It’s rare that we find someone as gung-ho to tell customer stories as we are. But Brendan Hufford, SEO Director at Clique Studios, has a passion for telling customer success stories that’s second to none. In this article, Brendan reveals why one of Chicago’s top design agencies loves case studies and how they use them to pitch new clients and close more deals.
MEET CLIQUE STUDIOS
Clique Studios designs websites and creates holistic content experiences for high-growth companies. By blending together compelling copywriting, amazing design, and cutting-edge SEO, they help their clients win consumer interest, rank well in search, and turn qualified leads into paying customers.
MAKING THE CASE FOR CASE STUDIES
The first thing we asked Brendan was: Why case studies? Why not blog posts, e-newsletters or a homepage that shows off all of Clique’s awards and accolades? Here’s what he said:
“How many pizza places have you walked by that say, ‘We’re the best pizza place in town?’ All of them, right? The claim doesn’t mean much,” Brendan says. “What’s cool is when you see a testimonial—or a bunch of positive Google reviews. What’s even cooler is a line out the door and around the block.”
“So, we can say that we’ve done this before. We can say we’re Chicago’s top design agency. We could make a whole homepage about how great Clique is and all the awards we’ve won—because we’ve won them all by this point,” he laughs, “but who’s that convincing?”
To hear Brendan tell it, there’s no better asset than a good case study when you want to show off your amazing work and instill trust in your customers. And they have the numbers to prove it.
“I would say that most of our leads and 100% of our closed deals have weighed our case studies very heavily,” Brendan says.“We ask every new client, ‘How did you find us?’ and ‘Why were you interested in working with us?’ Without fail, they mention our case studies.”
Case studies have proven to be an effective way to grease the wheels whenever Clique begins a new client relationship. Showcasing their skills and the results they’ve helped other clients achieved helps Clique’s new potential customers understand the value in the work they do.
“Nothing breeds comfort like a case study,” Brendan says. “And what’s cool is that when someone sees a case study and they’re really comfortable with you, they’re willing to be more flexible on the budget because they really want to work with you.”
HOW TO DO WHAT CLIQUE DID
Few companies can say that they’ve invested in creating an amazing customer success story. Fewer still can claim that case studies have helped them in 100% of their closed deals. So, how did they do it?
Brendan let us in on Clique Studios’ secret to success:
1) Use case studies as prominent on-site proof (display ‘em loud and proud!)
Way too many businesses that build great case studies squander their investment by tucking them away in a corner of their website that nobody will ever visit. Not Clique Studios.
In fact, Clique has turned their entire homepage into a smorgasbord of real-world examples showcasing the gorgeous sites they’ve created and explaining how they’ve helped clients overcome challenges.
“We’ve built our case studies out to the point now where our homepage is our case studies page. We’re not just leading with ‘look how cool our design is’—our design gets them in the door and the case studies help to sell it. And even when we redesign our website in the future, the one thing we’re not going to change is featuring our case studies on our homepage,” Brendan says.
The case studies on Clique’s homepage give curious leads a good window into Clique’s experience—the high-quality end products they’ve created, the niches they excel in, and the results they’ve seen.
2) Silo your case studies by industry and link them together
One of the benefits of having a whole slew of success stories is that clients can see how you helped businesses just like theirs achieve amazing results again and again and again. Nobody wants to hear you say that you deliver consistent high-quality work—they want to see it for themselves.
“We took all these stories and siloed them by industry. Then we made blog posts that summarize our results and show you not just one case study, but the whole portfolio in blog post format. It creates a really cool experience where you can see an entire timeline of our latest work. Now, clients can see that we don’t just get these results for specific people—we have a bunch of other websites that we’ve done that are similar or in the same industry,” Brendan explains.
3) Create pitch decks to persuade new customers
Of course, Clique doesn’t just hope visitors will click on their case studies. They make sure it happens, by including case studies in outreach emails and pitch decks.
“Most of the way these case studies get shared is in pitch decks and to build relationships with new clients. We also include links to them in our proposals. It creates a really cool experience where a potential client can see that we not only get results for these specific people but also that we’ve done websites in their industry,” Brendan says.
