Case studies are real-life examples of how you or your products have helped customers reach their business goals. They build trust in your offering and thus support you in your goal of winning more customers. But too many case studies fail to deliver because they lose sight of the six key objectives listed below that should form the backbone of a case study.
Tell a good story
Make sure your case study is interesting and draws the reader in from the start. Nobody will read it if it is does not tell them something new. Focus on facts and outcomes: cut the hype and let the facts speak for themselves. Always tell the story from the customer’s perspective and describe clearly and concisely how they overcame a business critical problem with your assistance.
Follow a clear, simple structure
Define a simple structure for your case studies and use it for all of them. The ‘narrative arc’ of any case study should be: “we had this problem, we applied this solution and this is how it turned out’.
A simple heading structure can bring this out and give each element the right balance, for example ‘Problem’ (what issue did the customer present you with?), ‘Solution’ (what did you and the customer do to address the issue?) and ‘Results’ (what were the outcomes, after adopting the solution you provided?) A short ‘About’ section at the end can also provide some context, such as to explain who the customer is.
Metrics provide objectivity which in turn builds credibility. Work with your customer to tease out several quantitative measures that describe the improvements they have enjoyed. You may be lucky enough to find a customer willing to go on the record that their sales increased by $x million in 12 months. But comparative measures are almost as powerful, such as a 30% increase in sales, or a task that took three days can now be completed within a day. Qualitative outcomes can be equally powerful, such as eliminating errors or allowing non-specialists to do what only specialists could do before, or the reactions of your customer’s customers.
Include incisive quotes
Often, case studies make the mistake of talking up the product by surrounding it in a mist of hyperbole. The trick is to keep your narrative lean and your prose sparse, so that it is the quoted words of your customers that stand out. Don’t ask them to write something – call them, interview them and write down what they say. Qualitative endorsements are good, such as “we knew we were in safe hands from the start”, but those with objective facts are even better, such as “they came to us with a plan which pretty much covered everything we needed”. A quote is always more credible if you can give the person’s name and company name.
Choose a customer who your prospective customers can relate to
If you are looking for new customers in a particular industry or country, then it is best to show them a case study from their industry or region. It is simply because they are more likely to identify with the case study and gain confidence that you understand the issues they face.
Get the length right
Make the story long enough to be informative and do justice to the subject, but keep it short enough that it can be read in two or three minutes. That means you need to be ruthless at the editing stage (keep in mind the mantra “less is more”). Around 600-800 words seems ideal for most technology products.
The 14th annual technology report is now available. This survey of over 200 research companies worldwide provides unique, valuable insights into the technology that lies behind research.
It charts several key technology trends that go back at least ten years, which show how research firms are gravitating towards the methods that offer the fastest turnaround times and the lowest costs. Each year, the survey also focuses on areas of topical interest, which vary each year. This current set of topics are listed below.
In this year we discovered that the proportion of online surveys conducted on mobile devices was 37% whereas in 2011 it was 7%. We also learned 3% of research companies’ clients now received results on dashboards but research firms were anticipating this to grow to 23% within five years. However, Microsoft PowerPoint has stubbornly remained the leading results delivery method and its use has been increasing.
Sadly, this will be the last wave of this annual survey. Each year, participation rates have declined and recent legislative changes have made sampling costs unviable. We would like to thank all our participants and sponsors over the years, without whom this fascinating project would have been impossible.
Topical subjects covered in the 2017/18 report:
• Making surveys mobile friendly (update from 2014)
• Results delivery methods and how research clients consume data
• Developing a digital strategy
• Plus research technology trends.
We conducted the fieldwork in late 2017/early 2018, asking participants to provide data on the year 2017. The report was published in 2018.
Download the report: Dapresy 2017/18 Annual MR Technology Report, meaning ltd, London, May 2018 (PDF 1.1MB)
Download a summary report: Dapresy 2017/18 Annual MR Technology Report Summary, May 2018 (PDF)
How many technology companies use photos like this? Even photos can be clichés!
I’m certainly guilty of falling into the temptation of littering my writing with clichés. From my regular perusals of technology company websites I can see others fall into this trap too. There are just so many powerful, flexible one-stop shops in the B2B marketplace, but I’m often no wiser as to what they actually do! Let’s consider a few of the biggest cliché traps we all fall into, and let me offer you some possible escape routes too.
Plain ol’ corporate gobbledegook
Trap: The world’s most flexible and innovative software solution
So, you’re reading through some technology company’s website and all you can glean through the haze of the corporate jargon is that the company claims that their product is the greatest. Of course they do!
