How to write the perfect customer use case

What’s more important: words or actions?

From a young age we learn that actions speak louder than words. In the world of B2B marketing that’s certainly true, which is why customer use case stories are among the most powerful and flexible tools in a B2B marketer’s arsenal.

There’s nothing quite like a use case that tells your customer’s story and demonstrates to peers the value of your company’s service or product. These endorsements are marketing gold because they can be used over and over in various mediums, including publicity, advertising, collateral and social media messages.

I’ve written and read hundreds of case studies, and can offer six tips to help you create a powerful testimonial:

Put the customer at ease. When emailing the customer to schedule the interview describe the process and attach your questions. In the introductory email I always tell customers that my goal is to make everyone look good and let them know that they always have approval of the final use case. This is very important to executives who often worry about saying the wrong thing in an interview. Sending the questions in advance helps to put customers at ease and also gives them an opportunity to think about their answers. The result is a relaxed and productive interview.

Focus the material. Customer interviews can turn up a lot of information, so it’s important to focus the questions if possible. Case studies can be focused on vertical industry, product features, customer challenges, etc. If this isn’t possible, review all the information gathered from the customer and pick one or two common themes. Remember, it’s not necessary to use all of the information gathered in the interview. In fact, doing this often results in a rambling story that fails to convey anything meaningful because it tries to do too much.

Describe the challenge and how you fixed it. Use cases should focus on how your company helped a customer overcome a problem. Unfortunately, they often miss the mark because the writer chooses to focus on product features instead. Remember, people buy solutions not features.

Include metrics. Relevant metrics are critical to a successful case study. Hard metrics, in the form of time or money saved, customers won, revenue increased or any other business-critical measurement, are imperative to the credibility of the use case. Soft metrics, such as good customer service, are fine secondary metrics but do not replace hard numbers.

Use quotes to illustrate the story. Think of client quotes as punctuation; they should be used to add color and emphasis to the story. It’s important to note that most customer quotes cannot be used verbatim, and that’s okay. Quotes can be revised slightly to fit the flow of the use case and to clean up grammar, as long as the customer reviews and approves them. If you have a great customer quote that doesn’t quite fit the narrative of the use case, use it as a visual call-out.

Write tight. The goal is to have people read and understand the case study. To increase the chances of this, keep them to one page. This will require you to focus (see above) and make every word count. Generally, case studies should be no more than about 400 words.

Finally, create a branded template for case studies so they all look similar. Make sure to include a photo that illustrates either the theme of the case study or the vertical industry of the customer.

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