Creating Cybersecurity Case Studies that Convert
So, while the market for cybersecurity providers is undoubtedly expanding, there’s still a massive amount of untapped opportunity among businesses and organizations who haven’t yet invested in security.
For those in the business of cybersecurity services and solutions, it’s one thing to attract business after your prospective clients have been attacked. They need you - urgently.
It’s another altogether to persuade them to select your brand before they need what you have to offer. In our notoriously future-resistant culture, it can be difficult to convince your prospect of your value when the risk to his or her business is so difficult to define.
Why Case Studies Work
One of the most powerful tools that cybersecurity firms have in their sales and marketing arsenals is the case study: an analysis of your team’s impact on an existing customer’s business.
According to a 2018 study conducted by LinkedIn, B2B buyers prefer to consult case studies over all other forms of content in the vendor selection process. They were also found to be the second-most shared type of content among buyers’ friends and colleagues.
Besides word of mouth referrals, case studies are the most effective way to build trust with a prospective buyer. Unlike marketing slogans or owned media, case studies combine data, narrative, and social proof in a way that comes across as authentic and believable.
Why Case Studies are Challenging for Cyber Firms
One challenge for cyber firms is that cybersecurity spending doesn’t necessarily impact a business’ top line revenue. Some preventative solutions may not even help the bottom line, if the protection is better but the price tag is higher.
You help protect clients against attacks that could happen in the future - but if that attack never actually happens, how can you accurately quantify your impact on their business?
If the power of a strong case study is in outcomes and data, what information can your firm collect that truly represents your value?
Luckily, there are ways to build trust with your future customers: by selecting the right clients to profile, addressing your prospect’s vetting criteria, and creatively quantifying the impact of your services.
Find Your Promoters
It’s important to kick off your case study initiative by finding your “promoters,” or your happiest customers.
Your happy clients are most likely to vouch for your capabilities, which is essentially what they’re doing when they’re being listed as a reference on your website or in a pitch presentation.
If you collect customer satisfaction data such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), your promoters are those folks who respond with a 9/10 or 10/10 when asked about their likelihood to recommend you to a friend or colleague.
If you don’t have access to that feedback, consider who on your current client list has referred you business recently. Only a happy customer would stake their reputation on your performance, so make a note when newer clients have been sent your way by one of your existing ones.
Select the Right Customers to Profile
Are your happiest customers your accounts of best fit?
They should be.
It makes sense that you’d be most successful at serving your perfect client, as opposed to a client who doesn’t fit the model of an account you’d like to have more of in the future.
The organizations you profile in your case studies should be similar to the client you’d most like to attract. Defining the characteristics of your ideal account (and your buyer personas within those companies) is a great way to prioritize your case study projects:
- What industry or industries would you most like to serve?
- How many employees do these companies have?
- What is their annual revenue?
- Where are they located geographically?
- What does their technology stack look like?
- How familiar are they with your area of expertise already?
If a percentage of your revenue comes from small businesses in the retail industry, but your most successful engagements are with mid-size healthcare organizations, make sure most of your case studies reflect your experience with the latter type of organization.
The more similar the customer in the case study is to the person reading said case study (in company size, geography, industry, etc.), the more relevant and persuasive your content will be.
State the Customer’s Problem as an Opportunity
When a client agrees to be featured in a case study, they’re doing more than simply giving you their stamp of approval. They’re also putting their brand in your hands, so it’s important to frame your engagement appropriately.
If a client is coming to you for assistance, it’s likely that they either (a) were victims of a cyber attack or (b) avoided attack despite failing to secure their systems properly.
No patron of a business or organization wants to know that their data was left unsecured - even if the issue is ameliorated now.
These case studies will be available publicly, and your customers have a right to protect their reputations from undue scrutiny.
That’s why it’s important to treat your customer’s brand as if it were your own.
Your client should be the hero in the story (the Harry Potter, the Luke Skywalker, or the Frodo Baggins), and you should be the trusted advisor that guided them towards a successful outcome (the Albus Dumbledore, the Yoda, or the Gandalf).
