As more information and ideas become available on how to improve marketing and grow your business, a blurring of strategies is also taking place. Techniques once exclusively considered business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) are blending, as are shifts in consumer expectations and buying habits. With that, let’s explore a traditional B2B marketing tool that might be easily adapted for use by B2C tire dealers: the case study.
A case study is a marketing tool that provides a potential customer with an example of how a company’s products or services benefitted someone in a real-life situation. Think of it as the story behind the testimonial. It can take many forms – printed sales sheet, PDF, webpage, video, etc. – but they all accomplish the same thing.
Historically these have been used in the B2B marketing world to help “build a case” that the product or service will deliver as promised. It also shows that the solution is the right fit for a customer based on a specific application, showing actual examples of how someone else in a similar situation used the product or service to solve a shared problem.
For tire dealers interested in highlighting and sharing successful customer experiences as well as better educating the public, the case study may be worth consideration as an easy-to-deploy marketing tactic.
Let’s explore the steps to bringing an effective case study to fruition.
Creating a Case Study
The typical case study is based on a three-part formula: Problem, Solution and Outcome.
Begin the process with the audience in mind by identifying the specific customer segments you serve most, with consideration to other audiences that might also help you grow your business. These are the groups you’re probably already targeting in some way. For instance, maybe you do well with the families of a certain school community, or perhaps you want to get more business from people who go off-roading. Figure out one or two groups to start with. And even if you prefer to market to “everybody” without limiting it to a specific group, for the purposes of creating effective case studies, narrow it down for now.
Once you’ve identified the Who, the next step is to come up with topics that impact each group the most. These may make the most sense to address in a case study format.
I like to begin this process by brainstorming a list of the top concerns for each group you plan to target. This is a great activity to do with your team using a whiteboard to outline ideas.
Here are some questions to get the discussion started:
• What are the top problems for each unique audience?
• Why do they come into the shop?
• What services and products do they buy most?
• What might they need, but are not buying because they don’t fully understand the importance or the value?
• What are their priorities as it relates to tire choices or auto service decisions? What matters most to them?
• What is difficult to explain that might be made clear by a case-study or customer story example?
• What is unique to your shop, the reason why customers within that segment choose you?
Once you have a clear list of top concerns and topics for each group, the next step is to prioritize them, then match them against existing testimonials. Do an inventory of any online reviews, emails and personal notes of gratitude from your customers and build a stack of possible positive examples for each concern.
Also, seek out anecdotal accounts from your team regarding customer success stories worthy of sharing. For each concern listed for each group, ask your team if they can think of any recent example when your business handled this situation well – when the customer experiencing that problem walked away with the best possible product, solution and outcome. Capturing those customer stories and making use of testimonials are essential building blocks to the case-study process.
After you’ve mapped out the stories and testimonials against each topic for each group, take an inventory of the best, juiciest ones. Which had the strongest, most impressive outcomes? Which might easily be adapted into a case study? You’ll then weigh those against the priority list to determine the case studies to do first. Start with the “important” and the “easy” to build some momentum before trying to do the entire list all at once. Go for the quick wins.
Now that you have your topics and priorities, the next step is to tell the story. Start by contacting the customer to let them know that you’d like to use their experience with your business in a case study example to educate others. Once they agree, interview them to capture more detail regarding the problem they experienced, the solutions(s) presented to them and the positive outcome as a result. What was happening when they needed to come in for service? What were they concerned about? What was the problem they were experiencing? More importantly, how did your shop make it better? Allow them to explain (good and bad) their repair experience with your shop. Finally, invite them to share what a difference it made to them that day or in general. How did their life – or their vehicle performance, gas mileage, etc. – improve as a result? What advice would they give others who experience a similar issue? What were they expecting and what surprised them most when working with you?
In addition to sharing the story as a Problem-Solution-Outcome format, include any data and measurable metrics that both support the results and are most relevant. A case study to communicate the importance of winter tires might include historic snowfall data or even the statistics on weather-related crashes in your area. The cost of winter tires might be graphed against the amount spent on a new front bumper (including average insurance deductible as well as time lost on repairs) if they slide into someone.
Consider the audience. Instead of obvious cost comparisons, busy professionals might respond better the impact of time on their schedule over price – the time it takes for maintenance might be compared to repair time if the topic is ignored. As always, consider what’s important to each customer group based on their unique needs.
Using photos (with permission) can also be powerful. But don’t be tempted to show images of the repair process. Instead, show the happy customer next to their vehicle or find another way to humanize the story for greater impact.
Benefits of Using Case Studies
• Serves as a reference to increase credibility
• Helps to counter any negative reviews your prospective customers might see online
• Helps your sales team and service writers speak with confidence
• Helps promote things that are often difficult to explain
• Improves the SEO on your website
• Provides evidence to back up your promises
• Opens up conversations with (and educates) the customer
• Turns your delighted customers into public advocates
• Builds your reputation; customers trust what they hear in stories from other people (especially those similar to themselves) more than they may trust what you have to say
Sharing Your Stories
As mentioned earlier, when it’s finally time to get the word out about your case study success story, design the piece based on the preferences of the audience for which it is intended. Print them as sell sheets. Use them for media outreach. Share them on Facebook and across social media. Send them via email. Depending on your audience, you might consider case-study videos on your website. (I also recommend a transcription of each video on the same page as the player to help with SEO and for people who may prefer to read, not watch.) Bottom line, get it out there.
And when it’s all done, be sure to share the piece with the customer featured with gratitude. Send them a personal note, a gift, and invite them to share the link on Facebook with their friends. Be it B2B or B2C, people love stories. Now you can use those stories to grow your business.