«Return to Blog List The 4 Elements of a Technology Customer Case Study
It’s no wonder that customer case studies are a staple in marketing and selling technology products and services.
Technology is complex, pricey and usually requires decent time to ramp up. On top of that, it demands ongoing support when something goes awry.
The customer case study uniquely demonstrates that a technology works well in a customer’s environment and the experience has been positive.
But what really needs to go into a technology case study to satisfy the audience’s questions and concerns?
Just like consulting services, there are certain elements that typically should go into customer stories on technology. Over a decade of crafting customer stories for technology companies, I’ve noticed that the same themes occur again and again when selling software, hardware or technology services.
Technologies vary widely, but here are some common elements that audiences need:
- Implementation experience
Depending on the technology, implementing it into a customer’s environment can take hours or months, or longer. Decision-makers have to know the details. What and who was involved? Was there training? How will the vendor support them through it all, and do it better than others.
- Ease of use/maintenance
Technology decision-makers need to know what it takes to use and maintain the product once it’s in place. How easy is it for users to learn? Who’s responsible for maintenance and upgrades, and how often are they required?
- Integration with other applications or compatibility
Often, the technology must integrate with existing products or applications in the customer’s environment. With what does it integrate and how easily? Is lots of coding involved or do they fit together readily?
- Ongoing customer support and service
Support is a major driver for technology decision-makers. When it matters most, does the vendor come through? How quickly and thoroughly are needs addressed?
That’s my list. What else is essential for a technology case study?
Thanks for the post, Casey. Those are four important elements of the story.
One essential additional element is ROI. We find there are two parts to that story:
1. What results was the customer trying to achieve? Knowing that, why did they choose this particular vendor and product or service? Then the reader can know if the story applies to his/her particular business situation.
2. What results were achieved? Very often, this is expressed in cost savings or time savings, as a percentage. Other stories quote a ROI. Under one year is pretty impressive in this context.
Thanks for asking the question.
David Smith, creative director, McBru (http://www.mcbru.com)
Another thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful post. I’ll add that it’s important to address how long the technology will be relevant in the future and how the company addresses upgrades. This may fall under your ongoing customer support and service category.
David-you’re right on target with ROI.
Happy New Year everyone!
Yes, absolutely! ROI is so important, especially given the pricey investment that technology usually requires. Good point about showing the desired results and then the follow-through showing that those specific results were achieved.
I appreciate your addition to the list!
Another good point! It’s a big concern, the upgrades, maintenance, staying current, etc. once you bring something in. Will the vendor be committed to advancing the product and integrating desired features?
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Happy 2011 to you too!
Excellent post, and good comments. Nothing to add, apart from thanks for valuable information!
Thanks for reading and commenting Jim!
Two elements that I often include in technology case studies:
1. A discussion about alternatives considered and why they were rejected in favor of the chosen solution. Although this usually means unnamed competitive products, sometimes it means changing business processes or developing an in-house solution.
2. Lessons learned. All the elements that you listed could provide material for this discussion, but it can also include recommendations for implementation, user training, etc. that aren’t discussed elsewhere in the case study.
Janice King, Freelance Technical Copywriter, WriteSpark
Absolutely on both points. I too find with lots of the stories I do the competition is the alternative of developing the solution in-house. It’s valuable insight into the thought processes. Or, to say that “other solutions considered” were not as flexible, etc…
And lessons learned add extra value for the reader, as you said, that go beyond what’s being discussed in the body.
Thanks for stopping by!
Casey, David, Janice, I appreciate all of your contributions. One idea that I think can be added to maintenance is the environment, tools, and methods used to futureproof the technology. For example, creating upgrade-safe customizations so that the product can take advantage of the benefits of upgrades without losing the customizations. My colleague, Chad Myers, wrote a whitepaper about this topic on our website which provides further insight.
Other than futureproofing, I think all of you have covered the main elements.
Information Developer and Content Strategist, Dovetail Software
I agree that facts about implementation, maintenance, integration, and support are essential parts of the story that sells a technology product. This information might even be useful in white papers, using customer quotes to support the claims. In a white paper, technical facts can then be targeted to the prospect’s technical staff who will influence the purchase.
Case studies often come out near the end of a B2B buying cycle, when the prospect is engaged, and needs validation that the vendor’s previous clients are happy. So the job of a good case study is to make the client look like a hero for adopting the technology. How did it change their business, leapfrog them ahead of their competitors, or win them more sales? How does it make them a leader in their own industry?
We studied the secrets of B2Bs with winning case study programs, and published this white paper: http://bit.ly/fLdVCB There’s more on our blog.
You’ve got a great brand and niche with “Compelling Cases.” All the best!
Very true about future-proofing. You need to show that it holds up through upgrades and is scalable as business needs change. That’s also an argument for waiting a while to capture the story – to have enough time to show the ease of upgrades and the product’s scalability.
Thanks for your comments! How true that the story should make the customer look like a hero. That definitely helps with buy-in and approvals from the featured customer.
I’ll check out your white paper.
Great post. I have a question. Have you identified some others technology pillars? I mean for example infraestructure, regulations, service, etc.