There isn’t a more awkward moment than when a startup is sitting in front a potential customer, walks them through their breakthrough product or service, and comes to the end with a critical element missing from their sales deck: a slide with logos from any other customers.

In the early days, of course, the average startup may only have a handful of customers, which is why each one of those sales should be followed up, at the appropriate point, with the development of a case study or testimonial. Particularly in B2B, buyers want to understand what their peers are doing and how they came to a purchase decision. This is where case studies become gold for entrepreneurs, because they can help get prospects to make what may otherwise seem like a leap of faith in signing a deal with a relatively unknown entity.

Even the largest enterprises use case studies, of course – they’re one of the oldest marketing assets in the book – but startups may want to consider how they approach them a little bit differently. These are just three examples.

Build Out The Business Case

For obvious reasons, most case studies spend lot of time talking about the results or benefits of making a purchase. The initial part of the case study may describe the business challenge, but they tend to skip over the process involved in choosing a particular vendor and what the journey looked like. With startups, there may be several additional hoops to jump through, and the process of getting from A to B might be a lot different. Think through some of the following when the business case portion of the case study is written:

  • Did the customer formally reach out to the market for a solution to solve a business challenge, or did you bring forward something innovative that helped align with a business challenge? Startups tend to be proactive in helping prospects stay one step ahead of their rivals, and this is an important element to capture.
  • Did your firm merely provide a quote with a price and the scope of work, or did you do any background research to help the customer sell the idea internally and get the green light? Demonstrating a collaborative way of working with prospects will show that startups are interested in being partners or trusted advisors rather than just generating revenue.
  • How were goals or objectives quantified up front? Most case studies merely report on the end results, but if they match the original targets (or better yet, if they exceed them), it’s better to illustrate how well thought-out the business case was developed.

Let Customers Address The Most Common Objections

Usually case studies make little mention of how the company that created them is perceived in the market, unless it’s positive. Similarly, the average case study will not touch on the fact that a product may be more expensive than competitive offerings, or that it requires working in a different way (such as applications hosted in the cloud, for instance).

Startups get told “no” for all kinds of reasons, and case studies aren’t merely an opportunity to showcase who said “yes.” They should also be a forum where customers can candidly talk about the things that may put off other buyers from making a purchase – and why they decided it was worth the risk, the cost or any other areas of concern.

Put Names And Faces In Front Of The Numbers

Customers may have traditionally worked with large, established enterprises because they have a long track record, but the downside is potentially being ignored by a faceless corporation. This is where startups may have an advantage if their case studies go beyond ROI statistics and make it clear that there is a team of real people who will be available to address issues and solve problems after the sale.

  • Video-first: While many organizations are starting to add clips to their text-based case studies, startups may want to think about basing their case studies on video narrated by their founder or project lead, or with a Q&A format with their customer.
  • Social successes: If you use internal social media platforms, build in posts or status updates to your case study that celebrate achieving milestones on a project or how your team put more thought and consideration into how they approached a customer’s problem.
  • Testimonial tweaks: If you’re working with a customer to get quotes for a case study, encourage them to talk not just about the startup in general, but specific members of the team with whom they worked, and what that experience was like. People like to buy from other people, to make sure yours are as visible as possible.

The final thing to keep in mind with startup case studies is how they’re most likely to be consumed. Rather than PDFs that may be unwieldy on mobile devices, look at responsive designs that will make them as easy to scan on a smartphone as they would on a desktop. While making sure the case study works as a whole, ensure it can also be broken up into different parts – perhaps you could use an excerpt about building a business case for a blog post, for instance, or a testimonial for a social media post. And as your case studies are developed, make them the centrepiece of your site – they’ll probably become the thing cautious prospects read first.

For more tips related to starting and growing a business, click here: The Difference In Sales Enablement For Startups.