On this episode of the podcast, I interview Joel Klettke about case studies. Joel is the founder of Case Study Buddy, a team of case studies specialists who help companies capture, share and cash in on customer success stories
He is a sought after conversion copywriter for SaaS and B2B companies where he has helped clients like Hubspot and WP engine turn more visitors into customers.
[1.17] – How did you start working with SaaS founders?
He was doing SEO at a digital marketing agency and he learned the analytics and business side while he was there. From there he saw the opportunities in business writing and copywriting. He went out on his own in 2013 and was doing the content side of things such as blog posts and eBooks.
He was introduced to the work of Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers and he learned from her. Her focus was in the software space and the B2B and through her he saw a huge opportunity to serve B2B businesses but specifically software with the subscription models, the upgrades and the nurturing sequences with conversion copy work.
[4.00] – How do we go about getting our feet wet with case studies?
The great thing about case study at any stage but especially when you are just getting started is it’s evergreen.
To most companies case studies are just happy accidents, they wait until some clients has had some huge win and comes to them saying, we are so happy but that is not the best way.
The best way is to have a way for cultivating customer feedback from the very beginning.
[8.26] – It takes many founders too much time to start getting this feedback. I spoke to a founder and he wanted to run pay per click campaign, so I asked him some questions and I discovered that he didn’t know who to target and he didn’t know his audience. Until you know your audience and their problems you won’t be successful in doing any pay per click campaign.
The utility of a case study is going to make doing other things easier. When you have a great testimonial, when you have a full story of how someone not only loved your product but how they specifically benefitted from this core feature or what they found to be unique about you.
Even big companies are in danger of having wrong assumptions for why people love their product, they often get so internal and think it is because they have X feature or it is because it is free that is why people choose us.
They completely ignore the reasons that their customers choose them or the things their customers care about may not be the things that they internally think are as important.
Havin these conversations can help validate, inform and fuel what you do on a marketing front. Your campaign will also do better if you have social proof to support it.
There was a study done by a company called hiplead and they found out that mentioning a famous customer tripled the amount of positive responses.
There is power in sending a simple case study that say Hey, we worked with someone in your space or someone just like you who had the problem you had and made the decision you are debating about and got the result you want.
Your competitors can copy your features, branding and content but they can’t copy your success stories.
[12.29] – What goes through your client minds when they agreed to do a case study for you?
Something that often gets missed about customer success stories is that it is about them. It is customer success stories not your success story. You are the sidekick not the hero, you are empowering the client who is the hero.
These are human stories, real people, real companies, challenges, benefits and things you have made possible for them. Many case studies will just state metrics that say they saw a 24% lift in traffic.
Why was that important to them?
How did that change their business?
So treating these like human stories with tension and emotion and narrative arcs changes everything.
As for what is in it for them, sometimes it is nothing, they just love your product and they are excited about it.
However there are things software companies can consider because you are asking for their favour.
You can offer to pay for their time if you have a great process this will take about half an hour to two hours of their time.
Sometimes it could be you will give them a month off if they agree to take part in the case study.
If you have got great domain authority, you can also say we have got an audience of X amount, we are going to put your company in front of them or we are going to link to you from the site so you are going to get that SEO value as well.
It is important to tell the clients that they won’t be made to look like the damsel in distress and you swooped in to save the day.
You need to assure them that you will talk about the challenges you had have but at no point will it look as if we are the saviours. We are here to shine a spotlight on the great work you are doing.
[15.11] – Do you have a lot of companies ask or mention that they don’t want their competitors to know about their success and how do you overcome a problem like this?
This is increasingly common in enterprises. The bigger the client the bigger the red tape you will run into because they have legal departments and they don’t want people to know their secret sauce.
One of the ways you can handle this is to have a great sample. Once you have done one great success story and you can show other people you want to take part a sample of it and tell them to have a look at it. You can assure them that nothing proprietary is disclosed, nobody looks bad, we are not sharing anything sensitive.
When they say they are worried about competitors, what they really mean is they concerned about losing control, control about what’s said about them, control about what is disclosed, control about what is put thee.
He often emphasizes two things, the first part is that they are going to make it easy for them to take part and you have got a process. The second part is that they have the final say over anything.
You need to give them that power and comfort of control.
Also when they are dealing with Fortune 100 companies where they have policies internally against being published publicly named in studies, one of the things that work for them is in the studies we have a line that says we were asked to anonymize the study.
That serves as a massive trust builder because it shows that they are willing to put aside their own personal benefit to tell a great story so we can actually be a trust builder.
[18.09] – Tell us the process we can take to build a good case study?
You have to interview your customers, you run major risks if you don’t involve the customer in the process because you don’t know if they like how you are presenting them or what you are disclosing.
Your goal with the interviews is to turn that person to a story teller, you need to capture their experience not merely get an opinion.
You are not looking for them to say that was great, we love Pingboard, there is no detail in that.
Your goal is to get them to tell the story that was going on in their business?
Why did they choose you over alternatives?
What was the experience of trying it out for the first time?
A very simple tip is to structure the interview in a BDA format (before, during and after).
You also need to consider the format you want to publish it in. There are case studies that are short, long and there are slide decks as well.
You then need to examine the use case of the case study, if you are using it for a cold outreach then it better be short and to the point.
If we want to showcase these on twitter? Maybe a slide deck or maybe a shorter version.
If we are using it as lead generation assets then maybe we need both, a shorter version that teases at the high-level outcome and then a longer version they can download to get all the juicy details.
The headline and the way you put the story matters.
One mistake he made initially was he started with the ‘clients name case study’, that is a bad hook and no one is going to get excited by that.
