B2B Tech and SaaS marketers don’t have it easy. If you’re in the industry, you know that sales cycles are always too long (just enough to continuously frustrate stakeholders), and explaining complex solutions in simple terms can be extremely difficult.
So, what is the best way to capture your audience’s attention, keep their interest, and create that ‘aha’ moment when it finally clicks as to how your company solves their problems?
In B2B marketing, the best way to do this is to write case studies that show your audience exactly what you do and how you have helped other similar companies succeed.
Why do B2B SaaS case studies matter so much?
Because, as humans, we relate best to other humans. We relate to their experiences, their failures, their successes, and their growth. A case study does just this. But there’s a particular way to handle case studies for the B2B tech industry in general.
Take note, because here comes the good stuff.
How do B2B SaaS case studies improve your marketing?
87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020, which reveals that most people read about other people’s experiences first before making a purchasing decision.
I can put it this way: imagine that you want to buy a new smartphone. You probably look up endless reviews, compare models, and then, at the end of the day, ask your best friend what they’d recommend. That’s likely the one you end up buying. As B2B marketers we often forget this, but actually, it’s no different when you’re trying to convert someone in a business.
In fact, 60% of business buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information. They want to find that information themselves and read about first-hand experiences.
You can pretty much think of B2B case studies as testimonials on steroids. They supercharge your marketing by presenting social proof and building trust. It’s the best way to demonstrate your product or service’s value and one of the most popular types of B2B content marketing.
Stories sell more. Period.
Neil Patel, a successful B2B digital marketer (basically the Godfather of SEO), claims that using case studies in his emails increased his deal closing ratio by 70%. And after testing three case studies, his sales grew by 185%.
He’s not the only B2B business owner to see success after writing case studies. Marketers believe that this is because case studies are one of the most trusted pieces of content. They’re trusted because they’re real-life stories, of actual people who have used the service or product. Even in the B2B world, happy customers are, after all, your best salespeople.
Case studies are among the most engaging forms of content, as they use storytelling techniques. The purpose of storytelling within a case study is to help to convert customers by explaining complex solutions in an engaging, relatable way. When done right, they pull on your audience’s heartstrings and pique their interest.
B2B SaaS case studies improve your lead generation tactics
Besides generating more leads, publishing case studies on your website is a great way to actively promote your current partners. And these partnerships allow you to tap into new markets.
When your partners share your case study with their audience, you’re able to reach out to their current customer base and turn them into leads. The SaaS industry, in particular, sees huge numbers from this lead generation technique.
Case studies are also great lead magnets. Add a pop up on your website encouraging readers to download your latest case study by signing up your email list – this is always a winning lead generation tool.
Using SaaS case studies for short vs long sales cycles
Depending on the product or service that you’d like to promote, you might target either short or long sales cycles. A short sales cycle generally involves getting your leads to sign up to a freemium version of your service or something that is easy to commit to, while the long sales cycle targets a more expensive tech product or service, which is often for larger companies.
While both sales cycles require you to build a rapport with your customer, the level of detail that you need to go into differs for each.
The nature of a freemium service often means that less in-depth information is needed for someone to make a decision. They don’t have to give up much, whether it’s money or time, in order to sign up, so they also don’t need as much convincing. For example, a case study in these shorter sales cycles can be a one-paragraph testimonial from a happy customer.
On the other hand, when you’re trying to convert high paying clients in the longer sales cycles, you need to share a lot more detailed information. Your case studies should be about your best-case scenario customers and detail how your product solved their problems.
This should include:
- Concrete results
- Relevant statistics
- Social proof, as in screengrabs, graphs, photographs, and verbatim quotes.
- A step-by-step guide on how they implemented your solution
- Copy and design that is personally reflected to your potential clients
Since your product can likely solve several different business problems, you need to write various case studies according to your different target markets. To do this, you first need to clarify your buyer personas and then figure out which of your current customers they best relate to.
What you need to write B2B SaaS case studies
Before you start writing a B2B case study, you need first to understand who you are writing the case study for – and this all begins with your buyer persona.
1. Clarify your buyer persona
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a buyer persona is a fictional representation of your client described in as detailed a manner as possible. If you’re wondering where to begin, just start with your best customers and write about them.
