Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why You Need More Than Case Studies

Customer case studies are one of the most popular types of marketing content used by B2B companies. According to research by Eccolo Media, case studies are the fourth most widely consumed type of marketing collateral (behind product brochures, white papers, and video/multimedia files) and the second most influential type of marketing collateral (trailing only white papers). (Eccolo Media 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Report)

Case studies are potent marketing tools because they're good at performing several jobs.
  • They help establish your credibility.
  • They educate prospects about the benefits of your product or service.
  • Most importantly, they can help lower a prospect's perception of the risk associated with purchasing your product or service.
Because case studies can do so many things well, it's easy (and tempting) to conclude that they're the only type of marketing content you need. That's understandable, but it's wrong.

To market effectively, you need content for all parts of your prospects' decision-making process. That's because the questions that your prospects need to answer change as they move through the buying process. The diagram below depicts the six steps of the B2B buying process suggested by marketing and sales research firm SiriusDecisions. These six steps can be grouped into three buying process phases - Discovery, Consideration, and Decision.

During the Discovery phase, a potential buyer becomes aware of a problem or need and recognizes that the negative effects of the status quo make change a priority. For this to happen, prospects need answers to several questions, including:
  • Why should I change, and why should I change now?
  • How is the problem or challenge adversely affecting my company and/or industry?
  • What will happen if I don't change?
  • What events or circumstances would force me to address this problem or challenge?
Once a potential buyer has committed to addressing a problem or need, he or she will conduct research to identify possible solutions. During this Consideration phase, one of the most important questions a prospect will have is:  How have companies like mine successfully dealt with this problem or challenge?

Customer case studies don't do a particularly good job of answering Discovery-phase questions, but they excel at answering one of the most critical questions that will arise during the Consideration phase of the buying process. This means that case studies can be great lead nurturing tools, but not necessarily great lead acquisition tools.

So, by all means, make sure that your company has several well-written and compelling case studies. But also keep in mind that you need other types of content (white papers, etc.) for effective lead acquisition.

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