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The 7 Things the Top 1% of Companies Do Better with Their Case Studies by Joel Klettke of Case Study Buddy

Bernard Huang

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Joel Klettke of Case Study Buddy joined us to share the 7 things the top 1% of companies do better with their case studies.

Here are our biggest takeaways from Joel’s talk:

  1. You need to involve the whole team in the case study process.

  2. Tell a story. People resonate with stories and not all brands can/want to share metrics

  3. Build a process and framework to support your case study work.

Watch the full webinar

Joel generously shared a copy of his slide deck here.

And check out Case Study Buddy’s 2023 SaaS Case Study Report.

About Joel Klettke:

Joel is the founder of Case Study Buddy and a freelance conversion copywriter. He specializes in helping B2B businesses like SaaS, digital agencies and their clients better understand their customers, optimize their conversion funnels and drive more customers to action with compelling copy.

Follow Joel on Twitter:

About Case Study Buddy:

Case Study Buddy helps midsize to enterprise companies like HubSpot, Loom, Docebo, Extensiv, Lever, and more.

They’re a full team of interviewers, writers, videographers, project managers, designers, and strategists. It’s like hiring an entire department dedicated to making your case studies hit harder, convert better, and drive more ROI.

Read the transcript


Today we're going to be doing a little bit of a deep dive. If you're expecting this session to be like, here is how to write a really great headline for a case study, this is not that. What I want to take you through and walk you through is the nitty-gritty of what 7 Different Key Things The 1% Do Better With Case Studies and how you can join them. And where that title comes from, when I talk about the 1%, it's not just a catchy title. Over the past seven years we've worked with over 300 companies. It's actually past 350, large, small, all the way to multi-billion dollar enterprise. We've done over 1500 stories. Again, it's probably more, past 2000 at this point, and that has given me a pretty unique position, a front row seat to see how different companies come at the challenges inherent in case studies, inherent in referral programs, inherent in how do you put together really compelling lateral in an environment where you're dependent on multiple stakeholders and there's so many moving pieces and there's so much to consider.

And so today I want to walk you through again, those seven different ideas, seven different ways that the top 1% of the companies that even we work with come at the challenges of things like telling stronger stories, scaling their production up, improving their buy-in rates, both internal and external, and then getting their teams aligned and other issues that we'll bump into as we go through here. But before we can do that, I think the number one thing that I want to start with is that we need to shift our thinking. There are just a ton of prevalent misconceptions about case studies, customer success stories about how they get done, who should do them, where they belong in the org. And so these are some of the mindset shifts I want to invite you into.

The first is that for most companies, case studies are incidental and we want to move, seeing them as strategic, something that can be planned and intentionally curated. These do not have to be the byproduct of happy accidents. Someone from leadership goes, "Ah, go get more case studies in this," and there's a gigantic race to discover everything in reverse. We can get to a place where case studies are inevitable, the outcome of systems and processes, we can be strategic about it. That is the first shift that we need to make because the best companies already have.

I think the second thing is that case studies get treated like a marketing project when in reality case studies are a team sport. You're going to see this come up over and over and over again as I go through here. The best companies, the most effective companies, whether it's scale, effectiveness of storytelling, all of it lives within this kernel of an idea that your entire organization has some role to play in this and knowing what that role is and how to execute well makes an enormous difference.

I think the next thing is shifting from the idea that these are sporadic to systematic. Again, this is not something that you do a push for one quarter and leave alone for the rest of the year. This is something that can be happening and should be happening ongoing. There should be year round accountabilities for different parts of this and we'll look at those, but you are able to curate and choose stories versus relying on volunteers. For most companies, they rely on volunteers, people putting up their hand, people incidentally saying, "Hey, I've got a big win," and, "Oh, we'd love to be featured," and as caveman bash head against stone as that sounds, that is the way most companies are running. So moving away from that. Also critically moving away from one story one time, one way to a full campaign's worth of assets, rethinking the way that we publish these.

For most companies, it's such a relief just to get to the point of publish that that's all they do. They push the story onto a resources section, they leave it there, they forget about it. They never leverage all of the potential ROI that they have spent so much time curating and building and putting together. They basically let these things wither on a vine and do almost nothing for them. So shifting towards an idea that these are for the entire buyer's journey, not just the end.

And if I was to sum it up, moving away from being reactive to getting to a place of being proactive. Proactive in our storytelling, proactive in our processes, proactive in curating stories and getting teams aligned. So let's dive in. The goal for you leaving this session is to be able to start thinking through how you can engineer a program that starts with strategy on a story level, acquisition level, delivery level, get your teams aligned on things like goals and processes and expectations. Ensure the usage and deployment of your assets in an ongoing multi-channel way by all teams, not just the marketing team. And then create feedback loops so you can continue to refine this over time.

So the first thing that is different, the first of seven that the top 1% do differently is they take this cross team approach of already alluded to it. Let's spell out what the problem is. This is what the problem looks like visually in companies who have multiple different teams who all play a role in the process but don't collaborate or talk about it, and so they wind up competing with each other.