When it comes to case studies, each one you write is as much about your reader as it is about your customer and your brand. You need to know exactly what their pain points are to show them how your product can solve their specific problem.
A detailed buyer persona enables you to understand your client and relate to them personally. Developing a well-crafted buyer persona makes it easier for you to tailor aspects of your products and services to different groups’ behaviors, which in turn helps with writing targeted case studies. With the guidance of a buyer persona, you know what angle to take and the words to use to convert each potential buyer.
You need to develop your buyer personas so well, that when your audience reads your case study, they feel like they’re reading about themselves. By telling them a familiar story that really hits home, you instantly gain their trust.
Nonetheless, formulating a powerful buyer persona requires patience, time, and effort. Start with clarifying who might be interested in your product or service and then figure out how to speak to them on a personal level.
Follow these five steps to create a buyer persona:
- Do thorough audience research
- Identify customer pain points
- Identify customer motivators
- Understand how your brand helps them
- Turn your research into buyer personas
A complete buyer persona includes information like profession, goals, challenges, age, income, education, location, and relevant background story.
It helps to have this complete picture of a person in your head when writing your case study. Think of them as a friend and then adjust how you write accordingly, similar to how you change how you speak to different people in your life.
2. Base your buyer persona on your best customers
I mentioned it above, but I’ll repeat it here that your best customers are the best possible place to start when it comes to buyer personas.
Yet another analogy: you have a circle of friends who are your friends, because you have something in common. You develop that relationship over time and find value in it.
B2B is the same, but you add money in the picture. Who is your best friend from among your customers? What type of customers has the biggest financial value? What type of people do you want to build relationships and how can you do it?
Answer these and there is your buyer persona.
But of course, you also have different types of friends with different types of values.
So when it comes to B2B, another critical aspect to remember here is that you can create various buyer personas that reflect different decision-makers and stakeholders within a business.
For example, one buyer persona for a B2B tech company could be other tech companies’ directors, while another can be tech companies’ marketing managers (depends on if you’re IT or martech). Even though they come from the same type of company, they have different pain points and should be approached accordingly.
A case study aimed at attracting the marketing manager should dive into the day-to-day solutions that your product brings, coming from another marketing manager’s perspective. Meanwhile, the case study aimed at the director should focus on the holistic business benefits, like improved performance, and should be based on the perspective of another director.
3. Interview your customer
Once you determine everything from above, you need to literally just talk to them. Think about the types of questions you’d ask if you were chatting with a colleague about their experience with this particular business (i.e., your business).
Be specific with your questions and make sure to get as much information as possible about their buyer’s journey. You can start by asking them a bit about themselves, giving a quick overview of the company and their role in the company. Make sure to get details that may be relevant to your buyer persona’s company – like the number of employees, how long they’ve been in business, and company revenue.
But it’s not all just asking about numbers. You also need to dive into their struggles and why they decided to use your product. Learn which products, tools, and processes they used before purchasing your product. Ask how these products, tools, and processes were and weren’t helpful in reaching their goals.
Ask about what factors they considered before choosing your solution and what the buying process was like. Did they compare your product with other options, what made them select yours in the end?
Go into detail with exactly how they use your product – from how they implemented your product into their business to who in the company uses it and how long it took to start seeing positive results. Make sure to get a mix of statistics and the emotional points that the customer achieved while using the product.
Make sure to include thought-provoking questions to enhance your case study with powerful quotes, such as:
1. How would you describe your process in one sentence prior to using our product?
2. How would you describe our product if you were explaining it to a friend?
3, What do you love about our product?
4. What is your favorite thing about doing business with us?
5. How did using our product make you feel?
Prepare the case study questions in advance and send them to your customer beforehand. This will allow them to think about the questions first and have the available data/information readily on hand during the interview.
While interviewing, make sure to write down actual quotes. If possible, record the interview so you can go back and pull out the details and verbatim quotes. Make sure to always get permission before recording!
B2B case study best practices for the tech and SaaS industry
If not written well, case studies can easily miss the mark. Here are a few best practices to follow to ensure that your case study is persuasive enough to capture AND convert your leads.
1. Balance readability, storytelling, and your sales approach
When your potential clients are busy Directors and Senior Executives, don’t make them search for information. Instead, start with an executive summary that gives them a quick overview on the case study. This might include who the client is, the industry that they’re in, their challenges, the solutions that they used, and the results. It should be readable in 30 seconds or less.
