How to ensure your case study writer’s success

By hiring a professional case study writer, you can reasonably expect him to drive his projects to a successful end. That said, the old saying holds true: “the better your inputs, the better the output.” Give him everything he needs to begin quickly: a comprehensive case study brief, introductions to internal contacts, and a summary of competitive intelligence. Next, confirm the client’s tentative approval, and make the necessary introductions. When your case study writer delivers a draft, check that it has all the fundamentals and invite suggestions for additional content. Finally, if you’re slammed, leave the review process to him. Mostly.

By the time you’re ready to assign your new case study writer to a project, you may have invested several hours in him. Protect that investment. To ensure your mutual success, take 10-15 minutes to discuss his process and understand what he needs to knock this project out of the park:

Step 1: Give him everything he needs to begin quickly

Provide a case study brief

Your case study writer will want to begin by studying your B2B SaaS company. Help him focus by preparing a case study brief for him. (Follow that link to a public template in Google Drive. Make a copy and use it for your case study projects.)

Along with your brief, provide:

  • Relevant marketing collateral:
    • Two or three case studies that follow your preferred format and feature stories with the key messages or use cases that relate to the current projects. Include a short note with each one explaining why you like them. This will help contextualize your expectations and parameters.
    • Industry- and product-specific white papers that will provide background on the trends and problems that have been on your clients’ minds lately.
    • Data sheets and brochures so your writer understands the solution(s) he’ll be mentioning in the case study.
  • Messaging platform. This will go into greater detail than your case study brief. That’s great. The brief will help your writer hone in on the relevant elements of the messaging platform.
  • Writing guidelines. Your company’s conventions on tone, word choice, etc.
  • Buyer personas. These will help clarify the case study’s target readers. There will be two distinct personas: the decision maker, the person who helped decide to buy into your solution; and the end user, the person who uses your solution regularly.
  • Sales objections and your answers. Case studies are fantastic for addressing prospects’ objections. If your writer can weave one or two objections into the case study, it will increase the whole piece’s credibility. (The draft should overcome those objections, too!)

Include 1 or 2 customer objections to increase your case studies’ credibility. Then, address them in the customer’s voice.
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Introduce internal contacts

In addition to these documents, include a list of names and contact information of people in your company whom your writer should speak with. These will be members of your account management and sales teams. They will have the most up to date information about the client’s circumstances, success, and attitude toward your company.

If your messaging platform or sales objections documentation is a little old, connect your case study writer with members of your sales team who are selling into the case study subject’s industry. Though your sales reps may have moved on since closing the customer, they’ll have current insight into the way they’re positioning your company in the market and against your competitors. They’re especially well qualified to help your case study writer understand how to frame your case studies in support of their sales efforts.

To make your case studies more effective at igniting sales conversations, ask your sales people to brief your case study writer.
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For expediency, introduce your case study writer to these team members over an email and stress that their availability will yield a more powerful case study.

You might even ‘seed’ their conversation with a few questions in your introductory email such as:

  1. How do you use customer success stories in your work?
  2. How could future case studies better support your work?
  3. What key messages do you need help supporting/proving?
  4. What objections do you need help overcoming?

Summarize competitive intelligence

If you commission any sort of intelligence gathering about your competitors, consider sharing the summaries with your writer. This will help him better position your offering in the market.

You can be sure that your prospects are reading your competitors’ case studies as a part of their vendor research. Point your case study writer to your top three competitors’ case studies, as this will go a long way to determining how to make your case studies stand apart.

Step 2: Confirm the client’s tentative approval

It’s a real bummer for a customer to shoot down a case study draft, not to mention a waste of time and resources. Get preliminary permission from the customer to produce a complete case study. (This is where the pitch packet helps.)

Some of my clients take a ‘forgiveness is easier than permission’ approach, and move forward with only a verbal agreement or entirely without the customer’s awareness. They’re happy to adjust the final draft until the customer is happy, or anonymize it as a last resort.

The advantage here is that you can show your client the finished piece, so they’ll have a clearer idea of your request. This helps prevent knee-jerk negative responses, and means that you can make edits as negotiation concessions, if necessary.

Step 3: Make all necessary introductions

Before your case study writer speaks with your customer, you want to be sure that he’s going to uphold your company’s reputation and relationship with the customer. That’s why it’s so important to interview your case study writer and to connect him with your relevant sales and account management teammates.

After a few of those internal conversations, you should feel comfortable that the case study writer will treat the customer well in the interview.

Whom should your case study writer interview? Ideally, he’d speak with two roles: the decision maker and the end user. Your case studies will be read by both groups, so both should be represented. Unfortunately, the decision maker who approved the purchase of your solution may be too busy to give an interview, or may have left the company.

Use your case studies’ target audience to determine whom you interview for your case studies.
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Encourage your writer to seek answers to one or two questions over email. A brief endorsement from someone in a higher position can give a powerful boost to the case study. The bulk of the case study can focus on—and be sourced from—a 30-45 minute interview with the end user.