Leadership often sets the mandate for stories and they're most interested in growth KPIs, they're most interested in show the financial numbers, show the big wins, show those sexy details and things like that. While meanwhile, sales often owns the relationship. They're closest to the customer, whether this is sales or CSMs, what have you. They're often closest to the customer, meaning that they have all of the context into where that account's at, what type of wins they've had, what sort of goals brought them in the first place, and that context is rarely well shared. So they're also going to gravitate towards sales KPIs. They're only interested in taking part in things that help them close deals, help them sell. They couldn't give a crap about those metrics and those stories unless that turns into collateral for them to do something with.

Meanwhile, marketing owns the creative, so they go, "Great, we're going to produce the stuff we want, blog posts and PDFs and videos and we're going to have great marketing collateral." They don't think about sales. They don't even necessarily think about leadership unless leadership's breathing down their necks. So marketing winds up defining the ROI of the stories. They wind up measuring the impact in ways that are conducive to marketing, but ignoring all the other teams and they're most interested in marketing KPIs and then customer support or customer success, they might be making the ask. They're going to be concerned with satisfaction KPIs and renewals and things like that. How can I make sure that we're not asking too much of the customer? How can I make sure that my stake in this doesn't get compromised? So now you have all of these different teams all with different motivations, marketing tasks with producing this thing and then basically being oblivious to all these other factors that need to play a role in the process. So you need to get your house in order before you invite customers into it. You need to have a plan, you need to have a process, you need to have conversations.

Well, what are those conversations going to be about? You need advocates from all teams and those teams I showed are not exhaustive. There are other teams with roles to play. I'm just trying to keep it as light and as focused as I can, but you need advocates from all areas, leaders from all of those areas aligned on the following. Number one, your goals for case studies as a whole. What does a successful case study program actually look like and how can we track it? Leadership needs to be on board. Marketing needs to make the case for how things will be measured. Sales needs to take ownership of tracking things like how do they close when case studies are involved versus when they're not. Everybody has a role to play in understanding and defining those goals and tracking against them.

But the next one is formats. What formats serve each team best? So for example, marketing is in love with deep dive pieces. They love the detail, the rich detail, the chance to put everything on display. And the good news is that works brilliantly well in some environments and the terrible news is it works horribly in other environments, namely sales environments, social environments, it doesn't always play out well. So what formats are going to serve sales better? What formats are going to serve the social team better? You want to have a plan for what you're going to produce in the end and then moreover, where will these assets live? If the only place you know to go to access your case studies is your own site and you are subject to the same filtering your customers or prospects or leads see, you better hope it's really good filtering because that's wholly inadequate for most teams, especially at scale.

Sales is going to want to have topically curated things. They're going to know which stories can I go to with this competitor or with this topic or this objection. So you need a place that these are going to live and be accessible, whether that's Highspot, whether that's a spreadsheet, whether that's Google Drive, whether it's categorize, what have you. You just need to have a plan and something shared and that they know and you have to have a plan for how they'll be categorized and how they will be revisited over time. And then you need to be aligned on the process. If everything from identification of prospects to take part in stories or class take part in stories all the way through final deployment is well-defined. Everyone is more comfortable supporting that. When it is poorly defined, people wonder where their effort is going, what their clients will be subjected to. They question the output at the end because they have no idea how the sausage is made. I promise you, if leadership actually took the time to look at the stages involved, and you'll see them in a second in doing a case study, they would think differently when they see a story come out the other side and go, "Where are all the metrics, you idiots?" They would better understand all of the different factors and forces happening and working with them and against them there.

Then finally, accountabilities. You need advocates relying on who does what, who has final say? Who oversees the program and who has veto power and more importantly, who does not need to be involved in different stages because velocity is everything with case studies. The longer you take to produce them, the less likely they will ever go live.

And then what timelines are reasonable? So again, sales needs to be committed to nominating within a certain period. Reviews need to happen within a certain timetable. People need to know the expectations. If you want more on that, there's a post that I put together called How to get your Sales Team to Help with Case Studies, but it also goes beyond and offers practical tips for teams as a whole.

So here's something that we see and we know. In the top 1% we see teams are more likely to participate in programs they've actually had a hand in shaping than something thrust upon them. Marketing cannot define this and build this in isolation. Here are from a high level, some of the stages involved in doing case studies while in building a program, everything from strategy to nomination to making the ask, coordinating the interview or the video shoot, interviewing that person, asset creation, asset deployment, and then measurement and review. If you're expecting one person to be great at all of these things, prepare to be let down. There is a lot happening here where different people have different levels of access to customers, to intel, to context, and this is just the high level. This is one layer deeper within strategy, there are things like goals, coverage, gaps, what types of stories we're telling. Nomination, who's identifying, who's validating, who's establishing that context? When we get into coordinating who's project managing the entire project, who's scheduling, who's securing release, who's handling the client's experience? When we get down to asset creation, who's actually drafting the pieces? And then who's navigating revisions and approvals all the way down to measurement and review, who's reporting up to leadership how this is all going so they can see the value and continue to support it.