Below is an example of the summary that we include at the beginning of our case studies. Short and sweet.
From there, you can further introduce the customer by highlighting similarities with your buyer persona.
Tell the story of their challenges and how they managed to solve them, with your company’s help. End with the results and always highlight relevant statistics. Actual percentages of time saved or money earned tells a story of objective success.
But also make sure it’s enjoyable to read for all types of readers – those who want a quick read and those who want to digest every detail. Don’t bury the results. Boxing out results or highlighting them in a sidebar is an excellent tactic for making them stand out. You can also present them in an infographic format, like the example below.
Oh and on a personal note: DO NOT gate your case study. If someone has to give you their personal data in order to learn how you can help them, you’ve missed the entire point of a case study.
2. Create a 1 to 1 conversation with direct-response copy
A great way to encourage an emotional response from your reader is to use direct-response techniques. Direct-response copywriting involves writing as though you are speaking directly to a prospective customer. Make it as easy as possible for them to follow the story – the easier it is for the reader to understand what you’re saying, the more likely they are to trust you.
Cut out the jargon and complicated, unnecessary words. Get to the point, quickly. Refer to the reader as “you” as often as possible.
You can make the copy more compelling by finding the pain points and struggles that your reader and your hero (your customer) share. Use these challenges to make the stakes clear to the reader – tell them exactly what they stand to lose if they don’t buy your product. And also, what they stand to gain if they do. They too can see X% of growth if they use your product.
Use images where you can – from screenshots to graphs and infographics. These act as further social proof for the work that you’ve done.
Here at Zengrowth, sometimes we even include photographs with our clients.
3. Highlight what makes you unique and why they should choose you over everyone else
Make your unique selling proposition (USP) as clear as possible. Why are you the best company to partner with? What makes you better than your competitors?
Show this by clearly stating how you specialize in their particular industry and helping this type of audience or stakeholder. Speak directly to what you know they are looking for.
To give you a concrete example, the below quote in one of our case studies speaks to our USP as being a company that really cares about our clients’ success and that we’re extremely experienced and knowledgeable in what we do.
4. Present data and emphasize overall business advantages
Present the results in a way that balances statistics with emotional payouts. Yes, numbers are always great, but readers are also looking for your product or service’s emotional benefits. You can do this by relating the data to holistic business growth and positive ROI (where possible).
For example, your business management software might have helped a business streamline their operations so well that they then had the capacity to take on ten more clients. More clients meant more revenue and an increased bottom line, as they didn’t have to hire more staff to handle the increased workload.
This case study from a marketing agency working with the Patagonia fashion brand is a great example of combining statistics with emotional payouts. The stats show the hard facts while the results tap into the more human-centred benefits of their collaboration.
While presenting the data, highlight the customer’s before and after situation. For example, before starting to use your service they were getting 100 sales a month. Six months later, after implementing your product in their business, they are getting 500+ sales a month.
Use the data to combat buying obstacles. Show how simple it is to sign up or purchase the product with quotes like “In just one-hour, we were set up and ready”.
You may not always have data to draw on – perhaps your business is new, or results are hidden behind a non-disclosure agreement. But you can still tap into social proof. Use real photos of your customer, their full name and job title, and verbatim quotes. These all add to giving your case study a human element, increasing your credibility.
Putting a face to your case study makes your reader think, “If John got these results, then I can too.”
5. Give your reader their next best step, known as a CTA
While you don’t want your case studies to come across as overly salesy, you do still need to give your reader a compelling call to action (CTA). Something that is going to encourage them to act – whether it’s to sign up to your freemium version, book a demo call, or immediately sign up for the full package.
Include this not just at the end, but also throughout the case study. Your first CTA should come directly after the executive summary – don’t make people search for it.
The bottom of your case study should always have your company contact details or simply a “Interested in learning more?” with contact details to get in touch. Some case studies, like the Bitly example below, even include a short summary of the business.
Overall, B2B case studies play a critical role in helping your audience envision the impact your service, product, or solution could have on their bottom line. If you want to learn more about writing B2B tech and SaaS case studies that are guaranteed to covert, speak to one of our experts on content marketing.