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case studies

Everyone is drawn to a good story. Why? We love to imagine ourselves as the protagonist, overcoming the odds and winning. Stories are inspiring. Stories help us understand how the world works.

Ultimately, stories give us clues about how to solve our own problems in the real world. And stories are attractive because they’re concrete. They’re visual, easily pictured in the mind’s eye. We all would much rather learn through a story than through a lecture.

Prospects Learn Through Stories Too

But the power of stories goes much deeper. Psychologists believe that stories have served humans in their quest for survival since the earliest of times — our species has used storytelling to warn and learn of dangers in the world around us. Storytelling is a part of our primal psyche.

In 2010, neuroscientists at Princeton University discovered the ability of stories to “sync” the brains of storytellers and their listeners. The fMRI imaging revealed that when one person told a story to another, both individuals’ brains displayed nearly identical activity across most areas. This phenomenon was repeated with each of the pairs in the study.

Is it any wonder that stories sell better than a list of facts?

Illuminating Insight Makes Stories Produce Buying Behavior

Many marketers and salespeople have realized that storytelling plays an important part in gaining new customers, so they’re using case studies and customer stories in their marketing and sales conversations.

But not just any story has the ability to motivate a prospect to buy now, and buy from your company rather than a competitor. There are two traps that marketers and salespeople fall into when telling customer stories: not understanding the danger of the status quo, and not truly differentiating the value of their product or service.

To result in a purchase, a story has to illuminate the cost of the status quo and the benefits of change as well as demonstrate that the prospects’ pain cannot be fully solved with any other solution. Let’s look at each of these requirements and how to use them to boost the effectiveness of your case studies.

1. Reveal the Cost of the Status Quo

Several studies show that 60-70% of enterprise sales opportunities end with the prospect not making a decision. The status quo is your biggest competition for two main reasons:

  • Time Scarcity: Today’s companies are operating “lean and mean” — there’s more work and fewer people to get the work done. Prospects are stressed about everything that they need to accomplish in the time that they have available, and it’s easy to put off buying decisions that take up additional time.
  • Loss Aversion: We are all wired to avoid loss. We fear making buying decisions because it involves risk: a potential for loss.

If your customer stories are going to result in a purchase by the listener, they have to clearly communicate why the status quo is so terrible. Your case studies need to bring prospects to the realization that the risk of keeping the status quo is worse than the risk of taking the action necessary to purchase your product or service.

Let’s Get Practical: You can accomplish this by really digging into the pain and suffering that the protagonist (your client) was dealing with before they began working with you. Describe this pain in detail — not only the amount of money being lost, time being wasted, and other numerical stats, but also the emotional consequences that the key players were dealing with.

2. Differentiate Your Value

By now, we all know that 60% of the buyer’s purchase decision is complete before connecting with a salesperson. But what does this mean? Buyers are researching on their own, forming their thinking based on information gleaned online, without additional input. They come to the sales conversation with opinions already in place.

Because most companies don’t do a good job differentiating their value on their website and other online communication channels, prospects believe that most providers are pretty similar. They come to the sales conversation thinking of your product or service as a commodity.

Your case studies (actually, all of your materials, but especially case studies) need to reframe the situation so that prospects understand two things:

  1. Why they need your particular solution
  2. Why they’re not going to find it elsewhere

Let’s Get Practical: If you don’t already have a clear picture of how your solution is truly different from the alternatives available, ask yourself this question: “What aspect of the prospect’s problem is my company better equipped to solve than my competitors?” There’s some element of the problem that you can fix better than anyone else. Once you know what that element is, uncover all the pain points associated with it. Peel back all the layers of those pain points and dig into all the ways that the prospect feels that pain and the consequences of it. Next, get very clear on exactly why and how you are better equipped than your competitors to solve those particular pain points. Your case studies should make your prospects realize that those pain points are the most important ones (by clearly communicating the pain and the consequences) and show how you can solve them better than anyone else.

Make Your Case Studies Powerful

Stories connect, and stories are memorable. But when you incorporate these two insights into your customer stories, they become even more powerful. Powerful enough to move prospects to take action and sign contracts.

Need help creating case studies that generate new business? Let’s talk!