So again, this deck will be available after. This is not hard and fast. This is again just a glimpse at some of the different things going on, but how do we make this tangible? How do we make this practical? Because you're drinking from the fire hose right now going, "Ah, this is a lot." Go to your good friend Excel and just mock up this very simple spreadsheet. This is v1, this is your ugly. You're not going to burst into a beautiful program, but take this previous thing, map out the stage and from a high level, what is the stage? Who is the owner? What's the acceptable timeline for the task that needs to happen within that stage? Who do they depend on to get this done? What resources do you have to enable that? We'll talk about that later. And then any notes, this is the simplest, ugliest way to start this process, but you should start it. So to recap, the top 1% established clear ownership and accountabilities, create ongoing internal feedback loops, optimize for the outcomes of every team and then involve and get the support of leadership. That is what the best of the best do.

Number two, they have an intentional story strategy. So two of seven, intentional story strategy, timeframe, mindset shift again. Why do people connect with a case study? Here's what marketers tend to think. They like the big logos, they like the huge metrics, they like the sexy quotes. They want to see those trade secrets. They want that prescriptive deep dive and then they want that high polish, that glossy sheen, Here in reality, this is what people actually want from stories. They love seeing a big logo, but what matters more for action and ROI? Is it relatable? Do I see myself in that story on a role basis, company size basis, industry basis? Can I relate? Because it's great if you've got one enterprise case study, but terrible if all you serve is otherwise small business. That might be aspirational for them, but that is not a good representation of the ROI you drive.

The huge metrics, yes, people might get hooked by a metric. What they really want is an aspirational outcome. They want to be rid of a problem or they want to achieve a solution. They are looking for a story that they can aspire to and believe, more importantly rather than the perfect quote, they believe that your recounting of that story is credible. They want to know that it's true. They want to be able to believe that this is something that is accurate and that if they place their chips and make a bet and make a purchase decision with you, could actually come to fruition.

Yes, they would love trade secrets, but that's not the heart of it. What they really want is something prescriptive or informational, something deep enough to actually help them make a decision. It has to be deep enough for them to relate. I'm sorry, but a list of bullet points and nice sounding quotes is not a customer story. That is just a back pat for you. A story is something that I can sink my teeth into, that I can relate to, aspire to, that I believe is credible and that helps me do something, whether that's implement myself or make a decision. And then rather than high polish, they want it to be compelling. Yes, the high polish can make a big difference. It can be really sexy to have this beautifully produced on-site video for example, but more than that, I am willing to let there be some graininess in the footage as long as the story is compelling and your leads will too.

So case studies can be a lot of things. It's not just problem solution results. They can be prescriptive, they can be a go do this, how to. They can be demonstrative or demonstrated. They can say how we solved X, how we solved this problem. They can be metrics based and we all love the metrics based ones, but they can also be relationship based. Some of the best stories we've ever written, highest performing have no metrics at all. They're all about the relationship and what that looked like and why the company could be trusted or how a problem was navigated putting strategy on display. They can be a lot of things and moreover, to drive at this whole thing, we think that companies want the big metric, the big sexy number, whatever it might be. But look at what Client Boost does, and I'll take some credit for this because I introduced them to the idea of this type of filtering.

When your leads go through, these are the typical filters. What kind of buyer maybe, what industry, what niche, what feature, whatever. But tell me, if you come into Client Boost site, you're not going to click show me clients who are worth billions now or have crazy complex offerings or grew enough to get acquired or had a small budget. These are problems or aspirations I can relate to. What do your leads relate to? What are they really looking for? It may be different from company to company. And when you can tap into that, what type of story do I want to see beyond just industry and so on? Then you've got a recipe for success. So we're going to fly through this, but here are just 10 examples of different types of case studies, different types of success stories you can tell. You can tell switcher stories, someone who left a competitor for you, upgrader story, someone who expanded their service or product and benefited from it.

Disambiguator. Demonstrate a use case that might be foreign to your market or that a new market might not realize you can serve.

Buying board. Appeal to very specific roles or board as a whole. Hate to break it to you, CTOs care a lot about things that are very different from what CMOs care about and if you're sending CTOs CMO ready case studies, they're probably not going to resonate. So thinking about role level.

Playbook. We're going to see a great example of this in a second. So here's how to do X based on Y, what Y customer did with us.

Skeptic. Take a client who almost didn't convert. Someone who's super skeptical and make the whole story about overcoming those objections and why they ultimately felt it was a good choice.

Implementation. What did the implementation process look like?

Problem solver. A client where you turn things around for them, where things were in distress. This is kind of the typical one we normally think of.

But even a subset. Focus on an individual feature or sub-product. You think you have to cover your entire product suite. Well, if there's a case to be made for one specific feature, you might drill in there.

Or a profile, a customer profile. Who are the kinds of people that choose this? Great example of this is the HubSpot for startups examples of the stories that they're telling there. Those are aspirational. You get to know the founder, you get to watch their story, you get to see what they're achieving. It's like, "I want to be the kind of people who choose HubSpot." That lands on a human level.