Headlines like how X achieves Y and why it is doing X with your solution X percent whatever metric. When you are writing the challenge section you want to set tension, you want to make it human.
[28.02] – Do you have a list of questions that you usually ask people or like a standard list that founders can depend on from case to case?
He says they have a list of what is referred to as their core question sets but the danger with a list is assuming that if you just get on the phone and ask those exact questions you will get everything you need.
So a lot of people will take a list to become robots where all they are doing is looking forward to the next question and not really listening to the conversation.
They have a list of core questions they use as a jumping off point but it is never the endpoint.
He loves this question which he often asks in the before section, tell me a little bit about what was going on in your business before you went looking for a solution like this?
From a product development standpoint, he likes the question what was on your list of must-have criteria when you were looking for solutions?
In the during question he likes questions like, what surprised you?
This deals with enterprise but it can work with self-serving software as well. You can ask questions such as what was Rolo like?
Which features did you quickly find most valuable?
Which features could you not do without today that you didn’t anticipate coming in?
To get the insights you want asking the same a slightly way can yield different results, for example, you can’t just ask what is your success metrics?
Before you go on the call you need to tell them to go pull the success metrics so they are not blindsided when they are talking about it. If they are blindsided they will tell you they are going to get back to you on that and they will never get back to you on that.
They need to come into the call knowing what to expect.
For after questions he likes asking them questions such as:
Forcing them to rank or decide what the most valuable impact the software has had for their business?
What is the biggest impact the software has made for you and your role?
[31.56] – You mentioned specific metrics for them to look at ahead of the call. Are there anything else we need to ask of them?
They give people a list of potential metrics to talk about or things they can consider.
If it’s an SEO software for example, they know the types of results clients will typically get so they give them a list of options like if you have any notable results in traffic lifts, conversion lifts and rankings.
Other things that are important to ask in the process of setting up an interview and getting buy-in for a case study is Hey, who needs to sign off on this?
There is nothing worse than finishing an interview and they go we need to get approval from legal or the CEO and they kill the whole thing.
They often target 30 minutes to 45 minutes for the interview unless they are willing to go longer.
[33.59] – Do you think the founder needs to be the one asking the question?
One of the challenges for founders is letting go, you built this thing, you think it is only you that can communicate for it and make decisions on it which isn’t true.
A huge disadvantage of having the founder running the calls aside from the fact that it is a huge waste of time is that you get biased responses.
People will feel like they can’t be truly open with my experience on the platform because they are talking to the founder so it inhibits some people from giving their honest feedback or make them so nervous that they give weird useless feedback.
Founders are great at building businesses but the majority are not really great at running calls and they have trouble distancing themselves and taking constructive criticism objectively.
It is better to have someone other than the founder or ideally a third party conduct the interview for you.
[39.52] – In promoting the case study, what are some assets that we need to have? Do we need to put it into a nice design PDF or can it just be an article on the website?
No matter what you do, you need to think about the design and the presentation.
How do you intend to use the study?
This will influence the length, format and design that accompanies it.
Whether it’s a PDF design, an HTML page or a slide deck the design needs to look beautiful. It needs to look professional and polished.
You can deploy it to a blog but some of you can make it more compelling is instead of a typical problem, solution, results format. You can make it a question and answer type interview or you can do both.
You can have a case study on one section of your site such as the resources section and repurpose that into a Q and A interview using the exact same interview as a piece of blog content and repurpose that into a slide deck.
[44.17] – Do you have some examples of results that companies were able to achieve using these case studies effectively?
One of our early customers rankings.io, they work with a lot of lawyers were able to close over $200,000 in new deals introducing case studies into their sales process.
Within the first month of having them they were able to close more deals with their cold outreach and with people who they are onboarding.
We are going to publish a story about cart hook. CartHook is a client of ours who have baked these case studies into their ads and their outreach. They have seen huge upticks in terms of interest in clicks and conversion on their sales process as well as bottom of the funnel sales type stuff.
Sometimes they drive assisted conversions, sometimes they drive conversions directly though that is harder to measure. A lot of the time you see these improvements in sales close rates and content in terms of traffic.
[46.15] – Do you also help companies to identify how they can use case studies effectively?
One of the things that we have learnt as a company is that out success depends on not only delivering a great product and experience for our clients but their ability to be successful with that asset.
We follow up about a month after we have given a case study to see how it is going. How have you deployed this?
Is there a way we can help? We give them some assets to help such as social media sharing images if they want to promote it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or wherever they are active.
[47.54] – Where can founders learn more about you?
Casebuddy.com has a breakdown of our process, lots of samples so you can see other software companies, agencies, coaches, B2B businesses that we have worked with.
And I post a lot on LinkedIn about conversion copy, case studies and how to use them.
[48.40] – Is there a book that has really impacted you?
There has been a few but it is mostly on the copywriting side. A book called Made to stick was helpful in teaching how to communicate ideas.
That book does an amazing job of breaking down strict criteria for how to make an idea sticky and interesting, how to communicate better and that is a huge talent whether you are a marketer or sale person or a founder.
For those who are trying to become better writers or better sales writers, Dan Kennedy’s ultimate sales letter is another great book.
Although it is a bit old school as he focuses on the principles of direct mail but the principles apply everywhere in emails, on websites, in sales sequences and lessons that you can bring along into case studies especially for things like headlines.
Case Study Buddy – Get case studies that sell hassle free
CopyHackers – Up your copywriting game. Up your results
CartHook – Increase revenue by up to 20% with post-purchase upsells on Shopify
Rankings.io – SEO agency of choice for elite personal injury law firms
PingBoard – The Org Chart with superpowers
Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan S. Kennedy