SaaS companies have an average of 38 active cases studies that are between 500-1,000 words in both HTML and PDF format; here’s how they incentives customers, sales and customer success to solicit new case studies
Case studies are a pillar of B2B marketing, particularly in technology circles like software-as-a-service (SaaS). So, when I saw a piece covering the results of a survey about case studies in Marketing Profs, I pulled the whole report down for a closer look.
The report is based on a survey conducted by a marketing agency called Uplift Content. They polled 123 SaaS marketers in November and December of 2022.
Here are some of the benchmarks:
- SaaS companies have an average of 38 active case studies in use;
- Most case studies are between 500-1,000 words in length;
- Case studies take an average of 12 hours each to produce;
- One in ten (10%) case studies are not approved by the customer for publication.
- Most companies publish case studies in both HTML (74%) and PDF formats (73%); and
- More than half (56%) want to try video case studies – but 69% say video is hard or very hard to get customers to agree to, compared to 40% that say the same for text.
Here are some other findings that stood out.
1. How are case studies being used?
The survey asked respondents how they use case studies once they are generated. The vast majority of SaaS companies (93%) have a dedicated section on their website for case studies. This was followed by social (84%), sales presentations (84%), nurture emails (75%) teasers from other places on the website (73%) and newsletters 61%
Two uses for case studies that aren’t on the list but have value are media relations and blog posts. It’s definitely worth pitching case studies to trade publications – and preferably before they go live on the website. Linking to case studies from press releases is another good way to repurpose these.
Case studies make for excellent blog posts too. For example, you can use quotes or text from a case study to make a point in a blog. Another good way to use them is to summarize several case studies in a post and link to the full post for those interested. This is particularly effective when you have three or more case studies from the same vertical market.
For the best results, especially with the media, the customer should be depicted as the hero. Your product or company are in supporting roles.
2. How does SaaS incent sales to solicit case studies?
The account executive (AE) and customer success model in B2B make it challenging for marketing to solicit case studies. Marketing has to go through the AE or CSM for such requests, but they have different incentives. They are very reluctant to ask a favor of a customer that doesn’t go towards closing a deal and securing a commission.
This is an age-old problem for marketing. Many B2B marketers have never talked to a customer (which is a huge problem the leadership needs to fix).
So how are respondents soliciting case studies in this study?
“Most SaaS companies use ‘emotional’ tactics to motivate their employees to identify ideal case study candidates. For example, the company reminds their employees of the benefits of a case study to the company, as well as to them personally (67%), or the company fosters a cooperative, team environment (54%).”
Candidly having been in the trenches in-house and on the agency side – good luck with that!
Still, others have a slightly more tangible approach:
“About 25% of companies give gift certificates, swag or cash to motivate their employees to find case study participants, a 20% increase over last year. The most common dollar value for the incentive to the SDRs, account managers and CSMs is $50 to $100 USD (38%) or $200 to $500 USD (29%).”
That’s been the best approach in my experience too – something between a bribe and an incentive. I recommend marketing leaders set aside ~$2,000 in the marketing budget for gift cards. Anyone that helps marketing with interviews, content, press, or in this case, a case study, gets a $100 gift card.
Can you create a company policy to incent AEs or CSMs to provide case studies? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s really hard to get done because it interferes with the compensation model. I’ve never seen it happen in 20+ years in the space.
There are some other ways to get case studies:
- Attend meetings with sales or customer success and listen for case study leads;
- Meet with sales and customer success leaders and barter for other materials;
- Actively network at physical customer events and online communities;
- Systematically invite customer interaction with marketing content; and
- Work the show floor at a conference and get to know customers.
3. How does SaaS incentivize customers to participate in case studies?
“Customers are rarely directly incentivized to participate in case studies,” according to the report. It elaborated:
“Over 50% of the SaaS companies surveyed offer customers no specific incentives to participate in a case study— happy customers love to share their stories. About 40% of companies proactively build case study participation into an initial contract.”
I have seen putting a case study clause into a contract work, but it’s also easily struck out – especially at the end of the quarter.
Another way is this:
“Almost 70% of companies offer an indirect incentive to their customers by explaining the benefits of participating.”
This is a pretty weak approach too. If it were valuable for the customer to participate in the case study, they’d be begging us to participate, not the other way around.
Lastly, according to the report, “some SaaS companies do sweeten the pot with direct incentives, including” swag (25%), reduced fees for future services (15%), and small denomination gift certificates (14%).
Sometimes customers can’t accept direct gifts from companies, so a good alternative is to donate to a charity of their choice. A large customer will hold out for a feature that product management won’t commit to building.
Another good reward that doesn’t cost a thing: a personal note of thanks from your CEO. If case studies are important to your business, this is a no-brainer.
This raises the point that incentivizing customers is largely an exercise in relationship management. That is a responsibility that rests squarely on leadership.
The rewards for doing so are outsized, according to McKinsey, “Leaders who successfully create personalized connections with customers can boost marketing spend efficiency by 10% to 30%.”
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The full report has a lot more interesting statistics and is well worth a read. You can find it here: 2023 SaaS Case Studies Trends and Insights by Uplift Content.
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Image credit: Respective report and DALL-E “customer case studies in the style of van Gogh”