Okay, here's an example of a playbook. I'm not going to go into too much detail now because we're on time constraints. Go check out what Mutiny is doing with their playbook case studies. Best I've ever seen, whole industry. One of the things I will call your attention to, look at that, What You'll Learn section, there's an implicit promise in this story that you are going to learn how to combine Firmographic serum of behavioral personalization, how personalization can 5X conversions, why testing speed is key to successful experimentation. I'm going to read this because I have a promise of value at the outset and moreover Mutiny delivers on it. It's a playbook to go and do and by the time you finish it, you think I should buy Mutiny, so I can go and do that too.

Here's an example of a switcher story. You can go check it out. It's the University of San Diego for HubSpot, talks about a switch from Salesforce to HubSpot and why they made that decision and the implications of that and what the experience of switching was like and what they achieved because of it. Great example of a switcher story.

Disambiguator. Not a sexy niche at all. A company called RoboVent is not going to get too many people fired up, but great disambiguation stories. So specific, polar industrial plastics, a safe solution for fiberglass fine grinding dust. You might not care about this, this might be boring to you, but if I do fiberglass fine grinding dust in my facility, I'm like, "Wow, RoboVent can handle this." Disambiguated done. "Powerful Air Cleaners Enable Safer Workouts in the COVID Era. Gym owners, they do not care about fiberglass fine grinding dust. If you start talking on that technical level to them, they won't get it. But if you approach and disambiguate, "Hey, in the COVID era you can use our powerful air cleaners to make your gym a safer place to be," disambiguating a use case for the product. Now I get it's gone from being industrial and foreign to, "Oh, I could have this in my gym."

One of the best examples of videos with no metrics at all, Crisp Video. They do videos for lawyers. Again, best I've ever seen in my life. Most videos for lawyers are horrendous. This Derek Law Firm video, go watch it. Watch the customer testimony in that it makes you feel something. There is no metric. There is only the outcome of a one case and how the lawyer looked after them and it is so compelling that you'll wish you needed to hire a lawyer for something.

So the top 1%, they consult all departments on their coverage gaps and needs. A coverage gap is a story type, a gap in the arsenal that they have. Sales has coverage gaps for objections or roles and so on and so forth. So they consult all departments on what they need from a storytelling perspective. They align those stories with real world business and revenue goals for the business. They prioritize based on if we close this gap, what will it look like for us in terms of ROI? They map out the KPIs that they intend to capture for each of those gaps. So they look at what KPIs matter in these stories so that they can tell customers we want to talk about this. And then they intentionally curate stories based on that plan. They don't put this together. "All right, well let's just see what problems..." They go looking for these stories.

So number three, proactive prospecting. Wouldn't you know it? What a convenient segue. The third thing is getting all teams to understand implicitly, this is who we're after. This is what a win actually looks like and this is when and how to ask. Don't wait for it to come to you. Get your entire team aligned on how you go out and get it. What does that look like practically. In an SOP, it means defining requirements for who you go after. What are the criteria for this coverage gap or on a whole for customers that you are going to feature? You might say, "Well we can't get anyone. Should we just start with all comers?" And the answer might be, "Yes, for now," but this is what you want to angle towards. Once you have your first stories that you can start to use as samples in the pitching process, you want to start being very intentional about who you go after.

So let's talk more about proactive prospecting. How do you do this? Well, the top 1%, they proactively audit their client database for ideal fits once coverage gaps in these stories have been defined. They intentionally flag ideal targets who fit gaps and likely have data. They leverage surveys on the concept of escalating commitment to get these clients on board. They look for opportunities to discuss feedback or impact or just present the ask. They look at what's already happening that they can key into, whether that is feedback surveys, conversations with reps and so on. And they use those to escalate commitment over time instead of marketing swinging in like a bunch of strangers and saying, "Hey, can we do a case study with you, person who's never heard of me and by the way, this is really self-serving and it's just going to make us look great." That doesn't feel natural or organic to the client. And then you want to standardize, we're going to talk about this in a little bit, but standardize how you ask and prime that customer.

If you want more metrics in your stories, you should know the metrics you plan to ask them about and they should know the metrics you plan to ask them about. They should be seeded before that conversation ever happens because we like to live in a fantasy world where our customers know the ROI at the drop of a hat. They don't. I challenge you. Think of the latest SaaS tool you use today. Can you name your specific ROI with that tool to date this year? If you can, you're a freak. It's not common. You need to give them time to understand. There's a post on this. It's our most popular post on the site. How To Get Clients To Agree To Be In Case Studies. We have a bit of a recipe for making the ask which I don't have time to cover today, but there's some ingredients there that will help you be more successful and I'll touch on them a little bit later. But that post goes in depth.

You can also pull versus pushing all the time. So simple, but here's something Clozd does that I guarantee sends them qualified case studies within their existing case studies on the site and elsewhere. They just say, "If you love using Clozd, we'd love to feature you in a story like this. Connect with our team via email to learn more." Are you even asking in your content? Is it on your site? Are you pulling people in? If you run a SaaS product, do you have in app an opportunity to raise your hand and share a win? Do you have it framed up, "Here's some benefits of taking part." One of the easiest things that you can implement is just giving a place for people to put up their hand and encounter an opportunity to share. You'll be surprised what comes through.

