Being able to provide 3-6 case histories is critical to your success. Far more important than references, case histories enable your prospect (and us, for that matter,) to understand through a story what it's like to do business with you. You don't even need attribution (i.e. you don't need to identify the customer, or get his permission to use the story as long as the identity is masked.) You only need to tell it in a simple and compelling manner.
What is the structure of a good case history? A good case history has 4-7 paragraphs, but it must fit on one page. Here's the generic outline:
Here is a very simple example, from a client who provides engineering and design services to architects, that you can use as a guide. You can make your own story as elaborate and compelling as you want, but be sure to stick to this structure.
Engineering Case History
The client was a leading architectural firm that was building a 100,000 sq. ft. drug store in Chicago, IL. As construction progressed, however, they discovered that the building had unbalanced electrical panels, and it was leading to a potentially dangerous distribution of power.
Not only was the unbalanced load a significant safety issue (a worker could get killed,) but load balancing was taking up a significant portion of the archictect's time and resources. They were unable, therefore, to focus on other critical design assignments for the building. As load balancing was important for the power to be distributed safely during each of the construction phases, the company decided to outsource the real-time design of the electrical system in order to keep up with their list of deliverables, and assure worker safety.
Since the main objective was to balance the loads as construction progressed, our principal goal was to understand the conceptual design specifications, and the changing needs as construction progressed, and then to find a solution to balancing the loads with the least effort - and so that the material cost, detail costs, and transportation costs were minimized.
After understanding the design specifications, we allocated approximate loads to different circuits so that construction could proceed in a timely, but safe, fashion. Subsequently we uploaded the load schedules in Excel format, and linked them to AutoCAD for use by the architect so that they could more easily access them, and incorporate them into their overall design.
By working 24/7 in concert with the architect we were able to complete the work several weeks ahead of schedule, and under budget.
The focus we were able to put on the load balancing enabled a substantial improvement in quality and safety. Turnaround time was reduced by 60%, and costs came in 25% under budget. In addition, the architectÂ’s own resources were freed up so that they could focus on other design elements, improving quality, cost and turnaround time on them. And because of this reduced cost and improved response time, they were awarded additional business by their client.
Notes: While this may not be the most complex story in the world, you get the basic idea. A case history is like a three-act play: In Act I, you introduce the characters. In Act II, you establish the conflict. And in Act III, you come in on a white horse, and save the day. The better stories have big problems with worse consequences, and simple solutions with more spectacular benefits, but everything else is just filler.
In a sense, no one cares about your product or service, they only care about their problem, and what you can do to solve it. (Most of the time they don't even care who you did it for. Prospects usually only ask for references if they don't understand your value.) A case history is a way for them to see what it's like to work with you.