How advocacy and case studies can win you business

Why turning your best client work into stories has a material impact on revenues

Hire a PR consultant and chances are, sometime soon, he will recommend case studies. They’re a staple of most programmes, especially in B2B. Complete and published they can look great – a showcase for your product or service. But, as you’ll quickly learn, they are often time-consuming and a great deal of hassle to prepare and secure all the necessary approvals. You’ll soon wonder if that nice warm feeling is worth all the investment.

Personally I’m a great proponent. To show you the potential, wind back with me a few years to one of my client’s reception areas. The smart gentleman next to me is deeply engrossed in the upmarket case-based quarterly magazine my firm writes and publishes for the client. Doubly pleasing, he pauses to scribble a few notes. Upstairs the client’s managing director and team await with a finely honed and well-rehearsed PowerPoint and a mammoth £250K proposal document. My new friend, as I later learn, enters the room and says: “You can forget all that. I’ve just read about your project for Bloggs & Bloggs. It’s pretty much spot on. When can you begin?”

OK it doesn’t often happen like that but this is public advocacy. The satisfied prior customer has gone beyond simple word-of-mouth to friends (private advocacy) and accepted a public platform on your behalf. In many B2B markets research evidence highlights word-of-mouth as a critical component of new business. And public advocacy is the ultimate valuable form of recommendation.

Creating case studies that work for your business

Good cases aren’t product descriptions and summaries of features and benefits. Crucially they’re written from your customer’s perspective. In sequence, they address his CASE-B:

Challenge – company background and why it was crucial to find a successful resolution; Approach – review of available options including yours; Selection – reasons for choosing you; Execution – how the project, installation or supply was carried out, including any issues along the way; and Benefits – both business and practical.

It’s not so much the ‘what’ as the ‘how’ and ‘why’. 

Applying the human touch to PR

By extension, good cases aren’t puff. They have strong journalistic values. Over typically 500-1,000 words, they take the reader inside the project – with at least some ‘warts n’all’.  Their credibility is founded on our understanding the issues and problems that sit behind the hopefully gleaming new installation.

Such cases are also human. They introduce real people. And they quote them authentically avoiding the manufactured ” we were delighted to partner and collaborate with…” style. This makes them far more appealing for successful placement and publication.

The multi-purpose value of case studies 

Sadly even great cases often go to waste. One appearance and forgotten. But the case reality is ‘create many/publish many’. Case studies have a long shelf-life measured sometime in years. They can be reprinted (with correct authorisation), repurposed for multiple publication, transformed into flyers, deployed on websites, incorporated into proposals and much more. Finally, not least, the very act of asking for and then re-visiting your customer to prepare a case study can extend your engagement, create new learning and open up new opportunities. 

So yes cases are potentially a lot of effort but they generate far more than a ‘nice warm feeling’. Just make sure they’re done well!  

Dr. Bill Nichols is a senior lecturer in marketing and deputy director of the new Centre for Health Communications and Research at Bucks New University. His entrepreneurial background includes PR consultancy (where he co-founded and chaired Whiteoaks), digital media and commercial property.


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