And then consider incentives both internal and external. So for internal, create opportunities for these different teams to share and celebrate. That might be putting a bounty on stories. And we've seen everything from a $25 gift card to one enterprise company put a $5,000 bounty on a story that went live for any CSM that nominated it. You can think about doing events like a Wins Wednesday. Once a month on a Wednesday, marketing, sales, they come together, talk about what's going on in accounts, talk about the coverage gaps they've established. Who's winning? What's it looking like? If it's on the calendar it gets remembered. If it's not, it doesn't. Newsletters internal and external. Celebrate the people nominating. Celebrate the wins you're having. Channels on Slack or how are you communicating? Put these things in place.

For external. Again, what I just said, make it easy to put up your hand, whether it's an in-app call-out, whether it's discounts for taking part, though you do have to disclose those. Whether it's contests, whether it's advocacy programs, formal buying boards, customer advocacy boards or exclusive events that you can invite them to take part in. That's one of the simplest, the most effective ones. Invite them to come speak at something, host a summit, capture that footage, interview them while they're there. One of the easiest ways to get buy-in. So there's another post here, How To Get Buy-in For Your Case Studies. Slightly different than this, How To Get Clients To Agree To Be In Case Studies, because it talks about internal as well, but lots of resources there to sink your teeth into. So the top 1%, they align on prospecting the coverage gaps, leverage existing conversations and escalating commitment. They hold teams accountable to these things and they provide structure to ensure consistent expectations are set.

So the next one, we'll fly through this, but Visible & Reported Success Metrics. In short, getting metrics in your case studies starts long before the client achieves anything, way before they ever achieve anything. So you set the expectation of talking about KPIs and ROI normal. If you don't do that, then don't be surprised when it feels weird for them to suddenly be talking about it with you. So map out your touchpoints, identify and leverage existing activity. What existing calls, what existing surveys, what existing check-ins could you already use? What's already happening that you could use to start talking about metrics early in the relationship, throughout the relationship. Create accountability, task somebody with this. Who is responsible for checking in on the customer's ROI and having these conversations and who is responsible for documenting it and where? Make that explicit.

Plan your own cadence and channels. When will discussions about ROI happen that aren't already? Will they happen in email? Will they happen in a call? Will they happen in app? Will they happen in surveys? There's no universal here because every business is different. But when you have mapped out your cadence of communications, if you see gaps or if you map out your cadence of communications and it's an onboarding email and then nothing, this is where this comes into play. And then establish documentation and sharing. So how will these goals, wins, et cetera, be documented and shared among teams and team members. You can facilitate tracking. Get your customers to start taking care of this for themselves. So establish baked in KPIs and proxies. Define what metrics you can deliver, give them the access you have and the goals your customer share. Two great examples of this, Grammarly, they push, they have data they can push to say, "You're better than 81% of Grammarly users." Keeping KPIs top of mind, keeping metrics top of mind so that when they go to do a case study, I can go, "Oh, I wrote 2,605 words, I didn't know that." So if they see an outside performer, that's an easy win.

Another one is Loom. Loom took it on themselves to define what it looks like to save yourself a meeting, any video five minutes or longer. And then they send a newsletter saying, "Hey, you saved X amount of meetings this month." That is an example of facilitating tracking and keeping that top of mind. So make KPIs readily accessible. Dashboards, reports, summaries, make it easy for clients to reference the ROI impact that you are making, that they're experiencing. That might be a report, that might be an app, that might be an email, that might be a newsletter. That can look a whole lot of different ways depending on your service and your business, but make them accessible and then schedule or automate touchpoints, so make it frequent and that's the long and short of that.

If you don't have a metric, use it as a bridge. Just because you don't have a metric doesn't mean you shouldn't tell a great story. So get their initial feedback, ask if they could share and then turn that into a testimonial. And when they do a testimonial, "Are you open to being in a story?" And they go, "I don't have any metrics.? That's fine, capture it. Tell a no metric study and then say, "Can we follow up in six months?" Track these things for the next six months and then come back and update that study with metrics. Just because the perfect story didn't materialize instantly doesn't mean you can't tell that story iteratively over time. It can be a progressive thing. So the top 1% captures success measures at the outset and they make talking ROIs and KPIs normal. They seed KPIs ahead of conversations.

One of the dumbest things companies do repeatedly is invite someone to a case study interview without telling them anything about what they're going to be talking about. "Come share your win." "Okay, great. I'll turn up." "But what are you seeing?" "I don't know, I'll have to look that up for you." Are we surprised that you can't get metrics? Are we surprised that people turn down interviews? Be specific. "We'd like to talk to you about these parts of your story. If you have them we'd love to reference these KPIs. Oh, you don't have them? Can we get these proxies? Can we talk about these instead?" Go in with context. Don't wait for it to show up in a call.

Number 5, Templates and Standardization. Here's the honest truth. Expectation-setting creates and solves all of the toughest problems in case studies. Bad expectation setting creates all the problems. Good expectation solving mitigates most of them. What does this look like? Poor expectation setting means poor buy-in, internal and external. If sales doesn't believe marketing has a plan for treating their customer with respect and making this efficient, they are not going to nominate people. Similarly, if the client doesn't think their time's going to be respected and they don't believe there's a plan for how this story's going to unfold, they are not going to take part, bad expectation setting.

