The power of reformatting revealed
By Tracey Wallace
A couple of years into my tenure at BigCommerce, I was handed the case study program. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, except that PR had owned it before me. Did I ask to do case studies? Was I already helping out with some and the rest just fell into my lap? Did PR need to shift priorities and so this was just left…available?
I have no idea––but I loved writing case studies because I loved interviewing customers. And I figured out a really easy back to scale case study production.
- Interview the brand.
- Record that interview (with this permission!)
- Transcribe that interview with Rev.com.
- Write the intro, but leverage their actual quotes to build the majority of the case study.
- Edit those quotes to sound better in writing (since they were originally said over the phone).
- Add headlines to make them relevant to the product and offering.
- Pull numbers for the brand to approve (these are the performance numbers all case studies have).
This made the writing of a case study take about an hour for me, because all that I really had to write was the introduction and the headline. From them, I was repurposing from the interview and editing.
This also made it really easy for the customers to approve the case study. After all, I hadn’t put anything in my own words. I’d used theirs––and they seemed to really like that.
Our sales team and web team really liked it too, because once a customer approved the case study and their quotes within it, all of that was fair game to use on the website, in ads, and of course, as sales collateral.
I swear, people over think this stuff sometimes. The best recommendations and insights into how to use your product come from your customers. You don’t need to restate their words. Use their exact words. It works!
A lot of BigCommerce’s case studies live today are ones I did––so here are a few examples so you can see what I’m talking about:
Now, doing case studies helped me in my content role at BigCommerce is a lot of ways. Now, I had direct access to customers and could hear their pain points, start to understand their view of the market, and start to weave their own words and point of view into my content (both literally in terms of using their quotes, but also just by soaking up their knowledge).
This is around the time I started speaking at ecommerce conferences. Now, I knew a lot about running successful ecommerce businesses at that time, but I was quick to tell audiences that it wasn’t because I had done it on my own. It was instead because I had interviewed hundreds of successful brands, and could synthesize the trends across all of them that they themselves often couldn’t even see.
It’s a superpower—and you have to interview a lot of people, often!, to achieve it. It’s why I’m such a firm believer that companies shouldn’t outsource those interviews. There is just too much value to having someone or a team of people do this regularly for your organization, give feedback to your product team, speak at events, write content, etc.
But it wasn’t until BigCommerce decided to bifurcate the brand into a small business and enterprise segment that I did something that proved incredibly powerful with case studies. Like many brands, we struggled to get large enterprises to do case studies with us or to give us quotes.
But, because I had been running the case study program at that time for at least two years, I had already interviewed several of them, and more––I had at least 3-4 good case studies for that segment.
Now, 3-4 good case studies for any segment your company is going into is pretty baseline. It’s nothing to scoff at, but it definitely isn’t “world-class.” But as so many of you know, it’s incredibly challenging to get enterprise brands to say yes to case studies––so having 3-4 of them was gold, from my perspective.
Not so for our sales team, nor for our marketing team. They needed more. They needed more brands saying “Why BigCommerce” for this segment. And they needed it yesterday.
In crunch moments, I do what I do best––I look to what I already have to see how I can repurpose and repackage. It’s the only real thing to do in moments like that when folks are telling you they need something in an unreasonable amount of time. Instead of thinking about how to create something new from scratch, it’s better to look at what you’ve already created and see how you can repurpose and reformat to get them what they need.
Trust me, most of the folks demanding content from you haven’t actually read any of the content you’ve produced. It’s an annoying part of the job––but helpful in moments like this, and anytime you need to repurpose.
That’s because for a lot of your teams, and even your audience!, the way something is packaged defines their idea of the quality of it. Human beings judge things by their looks. I get it.
So, I took the 3-4 enterprise case studies we had––and repurposed them into a short white paper titled, “Why fast-growing enterprise brands choose BigCommerce.”
I cut the case studies down. Pulled the performance stats out, and had a two sentence line about their success with the company plus a pull quote. On the page beside it was an image of their website (which was built on BigCommerce, so technically a product tie-in).
I sent this through the design process, and it back at about 10-12 pages, and it was beautiful. I sent it off to the sales team: “Would something like this work?”
It absolutely would. The paid ads team loved it, too. So did the CRO team on the web side, who used it across the website for lead generation. Our events team printed it off and brought it to events for years. It became one of our most downloaded pieces of content––and the primary lead gen asset for our enterprise segment.
And none of the copy inside of it was new. It took maybe an hour to collect and format. And about two weeks in the design sprint to design.
It’s no longer live on the BigCommerce website unfortunately. After all, this was at least 3-4 years ago. But, I noticed that they are still doing this––using case studies as the basis for their white papers for specific industries. Here is their most recent, which was printed out and brought to NRF, too.
I saw it in an old colleague’s Instagram post, and thought to myself: “I wonder if that’s just case studies repurposed?” To be fair––it isn’t. They also repurposed an interview, and a blog post to fill this out.
This is the way it should be done-–y’all! Content teams shouldn’t just be creating blogs and case studies that get traffic when they debut, but then not much else later (outside of SEO). No, content should be repurposed by the larger marketing team––and not just for social media promotion, either.
Marketing channel leaders should be able to gather various pieces of content the content team has created, work with copywriters to edit that down, and create completely new, customized assets for their channel––whether that is paid media, an event, sales collateral, whatever!
The content you and your team create today should be building a library or ever-repurposable content for various marketing activities and assets. So little should be, or needs to be, net new. When you think when the “everything needs to be created” mindset, that’s what can really wear you out.
Instead, 80% of your team’s requests for content can likely be made through repurposing––of interviews, of case studies, of blogs, of podcasts, or videos, etc. Mix and match, and encourage and empower others of your larger marketing team to mix and match, too.