One way to do this is to frame the customer’s need as an opportunity, instead of as a problem.
Was your customer one of the first government agencies in the state to adopt a cybersecurity governance plan? Way to capitalize on that opportunity, customer!
Does your client name “trust” as one of their core company values? Way to “walk the walk” by protecting your customers’ futures, client!
Does achieving a certain security certification mean that your client can start bidding on public sector work? Amazing: a new market segment for your client!
Framing your clients’ needs as opportunities positions them as shrewd forward-thinkers, rather than as a business leader with a whole heap of problems. They’ll be much happier to approve a case study positioned this way than one that details all of the issues they were facing before they came to you.
Numerous studies have found that B2B buyers have already completed between 65% and 75% of the purchase process before they make contact with someone on your team. That means they’re conducting a lot of vendor research on their own to determine which companies to consider further.
During this research phase, your buyer turns their criteria for the optimal partner into a list of questions. Some of those questions can be answered outside of a case study, like:
- Where are you located?
- What types of products or services do you offer?
- Are you licensed or certified to work with my type of business?
Other questions, however, are just as important (if not more important) to answer to keep your firm in the running, and you can address these questions in an authentic, powerful way with a great case study:
- What’s your process? Do you have a proven plan to get me from A to B?
- What does the timeline look like for discovery, implementation, and optimization?
- How do you measure success?
- What results can I expect from engaging with your company?
- What would our dedicated team look like? Who would we work with?
- In which industries do you have experience working?
- What size companies do you typically work with?
- How would you describe the quality of your work?
These questions most likely sound very familiar to your sales team. Your externally-facing teams have probably fielded questions like this more than once, which makes them an invaluable source of information about what matters most to your prospects.
As more and more of the sales process becomes self-service, it’s important to address this information in a format that your buyer can trust. What better way to answer their questions about working with you than in a narrative that’s been verified by one of your clients?
When presented in the context of an engagement that actually happened - with real people and real assets on the line - all of the things you say about yourself become easier to believe.
By clearly answering your most-asked questions in your case studies, qualified leads will quickly recognize that you’re a good fit for them (and will be more likely to become a customer in the end).
Define Your Impact
In a case study, it’s important to share what you did, how you did it, and how long it took you to complete. But it’s absolutely vital to answer the question, “So what?” Defining your impact in terms of outcomes instead of just outputs is sometimes easier said than done.
As we discussed earlier, it’s especially difficult when what you’re offering is preventative in nature.
This is when it’s important to ask yourself one question:
What could or would have happened if our client did nothing?
Take this example: The City of Townville came to CyberCompany USA to proactively protect its municipal systems from ransomware attacks. CyberCompany USA made several recommendations and implemented them with the city’s IT team to keep their digital infrastructure safe.
It’s safe to say that this engagement didn’t have an immediate, positive impact on their bottom line, but it was incredibly valuable.
Some existing figures that can be leveraged to quantify what could have happened to the City of Townville include:
- Number of constituent records in the city’s systems (20,000)
- Average daily revenue (from city services) per constituent ($25)
- Range of monetary demands from municipal ransomware attacks worldwide ($5 million - $15 million)
Using this data, CyberCompany USA can confidently claim that they prevented the loss of an estimated $500,000 in daily revenue for the city and saved the City of Townsville anywhere between $5 million and $15 million in ransom payments.
Other outcomes-based metrics could include:
- Constituent satisfaction scores (before and after achieving their new secure status)
- Time (and monetary) savings on automating what were previously manual system updates
- Number of thwarted cyber attacks to date
- Positive change in sentiment of media coverage
- Change in “security score” on a proprietary or industry standard scale
Numbers don’t lie. All of these data points can serve as verification of your team’s value. If hard data doesn’t exist, think outside the box to develop proof points of your product or service offering’s worth.
By choosing the right client engagement stories to share, proactively answering your prospect’s questions about your firm, and creatively defining your impact, you can create a case study that does more than take up space on your website.
You can create a case study that converts.
Looking for examples of convincing case studies? Check out a few of ours.