Making case studies such an integral part of outreach has had a profound effect on Clique’s client acquisition. They don’t need to waste time entertaining unqualified leads or proving that they’re the best fit for a particular job—their case studies do all the heavy lifting for them.
4) Use case studies to talk about the results your clients actually care about
Thinking back, Brendan realized that Clique used to tout their designs without talking about what those designs actually solved. So, while their designs might have been cool, they weren’t directly addressing customer pain points or helping to distinguish Clique from its competitors.
“One of the things that surprised us is that we’ve gotten a lot better at conveying the problems we’ve been able to solve for specific companies, not just ‘Hey, look at this design.’ That’s one of the things we happened upon by producing case studies—a better sense of our positioning and a deeper understanding of how we’re serving our clients that set us apart from other marketing agencies,” he says.
5) Build rapport with personalized success stories
Clique is doing something we’ve never seen before, and it’s having a huge and positive impact on their relationship with their clients—they’re telling personalized success stories.
Brendan describes it as a “happy accident” that grew out of Clique having more capacity. Now, whenever they complete a project, they have an internal team asking questions such as: “How did the project go?” and “How is [the website] performing at certain benchmark time frames?”
They’re then able to deliver these wins to their clients as mini case studies.
6) Tell success stories your customers can see themselves in
The best case studies are customer-centric. They don’t just make your clients look good; they turn them into the hero of the story. This shows readers that you’re 100% invested in their success and it helps them envision themselves taking center stage in the next success story you want to tell.
“Every company wants to be the hero of their own case study but we’d rather talk about our clients; we’d rather let them be the hero. That allows potential clients to see themselves as the hero and you as the guide, which is the best positioning you could ask for,” Brendan says.
7) Humanize your brand by showing off your successes and your mistakes
While a lot of businesses try to hide their blemishes, Brendan knows that the best success stories are ones where succeeded despite facing challenges. Nobody is perfect and your customers know that—which is why the best case studies prove you’re adaptable, creative, and perseverant.
“We want case studies to be a highlight reel but we also want to show challenges—because whether you’re a copywriter, a web design agency, or a lawn-mowing service, you’re serving people. It’s going to get rocky sometimes. We want to show potential clients not only our beautiful end product and the results we got, but also the confidence we have in navigating those rocky points,” he says.
“What that does is it builds trust and confidence in your potential clients that no matter what goes wrong in your time working together, you’re going to navigate it. It’s not a blooper reel—it’s proof that we build strong relationships with our clients and that we do good work,” he adds.
8) Don’t settle for just one amazing success story
Brendan also talked about why you can never have too many case studies. Prospects are hungry to see themselves in your success stories and the more proof you can give them that you’re the best fit, the more they’ll trip over themselves to work with you.
“Once you’ve created a case study and you use it to do all the things you can do with a case study—which is pretty much everything—and watch it do well, it can be easy to say, ‘All right, we have this asset, we’re good now.’ You may not see the need for another one. That’s a mistake,” he says.
“I would argue that having fresh case studies and also iterating on the creation process behind them is extremely important. It’s one of the reasons that we keep pushing for case studies. They’re crucial for our success—not just for business development or closing deals or making money—but for building our relationships,” he adds.
9) Use case studies to boost team morale
Finally, Clique isn’t just using their case studies as client-facing assets. They’re also using their success stories to show off their results internally and share the win with the entire team.
“When you share those case studies with team members who didn’t get to work on that project, it makes them feel involved in all of the great work your company is doing. I would argue that builds a really good culture around doing good work,” Brendan says.
Clique has achieved amazing results incorporating case studies into their sales process and now they’re looking at ways to grow their case studies more. According to Brendan, the next steps are video case studies for their website and more customer involvement during case study creation.
“Case studies show new clients that we did this work that we’re extremely proud of. They’re wonderful and they do so many things for our organization,” he says.
Brendan has no doubt that case studies are an amazing asset to Clique. But, like many other agencies, time is the enemy when it comes to creating content and taking full advantage of their value.
“We wish, times a thousand, that we could make more time for case studies because we see how valuable they are. When we’re talking to people about doing something—usually something very visual in our case—the work and the results we achieved often speak for themselves,” he says.