Nothing sells as well as a satisfied customer telling their story

Case Studies

Case study writing service

Case studies are weapons of mass persuasion when it comes to selling business to business – they work a treat.  And yet  so few companies use them.  The reason being that they seldom have the time or the skill to create them internally.  And that they don’t have a reliable writer they can outsource the task to.

We are fervent believers in the power and value of the case study.   For several reasons:

A story that sells

When you give potential customers your elevator pitch it generally falls flat.  Why? Because you sound just like ever other business in your sector.  “We specialise in the design, production, and support of bespoke software solutions” may be an accurate description of your offering, but it hardly explains how you do it differently, and better – the potential customer is actually not much the wiser.

With a well constructed case study you demonstrate your product or service in action – it’s real, not theoretical.  You show the problem, the way you solved it and some results that quantify the value you added.  The benefits are made tangible. The reader is left in no doubt as to how you could help them. They can see and appreciate how they will gain – it becomes relevant to them personally, and is therefore very engaging.

What’s more, it’s a story, so it’s dramatic – especially if the customer explains, in their own words, how they feel.  This is so much more effective than a dull list of features and benefits.  It has excitement and emotion and therefore moves people more effectively than mere cold logic alone.

Easier to believe

The second reason they sell so well is the fact that are credible.  When you tell people how great you are it comes across as not only arrogant but suspect.  It is likely to trigger antipathy and scepticism.  And yet if you don’t tell people how great you are then you are underselling yourself!

The best way to overcome this challenge is to get the testimony of a third party.  Whereas your claims can be brushed aside with “you would say that, wouldn’t you?” it is much harder to dismiss the evidence provided by a satisfied client.

What’s more, that client can say things that you can’t.  For instance “They were a huge improvement on the previous provider”,  “I was impressed by the speed with which they understood our needs” and “the relationship is excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them or use them again”.  These are the things your prospects want to hear, but they are not things you can say about yourself!

Why external help is so valuable

You probably don’t have anyone internally with the time or the skill to do the research and writing.  You can give the job to someone but in practice, nine times out of ten, it won’t get done.  Why is that?

Firstly, it involves getting the sales person to provide their side of the story.  In my experience this can be awkward as they are paid to sell, have targets to hit, often scorn marketing and don’t want to waste time going back over details of deals that were completed months ago.

It also involves interviewing someone from the client organisation.  They too are busy, and you are in effect asking them for a favour.  What’s more, there’s a skill to getting people to talk and give you the kind of sound bites that make a great story.  Actually capturing the conversation is also tricky – not many people practice shorthand any more and if the conversation is recorded then the transcription process is very time consuming.

Finally the information from the sales people and from the client has to be moulded into a compelling narrative.  This is often more difficult, requiring complex issues and technical solutions to be explained with brevity and lucidity so the full value of the solution is easy to appreciate.

We’re well versed in overcoming these challenges.  And the return on investment is huge – our fees may be £200-£300 but if the case study helps you win just one more customer or project it has paid for itself many times over.

 

Some case studies we have written

Case Study on Trade Finance:

Green light for Jaguar deal

When T&H Design created a bespoke collection of luggage to fit the boot of the F Type, Jaguar Land Rover were delighted. However, as Managing Director Mike Bozman explained: “As well as managing the manufacturing in our joint venture Shanghai facility they asked us to handle the shipping and import – something we’d never done before.

“Our normal business is on a Freight on Board basis, where the buyer covers shipping cost, as well as the hefty VAT and Import Duty. So, we had to find the money for these added costs – on top of purchasing all the raw materials and having to finance this over the two month manufacturing cycle, one months delivery and then the normal 60 days until final payment. Trade finance was therefore essential.”

Their long-term bank turned them down because, as Mike explained: “They just put the information into a computer, out spewed a risk profile and the computer said ‘No’.”

Then they approached another provider of trade finance. Mike explained: “It was all a bit complicated, as the order came from Jaguar but we had to deliver to Unipart, their distribution partner. They got cross-eyed trying to understand that relationship. They just didn’t have any flexibility, it was extremely difficult to get them to appreciate what we needed.

“Maurice from Ultimate Trade Finance got it in about 30 seconds, because he’s been around the proverbial block. We bought into his experience, and the fact he’s a pragmatist and a realist. He didn’t see the complications as obstacles.”