Once you introduce your case study writer, leave it to him to schedule and conduct the interview. It’s easier on all parties if you encourage direct communication, instead of trying to mediate.

You should only listen in on your case study writer’s interviews if the client-relationship is particularly sensitive. Even then, only listen in on the first one or two interviews.

After that, avoid listening in. Clients are more likely to speak freely if you aren’t on the line. This is especially important when the case study writer pushes for criticism of your solution or implementation or the client’s objections during the sales process. That material is gold for fortifying the case study’s credibility.

If you really want to know what the client has said, ask the case study writer to provide a recording of the interview (with the client’s permission, of course!) or his notes from the call.

Step 4: Focus on the fundamentals of the draft

When working with a new case study writer, you might consider asking for an outline before he submits a draft. That way, you’ll catch warning signs of misunderstandings or confusion early and be able to offer ‘course corrections.’

When your case study writer delivers the first draft, it should include:

  • Title – This will include the client’s name and the outcome you delivered for them. The writer should provide 2-3 options. The alternatives can be reused as social media updates.
  • Subtitle – This will add a bit of detail to the ‘teaser’ in the title.
  • Subheaders – Forget ‘challenge,’ ‘solution, ‘results!’ These should summarize each section and give away the gist of the whole case study.
  • Suggested pull quotes – The case study should have at least three quotes that must convey the main points of the case study in authentic language: the problem they were experiencing, why they chose your solution over competitors, and what they got out of your solutions (either as the individual professional or as a representative for the company). Along with the title, subtitle, and subheaders, the pull quotes may be all that skimmers read.
  • Summary copy – This where you want to include the “Challenge, Solution, and Outcomes” of the case study, as it will help skimmers decide quickly whether to invest more time reading your case study. Two sentences about each will suffice.
  • The body of the case study – This is where your writer’s skills will shine through. Though personal and brand styles vary, I strongly recommend using the four criteria I mentioned for evaluating a case study writer’s abilities.
  • In-context calls to actionYour case study should have at least one call to action after the conclusion. You could have a second at the bottom of a sidebar summary. If you aren’t telling your readers what to do next, you’re missing an opportunity to schedule more demos and sales calls.

Optional additions:

  • Download page teaser copy – If your case studies are solely formatted as PDFs, your case study download page will need to ‘sell’ prospects on the value of reading them. Watch this video for some best practices.
  • Content for pre-populated tweets – These could be the case study’s alternative titles, as mentioned above. While the story is fresh in your writer’s mind, he’ll have no trouble delivering a handful of options.
  • Content for a PPTX slide – This could be a distillation of the summary copy.
  • Talking points for story-based selling – Valuable to your sales team to help them hone in on the most relevant content for their calls.

Step 5: Leave the review process to him. Mostly.

After a solid discovery process, your case study writer should be able to shepherd the draft through two rounds of revisions; one for your company, and then one for your customer.

For the review and feedback on the case study draft, I recommend an online collaboration platform such as Google Drive, Microsoft Office 365, or Dropbox Paper.

You can get by with a .docx file passed over email, but it will slow the speed to publication, and involves the need for version control. As a very last resort, your case study writer could collect revisions over a phone call, though that will likely incur an extra fee.

The review process should go smoothly as long as you and your case study writer follow some logical steps.

Once you filter your internal team’s feedback on the first draft, the writer will integrate it into a second draft. The greater your specificity with comments, the better. If you think you’ll use the same writer for future projects, take a moment to explain the reasoning behind the changes. The more he understands your needs, the better he’ll be able to deliver future drafts that hit the mark.

Speaking of ‘next time,’ if you don’t already have a set of case study writing guidelines, ask your case study writer to begin one during the revision process. These will help him—or any other writer—to produce a better first draft next time.

Should you lay out the case study before passing it over to the client? No. they should be satisfied as long as you can show them examples of other finished case studies, and the graphics that you plan to use in theirs (especially their logo).

When the second draft is complete, the writer will present it to the client for feedback, and then integrate that feedback into a third draft. This may take several follow-up attempts, since the case study won’t likely be a high priority for the customer.

Once your case study writer integrates the client’s comments into the draft, ask him to pass the third draft to the design team. You’ll probably want to a look over the client’s edits, but your designer(s) will probably like to know what’s coming up on their to-do list.

What if you don’t have a design team? Should you leave the design to the case study writer? Writing and design aren’t mutually exclusive, but there is something to be said for specialization. That said, your case study writer will probably have access to graphic design resources. If you do want a turnkey solution, just ask.

Your writer should stay involved in the final review. Since he’s been so closely entwined with the project up to this point, he’ll be able to identify any last-minute changes quickly.

While the draft is in design, your case study writer might have some ideas for promoting it in other contexts. Once he has spoken to a handful of your clients, he should have a good handle on your clients’ main frustrations and pains. That’s rich fodder for other white papers, trade publication articles, and industry reports.

Conclusion

That’s it! By finishing this document, you’ve learned lessons acquired over several years, some mistakes, and many case study writing projects.

I hope it serves you well.

If you have any questions, or need a top case study writer on your side, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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