In Geoffrey Moore’s seminal book "Crossing the Chasm," there’s a smaller, lesser talked about chasm between innovators and early adopters. For many startups, crossing this chasm in the technology adoption spectrum is actually the most crucial. Without any Early Adopter traction, a company has no shot at success.
Theoretically, if you’ve built a unique and interesting technology solution, innovators should be open to trying your product. We saw that with Yammer, where IT professionals embraced their new take on enterprise social media. We saw that with Zendesk, where simple and scalable customer support gained traction rather quickly.
Once you’ve got innovators’ interest though, how do you widen your addressable audience to early adopters? One of the most important things you can do to leapfrog the chasm is through creating a series of thorough, engaging, relevant case studies.
Why case studies?
We’ve all seen startups with impressive customer logo graphics. But how accurate is that customer list? Is it just a small division within that customer using the solution? And what do they use the solution for? In my opinion, customer logo pages are necessary but don’t hold a lot of value. Case studies are the real source of value.
1. Case studies allow you to tell a narrative
As my former professor Peter Guber will tell you, humans are hardwired for narratives. Nowhere else can a content marketer craft as grand a narrative as within a case study. It’s the easiest place to explain the value proposition of a solution.
2. Case studies empower your champion
When your internal advocate at your target account goes to pitch others, it helps if they can say Oracle is already using the solution. It really helps if they can spend five minutes explaining how Oracle uses the solution. You can tell them the story on the phone, but it’s so much easier if they can print it out and distribute it to others.
3. Case studies help make the solution vertical-specific, adding value
Storage is cheap. SaaS value comes from unique value brought to customers that isn’t replicable by another firm. The best way to prove value and specificity is by showing what you’ve done for competitors or companies in adjacent verticals. Companies with vertical-specific domain expertise can often charge more for their solution than more generic offerings.
4. Case studies give you a talking point
Drip marketing campaigns are tough. You need a reason to reach out to a prospect. What better new touch point than a highly relevant case study? I recently wrote two case studies for WorkSmart clients Sygnature Discovery (Life Sciences) and Sumicsid (Multi-National Consulting). I then went back into our CRM system and contacted every pharma/life sciences company, every multi-national company, and every consulting firm. The touch point had value.
How do I start thinking about case studies when I don’t have any customers?
Yes, you need to start thinking about case studies before you’ve even sold your first deal. Why? Each new case study opens a whole new group of people to pitch. People inherently don’t trust startups—who knows if they’ll still be in business in a year? One good case study gives you momentum, validates your business model, and garners trust points with your prospect.
So how do you go about approaching case studies when you barely have any customers?
1. Don’t be afraid to give your solution away or significantly discount it
Ever notice on Amazon or GoodReads how people that receive a book for free are more apt to give it a good review? There’s a psychological reason why. If you’re given something, you’re more likely to think good feelings about it. (A different psychological effect also makes it so you overestimate how much you liked something really expensive). Money is great, but case studies are better. Give your software away to every friend or friend of a friend who will take it. Worry about the money a bit later.
2. Your partners can also be your customers
Partners are invested in your success. Don’t be afraid to ask them to utilize your solution and do a case study with you. Partners often want their name out there, so a case study is win-win.
3. Treat every new customer like they are the most important customer in the world
This probably goes without saying: You must treat your first customers like royalty. It doesn’t matter how much they’re spending with you. Go way above and beyond with them (send them a T-shirt with your company logo, send them a Starbucks gift card, tell them how much you appreciate them, etc).
4. Ask a favor
Psychology tells us that you feel bonded to someone if they ask you for a favor. Start with a small ask like, “Hey, can I mention your company as a customer in our newsletter?” If they say no, they’re not likely to be a case study anyway. If they say yes, you’re one step closer to asking for a case study down the road. Then always ask your customer if there’s anything you can do for them. Another win-win.
As a salesperson, there’s nothing I find more valuable than a case study. I can hop on top of a mountain—or Twitter—and tell the world that my company is valuable and loved and needed. Case studies give you momentum, valuable content, and a reason to reach out to your existing prospects. Don’t underestimate the value of case studies.
This article originally appeared in QuotaFactory.
This article was written by Andrew Woodberry from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.