Lack of proper release. If marketing charges in and says, "We're interviewing you," and then they get to the end and the customer goes, "Oh yeah, this has to go through legal." Oops, poor expectation setting. That should have been dealt with earlier, it should have been seeded earlier on. Who else do we have to talk to? Who does this need to clear? Proper expectation setting, who owns getting clearance?

Unclear process or false promises. The number of times that a nomination does happen, but an unworldly promise is made like, "This will only take 15 minutes all in," is atrocious. If your teams don't know how to make consistent clear promises of what the process system won't take part in. Again, hinders buy-in, damages relationships, means stories may not go live, people lose interest and so on. It can result in a weaker story, fewer metrics details. Again, your clients should expect to turn up with some information. They should expect some of what they'll be asked on a call. Bad expectation setting, bad outcome. And then poor expectation setting is no learning, refinement, or longevity of your program. If you can't set consistent and clear expectations for everyone over time you're not going to learn. You're not going to get better. The program will not survive.

So some of the templates you need, I'm not going to go through them all today. I'll give you a couple examples, but some of the templates you need to establish. You need a legal release form. You need to establish templates for making the ask, both email and in-person. There needs to be a script, something to build on. And ideally a pitch deck, something that answers the questions of what's involved. How do I take this to my superiors and let them know what's involved? You need templates for the layouts you're going to publish to, so everyone knows this is what's coming out the other side. And the media guidelines, where and how can this be used so you don't wind up stepping in the crap when you take an interview, use it as an ad. "Whoops, we didn't have proper legal release, now we're in trouble." And then communications throughout the process. You need templates for process updates and instructions to the client for how to win with you.

You need templates for check-in/approval emails because doing that manually at scale sucks. And then a template for celebrating on publish. Celebrate on publish, when something goes live throw a party. Let the client know, have something to build on there. So look, a good ask template, how do you make the ask? Some elements of a good ask template. It's personal. You tell them why them and why now. It's specific, what parts of their story will you cover? What metrics are you hoping they will share? It's clear, what's the high level process, what's the high level time commitment? What are the next steps if I'm interested? And it's succinct, it's all those things in a very tight window. Very important.

A good priming template. What does priming mean? That you've gotten buy-in, interviews coming up, now you need to prime the customer to win. Don't just assume, "Hey, they said yes, this is going to go great." Priming template, it mentions specifics, so make it clear what is relevant or meaningful in the story. Tell them again, it allows time to pull the metrics, remind them of the metrics you're looking for and look for proxies. And it reduces fear, ensures customer feels a sense of control over what is about to happen.

So the top 1% of companies, they create expectation-setting templates and they standardize them across teams and they make them accessible and centralized for all teams and then they refine them with use. When sales finds something that works better, the template gets updated.

Number 6. Multi-stage, multi-channel distribution. This is really, really key. The best companies don't publish this thing one way, one time and let it die. This is a model we use internally, something that informs the way we think about it. Nibble, bite, snack, meal. The meal, depending on how hungry your clients are, how much detail do they want? How much are they ready for? If someone's starving, you're not going to serve them a cashew, you're probably going to give them more, but if someone's peckish, you're not going to shove a giant plate of food in front of them. So meal is the deepest dive assets you can do. The cornerstone pieces, these have the most detail, they have the most story and expose, they have the most for me to sink my teeth into.

A snack is a step back, slightly higher level overview. Still enough detail to be dangerous, but I'm not going fully into the full experience. A bite is something that I can consume typically in two minutes or less. So something like a one sheet, something like a quick video clip, a fast slide deck, something that provides some insight, but again, it's meant to hook me. It's for a different environment. And then a nibble, 30 seconds or less. No hard and fast rule. We made this rubric up, but it could be a single quote, it could be an audiogram, it could be an image on social, just something very high level. Could be an ad?

Different levels of detail, different levels of storytelling, different formats to suit. Don't screenshot this. This is hideous and this is not a plan you should follow. I'm not suggesting this is the model, this is just an example, but you should have a repurposing plan for where these things go. One interview, it turns into a video. The video can be repurposed into a testimonial. The testimonials can be posted on a wall of love or be put on the sales page for support. That same video can be turned into a teaser ad. Multiple teaser ads can be made into a compilation reel.

The interview could go to a deep dive asset. That deep dive asset could be broken down into press releases, blog content, slide decks, internal training snapshots. That snapshot could be turned into a one sheet. That one sheet could be quote graphic, synopsis and a leave behind, testimonials, cold outreach. Define ahead of time where you will break this out into who those different pieces serve and how they'll get deployed. I'm going to share a couple of really good examples purely for inspiration just to show you what's possible here.

On the left here, we've got Revenate. They do an amazing job of sharing high level customer success stories, is a monthly customer feature. Why I love this, it makes talking about KPIs normal, it gives them something to invite customers into. It makes them look good to the market and also proves the efficacy of the product to the market. Great way to deploy.

Humi on the other hand, take stories, breaks them out into LinkedIn carousels. I'd call that a bite size sort of thing, and then pushes to demo. They're using this in lead gen, not end of funnel. They're structured to entice people to get to click and be interested enough to take a funnel.