But what you really want to know is, firstly, what the product does, and, secondly, how it differs from anything else on the market. If you are Apple , you might get away with a sprinkling of unsubstantiated superlatives, , but the rest of us need to stateclearly what we believe we do best. To gain maximum understanding, we need to write in the way we might explain it to someone we’d just met who had asked ‘so what does your company do?’. .
Escape route: Online research software that promotes your creativity
Features dressed up as benefits
Trap: Gain the power and flexibility you need to engage customers
Most people in sales or marketing know now that if you talk about software or services, you need to major on the benefits, not the features. This example is an attempt at writing a benefit, but in truth few people are saying to themselves what they really need is some power and flexibility, but many will be thinking that they need to engage the right customers – the ones that have a need and money to spend. So, always put yourself in the shoes the customer or prospect and write what is going to have the most impact. Focus on the actual benefits.
Escape route: Use our software to engage with the right customers
Claims that are vague platitudes
Trap: We go the extra mile
If you catch yourself writing vague platitudes such as ‘one-stop shop’, ‘easy to use’, ‘cutting edge’ or the dreaded ‘we go the extra mile’…. it’s time for a rewrite. Don’t simply voice an aspiration that any company is likely to share.Be more precise. Essentially, you need to explain exactly what it is that is different and better from your competitors. It might be as simple as listing what you do to achieve what you claim. Claims become credible one you explain how you achieve them. .
Escape route: Your satisfaction is our top priority, so our consultants will work with you until your targets are met
Next time you find yourself writing a ‘cutting-edge technology product’ that is ‘built from the ground up’, please pause and ask yourself what your customers really care about. You can be pretty sure that they are much less interested in how you built your product than how it might impact their productivity and profits. Write the answers to the questions they are likely to ask, in the language they are likely to use.
Having just helped to complete the (rather weighty) 2013 Confirmit MR Technology Report, I am definitely in a celebratory mood, especially as it’s the tenth anniversary of the project. To mark the occasion, we added some extra juicy questions this time. We normally use only closed questions, except for the occasional ‘other specify’, but for our 2013 survey, we challenged our participants (and ourselves!) with some open ends, but not just ordinary open ends – they were gamified.
In one of the gamified questions, we told respondents to imagine they were seeing a copy of our report in 2023 and we asked what would be the biggest technological advance within it.
Our participants, all of whom were senior decision makers at market research companies around the world, were predicting that many of the current emerging trends would continue to expand – for example mobile data collection and big data analysis – and many were also expecting more exotic developments such as augmented reality. For example, one person wrote:
“Providing useful Insights from Big Data – establishing online interaction with respondents in the social community and businesses from continuous analysis of Big Data having captured their interest in participating on a daily basis to make better decisions on their areas of interest. Big data = social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google etc.) plus business own data, respondent market research, personal blogs, purchase and location monitoring on wearable devices.”
Or, somewhat more futuristically, another commented:
“Google Glass will change our lives radically. For the well-educated, it will be trendy to have the internet and its services right in front of our eyes, continuously. Thus, artificial intelligence will accompany us everywhere we go and provide us with all the information we need along the way. It only lacks the thought control, but even that is already in the early stages. At first we will be able to control these devices with glances, without having to speak. Advertising and services that pop up when we go about our daily lives with internet glasses will occupy a large part of the market research of the future.”
In contrast, a few respondents were pessimistic about the future of traditional market research. For example:
“I think most of the data we’ll be reporting on will be passively collected. I think primary research data will be a thing of the past….”
I hope to be writing about a vibrant and healthy industry in 2023, but one thing I feel sure about is that the industry will be different. In the meanwhile, I recommend reading our 2013 report. Here’s to the next ten years!
- Read the 2013 Confirmit MR Technology Report:
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“This is not just a dry technology report,” write Simon Chadwick and Peter Milla about the recently published Annual Market Research Software Survey in an article in ESOMAR’s RW Connect on May 30. They continue: “it reveals interesting (and, in some cases disturbing) nuggets on trends in areas such as methodology and research ethics.” The study is in its ninth year and is conducted by meaning ltd and sponsored in 2012, and in many previous years, by Confirmit.
The pair point out that the survey reveals that mobile research is not just hype but is now going mainstream. Interestingly, they hypothesize that the reason that mobile research was found to be particularly frequently used in Asia Pacific is because research companies in emerging markets are more likely to leapfrog from paper, over CATI and Web, straight to mobile.
However, Simon and Peter seem struck by the apparent dichotomy in some of the findings – on the one hand, they point out that the industry seems to be embracing new technology; but on the other hand, they seem concerned about the “lack of willingness to change that brings into question how long traditional market research companies can continue to grow and thrive.”