T&H paid the deposit but Ultimate Trade Finance supplied the rest of the cash, as well as the VAT and duty. This facility worked back-to-back with another that Maurice set up with Ultimate Invoice Finance. “After delivery we raised an invoice and the invoice finance people paid 80% of that to Maurice”, explained Mike. “Maurice has been extraordinarily easy to do business with. The trade team at Ultimate Finance have done a really cracking job. We could not have got here without them.”

Case study on engineering software project

Zircon helps Invensys Rail with verification & validation of data for upgraded control centre in Germany

 

When Invensys Rail was commissioned to handle a line upgrade project by German rail company Deutsche Bahn AG they asked Zircon to undertake the verification and validation aspects of the job.  Despite a number of challenges everything was successfully completed and implemented on time, and Invensys Rail was full of praise for the way the Zircon approached this awkward task.

Background

When the rail system around the small town of Plön needed upgrading Invensys Rail was awarded the contract.  Project Manager Vince Dade comments that “We worked on the original implementation in 2004, so it made sense to use us again.”

The upgrade involved changes to four stations, including the one at Plön, as well as alterations to the configuration of routes and signals, plus upgrades to several level crossings.  Zircon was asked to undertake the verification and validation of the configuration data used by the control centre.

The challenge

“Verification and validation procedures are always extremely thorough and rigorous” continues Vince, “but that’s especially true in Germany.  Their routines are extraordinarily strict, the documentation is incredibly detailed, then everything is checked again by an independent assessor, which in this case was TÜV.  Everything must conform precisely to the prescribed way of doing things, to their protocols.  One tiny thing out of line and it’s rejected, which means you don’t commission on time.”

“We didn’t have all the necessary specialist resources in-house”, explains Vince.  “Some members of the Zircon team were heavily involved in the original project back in 2004.  They had the background, and the knowledge – they were familiar with the verification paths, so we had no hesitation in asking them to assist us again.”

There was also a major issue with this system – the equipment was very old.  With the base station we were looking at a system that was MT based, so getting the drivers for the hardware was extremely difficult.”

The solution

Zircon engineers therefore performed all the static correspondence testing, dynamic data testing and dynamic regression testing to ensure that every single modification of the data was properly verified and validated in time for deployment and commissioning.

A Zircon engineer also went to Germany and supported the Invensys team during the commissioning.  This involved performing the upgrade to the control centre software and also carrying out a number of reliability tests during the engineering hours.

Feedback

The project was successfully commissioned on time, despite the challenges.  “Having been involved earlier the guys at Zircon knew exactly what was required” comments Vince, “but I was particularly impressed by the fact they were proactive and on top of what was going on.  They didn’t just sit back waiting…they were very good at driving things forward, letting us know exactly where we were, what information they needed to know next.  And if there was anything they could do to help us improve our performance as an organisation, they were very quick to tell us about that, and I like that kind of approach.”

“Communication was excellent – we had very good contact with them and saw a couple of their key people on a regular basis.  The issue of getting the drivers for the hardware was very tricky, but they cracked it…they coped very well.”

Vince emphasises that “On a project of this nature you are always coming across surprises and snags you couldn’t have anticipated.  They were very reasonable when that happened…they weren’t aggressive with variations.  When situations like this occurred, and additional work was required, they were very fair about it, and didn’t make life difficult for us.   They are just a good bunch of guys who just get on with it, and sort problems out…they don’t create more problems!

Conclusion

Asked whether he would use them again Vince has no hesitation.  “Yes, most definitely.  This was just phase 1 of a two part project, and we’re planning to use them for phase 2.”

 

Case study for HR consultancy

Fitzgerald HR lifts huge weight off shoulders of Atlas Packaging

Atlas Packaging, based in Barnstaple, North Devon, is one of the UK’s largest and most comprehensive independent packaging companies.  Employing a team of about 120 staff they work with a wide variety of clients ranging from local businesses to national retailers such as Waitrose, John Lewis, B & Q, Sainsbury’s and Asda.

Founded in 1983 the company has grown steadily and the management team acquired extensive experience of employment regulations, legislation and best practice.  However, as Jason Sharman, Managing Director of Atlas Packaging explains, “Although we had a pretty good understanding of the subject things are constantly changing.  We would regularly attend seminars, put on by local solicitors to keep abreast of all the latest employment law and current regulations.  When a situation popped up we’d handle it ourselves, but if we ever felt out of our depth we’d take advice from a solicitor.”

