Testimonial or Case Study – What Do You Really Need?
Customer testimonials are everywhere…On the postcard from a local dentist’s office, in a radio ad for diet products and on the Saturday-morning infomercial for fitness equipment.
And today they’re ubiquitous in the form of informal reviews on online retail sites like Amazon and Tripadvisor.
The customer’s voice is powerful in any form, but in many cases, testimonials are just not enough. Sound bites of two to three direct quotes from a customer often don’t provide the level of detail buyers need to feel confident about purchase decisions. Enter customer case studies. Effectively long testimonials, they give potential customers more of the details they need to make decisions.
So how and when do you use a case study or success story instead of a testimonial?
Here are some questions to help guide you…
- How pricey is your product or service?
Generally, the more expensive a potential purchase, the more information people need to make a decision. You probably spend more time researching cars than you do toasters.And the same goes for business solutions. Evaluating $100 accounting software is often very different than choosing a $100,000 enterprise resource planning solution.But remember, one person’s or company’s $100,000 decision can be as tough as another’s $100. Knowing your own audience, is what you sell a major budget item for them?
Verdict: If you sell something your buyers consider expensive, they will likely respond better to the level of detail a case study or success story provides. Customer stories help buyers understand how the solution will provide a return on that investment.
- How risky is the decision?
Money isn’t the only thing at stake for buyers. When weighing solutions, they might take into consideration how much of their time a product or service will require to use or setup, safety issues, their own reputation or quality concerns.In a buyer’s mind, a risky decision could be anything from an inexpensive baby product to multi-million-dollar technology.
Verdict: Again, the greater the risk for the buyer, the more information they need. A testimonial can show that a customer is satisfied, but can’t go very deep in resolving the prospect’s concerns or questions.What questions or concerns do prospects usually bring up in the sales process? Make sure those are integrated into your customer stories.
- How complex is your solution?
If you sell something complex, such as a product that requires training or a thick product manual to operate, or a long implementation time, then you may benefit from the added information that a case study can offer beyond a testimonial.
The verdict: Buyers of complex solutions, in particular, have lots of questions about what’s involved in setup and the ease of day-to-day use. A case study or success story gives you the space to educate buyers more about how the solution works and show how it operates in other environments.
- Does the competition sell with case studies or testimonials?
What about your competition? Are they using the customer’s voice, and how?It’s easier than ever to see your competitors’ marketing on their websites and in social media.
The verdict: If major competitors are using customer stories to sell, then you may be at a disadvantage. Conversely, if they are only using testimonials then you have the opportunity to show your competitive differentiators more clearly by sharing customer stories when the competition doesn’t.
- What’s your budget?
Unfortunately, testimonials and customer stories are not cost-free. At a minimum, it takes time and staff resources to create them, and hard costs if you hire writers and designers to create engaging, attractive case studies.
The verdict: If your budget is limited, start with testimonials or short customer stories that don’t require as much time or hard costs. The customer’s voice adds immeasurable credibility and validation to your marketing messages.If you’ve answered yes to all or some of questions 1-4 above, then move ahead with customer stories when your budget allows. Strategically choose stories that you can use with the most number of prospects as possible.You may not be able to create one for every industry or type of customer you serve, but perhaps you can create stories that show problems being solved that are common across multiple industries.Also ask, how many sales do you need to make to make up the cost of one customer story?Then, get maximum return on your investment by using those stories in as many ways as you can. Check out this article for 25 different ways to use customer stories.
The Bottom Line – Use the Customer’s Voice Somehow!
You know your audience and how much information they need. If you don’t know, ask the sales team how much information prospects need to support decisions.
What questions do they usually ask in the sales process? What are their objections?
Whether you collect short testimonials or full case studies, find a way to integrate the power of the customer’s voice into your many marketing media.