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Testimonials and case studies are a common way to get a second-voice onto the website to help sell your product / service from business-to-business. However, useful case studies are much harder to put together than a quick testimonial.

  • For a testimonial you can just phone a client and ask "can you give me a one-liner I can use on our website to say you were happy with our service?"

  • For a case study you (usually) have to get more clearance from the client to include specific information on the site (not everyone wants the world to know that they had to contract out development of their website / application / call centre...) and then you have to write it in a way that is of benefit and interest to people reading it.

I am curious; is the extra effort required to put together decent case studies wasted when simple testimonials provide the same effect - i.e. they reassure potential clients that you are trustworthy and can do what you claim, or do prospective clients actually respond better to detailed case studies than to generic testimonials?

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The key word here is Business to Business meaning that both the buyer and the seller does this in their profession. From the buyers view, having Case Studies at the web site builds credability which is even more important than prize. As a buyer you are responsible and accountable for your actions, and you need to verify that your choise in vendor is correct. Documented resources such as cost analysis, pay-off calculations and case studies are useful for you as a buyer. You don't want to end up in a discussion without documentation.

For the seller its the other side of the coin: You can't win any business unless you are credible and case studies is there to build credability. You want to meet your customers expectations, not oversell nor undersell your service/product. That's why case studies, where customers have there say on what can be done, is very useful for a B2B site.

Testemonials would't do the job, I'm afraid. On B2C testemonials are more suited. At least this is my 20+ years experience in B2B selling and buying.

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Testimonials and case studies are inherently very different things, in that one is very subjective or emotive, and the other (should be) more objective. That should be a big part of why you choose one over the other.

Lets say that it is a website about a music festival. Hearing testimonials of what other people thought of it and how they had an awesome time there would help me chose it more than a case study on any aspect of the festival.

But if we were talking about something of a more technical nature, then case studies are usually critically important. Lest say that you want to convince a manufacturer to start using a new type of lubricant, or you want to convince a doctor to use a new form of treatment. In both those examples without an rigorous case study, you will struggle to get anyone to even try your product.

It's also worth mentioning that there is a strong correlation between how objective you need to be and who you are marketing to. Generally speaking consumers buy based on emotion, while business customers buy based on rational thinking.

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This may be right, but it could also be said that business customers don't have time or interest reading case studies, they're only interested in the KPI's - "Can this company do what I need them to for the right price, who cares about the ins-and-outs of how they helped business "X" I just want to know they are who they say they are and can do what I need". –  JonW Jan 29 '13 at 16:00
    
@JonW That depends on what they are shopping for. Very often a business customer can be considered as a consumer for marketing purposes. –  JohnGB Jan 29 '13 at 16:08
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It sure is best to have both. This way people will have a chance to see how the product got built and find out if the customer was happy with the result and process.

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Is this true though? Isn't presenting both case studies and testimonials overkill? Too much content that just talks about how great the company is could just seem desperate. I don't know, maybe it is good to show both. Do you have any reasoning behind your suggestion, or I'd it just subjective opinion? –  JonW Jan 29 '13 at 21:31
    
Depends on who's giving the testimonial really. If that's some big customer representing a huge business, even a few typical words of appreciation would have great effect. Just getting the name and title out in this case impresses the audience in a good way. –  Alex Debkaliuk Jan 29 '13 at 21:39
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