How Fitzgerald HR became involved

This approach worked quite well, but was not ideal.  Jason explains that “As well as running her HR business Lucy was also marketing a toy and came to us for advice on packaging.  When we became aware of what she was offering on the HR side we were keen to find out more.”  The company were sufficiently impressed to outsource their HR function to Lucy and her team in February 2012.

The Employee Handbook

What particularly caught the attention of the Atlas team was the fact that Fitzgerald HR provided an Employee Handbook service.  As Jason says “This was something we’d never really cracked.  We had one, but it was a bit of a half-hearted effort.  Keeping it up to date, and easily accessible to everyone, was a challenge.”

Lucy rewrote the handbook, ensuring it complied with the current employment legislation, that it was in line with their contracts of employment and that it communicated the staff rules effectively without creating unnecessary red tape.

This, however, was only part of the attraction.  Fitzgerald HR provided Atlas with their own branded portal where the handbook is now hosted, along with copies of the company’s policies and procedures, as well as a secure area where managers can find all the downloadable forms they need alongside guidance on how to handle different situations and issues.

The fact that the handbook is hosted in the cloud means it’s easy to update – whenever the law changes, or the company adopts a new policy, there’s no need to pay for reprinting.  What’s more, it’s easily accessible.  “We set up a QR code”, explains Jason, “and put it around the factory.  Anyone on our team, if they’re not near a PC, or don’t have access to one at work because they’re on the shop floor, can access the handbook on their smartphone as and when they want.”

In-house rather than outsourced

The relationship between Atlas Packaging and Fitzgerald HR was very close right from the start.  “She solved our HR situation, full stop!” enthuses Jason.  “Although you might call it outsourcing Lucy is more like our own fully integrated in-house HR person.  She is fully involved with every aspect of HR here, on a regular day to day basis – we don’t treat her just like some remote advice line that we call up occasionally when we have a problem.”

Jason adds “We view Lucy as very much part of the team, she really understands what we do and how we work.  Sometimes it is just a quick phone call, but when the HR function is busy, she’s in here two or three times a week, helping in a huge number of ways.  She’s been involved with our apprenticeship recruitment, for instance.   Right now we’re hiring someone from abroad and she’s guiding us through the immigration process.  And with any disciplinary issues she’ll advise us before the meeting and after the meeting – sometimes she’ll even lead the meeting!”

How the arrangement benefits Atlas Packaging

Jason has no doubt that Fitzgerald HR proves a huge asset to the management team.  “Employees are very aware of their rights these days, and the regulations are complex.  It gives us huge peace of mind, knowing that we’ve got an expert on the team and that we’re right up to speed with the very latest legislation and best practice.”

Flexibility is another huge plus.  “We could employ an HR person, but most of the time it’s not a full time job.  We could have someone covering HR and Payroll, or HR and Health & Safety, but that’s not ideal.  The work comes in fits and starts, so sometimes it’s more than a full time job!  Having Lucy and her team means we have access to all the resources we need, as and when required”

Cost is another consideration.  “It works our considerably cheaper than hiring an employee.  And solicitors are expensive, so the arrangement is very good value.”  What’s more, with solicitors, they are only involved occasionally.  “They don’t understand everything about the business, so if there’s an issue they come in cold.  By the time they’re up to speed, you’re behind.  With Lucy we don’t have that problem – she knows exactly how things work here.”

Another point Jason makes is that “Someone from outside, their knowledge and perspective is broader…they see things with a fresh pair of eyes.  Also, as a family business, emotion sometimes comes into play.  Although Lucy’s very involved with us she’s more detached and objective, which is extremely useful.”

On a personal note

HR issues and situations can get awkward and people performing this role are not always the most popular.  Jason says “Lucy’s a really lovely lady.  I don’t know if she adapts her style according to who she’s working with, but she very well liked here.  It’s a pleasure to deal with a nice genuine person that knows her business so well and goes about it in such a professional but pleasant manner.”

Final word

Jason concludes by saying “A huge number of businesses must be in the same position we were before we met Lucy.  I’d urge them to just give Fitzgerald HR a go.  You’ll be working with a nice person whose knowledge gives you instant peace of mind.  I defy anyone, after a couple of months, to say this arrangement doesn’t offer better value for money than a full time employee.”