Ad campaigns. Factor one, they've broken out these as remarketing campaigns I believe, but they're also visual ad campaigns that hinge on the different stories that they're telling 200X for return on Google Ads, conversions doubled in months, 103% increase in Google Ads conversion. None on the right here. Sync2CRM, this is a great remarketing strategy. So using social proof and remarketing, give it a try if you haven't, using quotes showing that there's success for people who have checked you out, it's a big deal.

One of my favorite examples of late, email campaigns. I talked about subsets earlier. Here's a great example of Stripe using a case study and email campaign for a subset of what they do. Gloss Genius has helped beauty and wellness entrepreneurs manage $1 billion in transactions using Stripe. They integrated Tap To Pay on iPhone. The email goes on to explain what the heck Tap To Pay on iPhone is, the value of it. Go read this case study on a company who actually achieves something great with it. Wonderful way to reach out to existing customers. Wonderful way to leverage a case study rather than leave it isolated on a blog.

Visualizations. I love this example on Lighthouse 360 site. This is not necessarily an individual case study. This is something in aggregate, but they basically took the feedback they got, I believe from Tech Validate, could have been user evidence and they visualized it. They turned it into a compelling infographic on the ROI that different companies are seeing. And this can be a launching point. They have this right on their primary navigation. It's a huge point of social proof. Now if I was on I might be linking off to individual stories from different parts of this, but this is a compelling way to present it.

And then one of the most overlooked things, combinations, just because you have a written piece and an audiogram doesn't mean they can't go together. This is a company called ShareGate and they have taken audio snippets from the interview, embedded them right within the written piece. And now rather than just read that quote, I can push and hear Doug Punchak say those words and more. That does a huge amount for credibility, even just the presence of the button to do so. That makes a big difference to me going, "I can believe this story. I can relate to this story." A real person was part of and signed off on this story. One of the big skepticism of case studies is they can be faked. This is one way to show skeptical leads, no, this is legit in a way that's cost-effective without even having to have a huge full-blown high production video.

Compendiums. You got one case study, great, now you got five, now you got 10, now you got 100. Combine them, turn them into stuff. Great. That visualization is one example, but here's a company that did our five most great customer stories of 2022. New piece of blog content. Here's a piece that we put together for Playbox. It's called a nuclear deck. We took lots of different stories that they had told over time, broke them down to the most compelling bits, and now sales can deploy this shock and awe asset that goes, "Hey, look, a whole lot of people have succeeded with us. Here's a unique example of it." So to cap this off, the top 1% leverage case studies across the entire buyer's journey, not just at the end. They have a documented repurposing plan and then they ensure consistency across their formats and stories. They make sure the same consistent story is told across all those different pieces.

And then finally, to cap this all off documented SOPs and playbooks. I cannot state this more clearly. Your SOP is the single most important tool you have for scale, longevity and success. The top 1% have them, but 99% don't. If I come into an organization, if I'm on a sales call or if I'm talking to someone new, I always ask them, "What documentation do you have for your program?" And most of the time it's nebulous at best. Nothing. It's, "I think we have a guideline somewhere. We have a voice and tone doc." Your program needs a place to live. And the SOP is that.

There's a poster, give you some ideas on how to build case study SOPs you can go sink your teeth into. But quick example, the elements of a good SOP, I'm not going to show you one because those are all pretty proprietary and extremely valuable, but know that you need one. So let's give you a push in the right direction at least. Let's not leave you with just SOPs are good as a takeaway. They are good, but some things to be thinking about. They need to be easily accessible. They need to live in a platform all teams can access and easily edited. Your SOP should not be a PDF and it should probably not be beautifully designed because that's going to get changed a lot.

They need to be cleanly organized, jump links, headers, sections, let the different teams navigate to the sections that they need in a pinch. This needs to be alive and living and well-structured. And then they're regularly updated, so again, they're digital, they're scheduled.

What types of things live in an SOP? All of the things that we've talked about today. What are the coverage gaps? What are the criteria for customers? What does a win actually look like? What are the accountabilities and responsibilities of each team? What are the timelines associated? Remember that hideous little spreadsheet? That goes in there, pop that right in. That's your v1, you can iterate on that over time. But you need a place for all of this to live. And when you have a Wins Wednesday or when you onboard a new CSM or when you bring in a new marketer, they need to see it and they need to know it's there and there needs to be something that reminds them and brings them back. This is also a place to consolidate things like your templates or your scripts or your samples and things like that. It's a place where all of this lives.

The top 1% keep a central guideline available to everybody. They update it regularly and they ensure every template, file, et cetera, is easily accessible. I'm going to throw just a bit of a nudge and wink to, I mean I think their founder's incredible, but take a look at It's a great way of making this digital, making it accessible, keeping it highly editable, great platform and something you could use this for. And so that is the end of my monologue. I thank you for listening. That's a lot to get through, but hopefully there were some takeaways in there and things for you to think about.


Awesome. Yeah, thanks Joel. That was very thorough, took a lot of screenshots. We do have a couple of questions and if you have any other questions, drop them in the Q&A box, but I'll kick it off. "What is one of the most interesting repurposing ideas you've seen for a case study?"


