful manufacturing resource: