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Writing a Good Software Case Study

Compelling case studies should be a strong tool for software marketing and sales, especially for B2B software and services. They give your target customer a specific example of how your software product can be used to solve a business problem that they can relate to.

But when I was in the field doing technical sales and marketing for a major technology company, finding and using good software case studies was always a challenge: We had case studies and customer success stories put together by corporate marketing, but many of them never got used or were not terribly effective when they were. I┬?m sure many of you have the same experience. Why?

Well, from my own experience selling technology solutions to Fortune 500 enterprise clients, these are the top five reasons why case studies fail in their role as a sales and marketing tool:

  • Not enough detail about the customer and their situation;
  • Not enough detail about the solution: How was it implemented? What was the technical architecture? What were the main gotchas etc;
  • Too much of a technology/feature sales pitch;
  • No backup materials or speaker notes;
  • Not a representative customer example: irrelevant industry or segment, very small business example when you┬?re trying to sell to the enterprise, etc.

When we used case studies, it was as part of a presales conversation with the client. Naturally, if the prospect is interested they are going to ask some probing questions about the case┬? and it's not enough to say ┬?I┬?ll have to check with the team on that project and get back to you.┬? Credibility is key, and a weak case study can destroy the sales team'ss credibility.

As the role of software marketing is changing, so too is the role of the case study. Gone are the days when just having a glossy leave-behind was enough. Now case studies must be able to engage the customer in a conversation, promote interaction, and incite the customer to learn more about the solution through references and additional detail.

Here are some tips on writing strong software case studies:

  • Choose a customer example that is representative of your target segment.
  • Lead with a description of the customer┬?s problem in language typical of their industry or segment ┬? use that to pull in the reader.
  • Resist the temptation to start touting your product features too early in the case study.
  • Describe the solution in business language: how did your software product solve the customer┬?s problem.
  • Highlight tangible and quantifiable business results.
  • Highlight the main customer lessons learned, and any considerations that must be taken into account by someone else wanting to go the same route.
  • Provide references and links where the reader can get more information.
  • Provide detailed speaker notes for the sales team.
  • Even better: get a trusted third party (eg, analyst, media, etc) to publish the case study.

Read More In: Strategy and Leadership

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-2 of 2 | Latest Comment

June 29, 2009 11:32 PM

Excellent article!!! Very informative and necessary. THANKS!

July 2, 2009 9:38 AM

Thanks... I'm glad you found it helpful :)


Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-2 of 2 | Latest Comment

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