Yeah, I mean hopefully covered some of them in that last stretch there. I mean, we've seen animated videos, so when a live video wasn't possible, whether because the client wasn't willing to do it or comfortable on camera or just wasn't captured at the time. Lemonade, for example, they're an insurance company. They took testimonials and did these really cool animated voiceover videos and most of the time I'm not in favor of voiceovers, but when you watch them, you'll get it. So Lemonade did really cool things with testimonial videos. Animated videos are pretty cool. Embedding the audio alongside the video I think is a pretty clear and easy win. The thing is, everyone wants the shiny, new, sexy thing and they're not doing the basics. So I promise you, start with a long thing, a short thing in a video, and that's probably a good first step into meaningful repurposing. But things like what Lemonade are doing or compendiums or nuclear decks, those are stuff that hardly anybody does that can have a huge impact.


Awesome. Yeah, and actually another question we had was asking about the NVP, if someone had limited resources and they wanted to do more than just that case study post, what would be the guidance you would provide for them?


I mean, repurposing cost you essentially nothing but time and approval. In my view, budget's not really a great excuse because yes, it's an inhibitor when you're doing live on location video and it's hugely expensive. But I mean, look at what Humi did for example. They took existing case studies, templated a format for LinkedIn carousels, and that becomes something that you can very rapidly repurpose and deploy without having to, even posting it as organic social content if you don't have budget for ads.

Everybody has the potential to do a one sheet from a longer story. It's making it more succinct. It's changing the format of it, but the heavy lifting of capturing that story and telling that story is done. And so I think repurposing really isn't the part that takes the budget. The budget will get devoted to the most expensive part of and time-consuming part is the process of getting buy-in and coordinating, creating the initial piece, securing approval, but the admin costs are even higher than the creative costs for most companies. So the repurposing part is not the expensive part. It's where expertise and time and just a willingness to focus on it come in. And that's why, for example, that's why people would work with case studies is not because they don't feel capable of creating a slide deck. It's because it gets done when you prioritize it and we have nothing but time to prioritize it in. So yeah, one sheets are an easy one, carousels are an easy one, but most are not an expensive, inhibitive way to come at it.


Awesome. Yeah, I hope that's helpful for everybody. You kind of teed up the next question again perfectly, and so far it's the last question that we have, and you mentioned that the customer of the case study should be the hero throughout the story that you're telling. But how do you make the case studies more beneficial for the business? How do you frame it as a win for the customer that is the one in the case study as a hero?


How do you make it more beneficial for your clients? Is that the question, for the company?


Yeah, the one that's getting the case study of them. How do you make it a win for them to be on your website?


Yeah, I mean, I think a lot comes through framing. Number one, don't make your customers look like idiots. I mean, nobody wants to be in a case study where they're made to look like they were a hapless loser in need of a solution. Celebrate in these stories, the great work they were already doing, the great impacts they were already having. Make them look smart and wise for making the decision they did as a calculated operator, not some hapless fool. I think beyond that, you got to throw what you got. If you're a company that has a good social presence, well that's something to leverage and say, "We're going to make sure that..." I mean, why am I doing this webinar? Clearscope's got an incredible social presence and lots of people will show up. So I'm willing to take the hours and put something together because I benefit from that. I benefit from that investment.

Similar for your customers, if they're going to get, I hate the word exposure because it's been so bastardized, but if they're going to get seen by a lot of potential prospects, if they're SEO savvy and you're going to link back to them, that can be a small incentive. There can be actual, again, incentives for taking part though, step lightly, you do have to disclose that stuff. It's not rocket science, but if you pay someone to take part in a case study, you got to say so in the story. But think about what's beneficial to the company. Think about what's beneficial to the individual. What would you respond to positively if you were asked to take part in the story? And beyond that, consider that incentives aren't always necessary. People happily take part in supporting companies they believe in when they believe that they have a voice in that process, they have control over the outcome, and it's not going to take a million years of their time because they're busy. So show them there's a plan, show them there's some benefit coming out the other side and make it something that is attractive to be part of.

Again, look at what Revenate did. When they've got that monthly customer feature that feels good to have your great campaign be showcased and to be the person behind that campaign. I guarantee the marketers behind that took that up to their boss and said, "Hey, take a look, we're featured here." So things like that. There's the ego side of it too, and that's a button you can push.


Nice. Awesome. That concludes all the questions. This is probably the most thorough walkthrough of an entire case study process. I definitely appreciate your time, Joel, and I'm going to drop his Twitter in Chat if you want to drop in and leave him a note today. Thank him for his time. But Joel, any last parting words before we give everyone their day back?


Like I say, most companies, they don't succeed with case studies because they just don't think about them. It's all reactive, it's all rushing to capture a story when it's there. And so an ounce of planning will already set you apart from the vast majority of companies. Taking the time to consider a plan, put the basics in place. Again, we drank from the fire hose today. There's an absolute ton that could be set up. You're not going to do it all overnight, but start small with some small meaningful things in place and treat it like a journey over the next year, two years to chip away at rather than something you're going to knock out in the morning.

Written by
Bernard Huang
Co-founder of Clearscope
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