Case studies are fast replacing client testimonials as the most effective way to demonstrate the benefits that your business brings to your customers and over 63% of B2B marketing professionals now rate case studies as an effective content marketing tool. Case studies are relatively cheap and easy to produce but can have a big impact on your sales and so if you aren’t yet publishing them on your business website, then you’re really missing a trick.
What is a case study?
A case study is basically the success story that one of your customers or clients has experienced as a direct result of using your product or service. The success of your client/s experience should be both measurable (e.g. resulted in a 5% increase in sales) and detailed so that your prospects can see the real value and appreciate the tangible benefits that your business provides.
Case studies are a versatile marketing tool and can be used in a number of ways. You may choose to feature case studies alongside client testimonials on your website to add more weight to the testimonial or you may prefer to collate the case studies within a single document that you can email to prospects and take with you to exhibitions and networking events.
What should a case study look like?
A case study enables you to tell the story of your product or service to your prospects and the typical format is very much like a short story. The case study should begin by introducing you to the characters (your customers and clients), establishing the plot (the problem they faced) and then conclude with a happy ending (how your business saved the day). The more engaging and accessible your narrative is, the more your readers will relate to the story and the more leads you will generate as a result.
Why should I feature case studies on my website?
People like to read case studies because they’re interesting and they tell a personal story. A case study is about your customer and their problem, not about your business and so they should not look or read like a piece of marketing content. People reading your case studies should be able to identify with your customer’s situation and trust that they are being spoken to honestly. This will in turn build trust in your business as your prospects feel they’re being given helpful solutions that may work for them.
Unbelievably 88% of consumers now trust product reviews as much as advice from friends and family when making a purchasing decision and case studies are an invaluable asset when providing proof that your product or service is of good value and high quality. Having case studies on your website will also contribute to your SEO as they provide quality content, answer questions about your offering and are often one of the most visited pages on a website.
If your business offers a technical or particularly complex service then you will want to produce a case study that deals with the specifics of the client’s problem. This may require more research and a greater amount of detail as potential customers will want to be assured that you are knowledgeable in the problem area that they are facing.
Why are case studies more effective than testimonials at generating leads?
The problem with testimonials is that as nice as it is for you to have someone sing your praises, it’s not going to mean a huge amount to your potential clients. Testimonials are usually pretty generic statements which testify to how great you are and how awesome your services are - but they aren’t specific which means they’re not that good at swaying your prospect into choosing your business over your competitor’s.
Someone who wants to find a garden designer to landscape their garden is much less likely to be swayed by generic testimonials which gush about how nice the designer is. They want to see the evidence, view the stats and hear other people’s real life stories about their garden design experiences with that particular designer. A case study that details how the designer solved an unusual planting problem, or successfully paved an oddly-shaped piece of land is going to be much more interesting to potential clients and will keep them on her website longer, increasing the likelihood of them using their services in the future.
For your case studies to have maximum impact, include photographs, videos and statistics. These will all help to convert your interested prospect into a customer by providing compelling evidence of the benefits your business provides.
How do case studies help with thought leadership?
A thought leader is an individual, business or brand that is widely recognized as having authority within a specific field. Establishing yourself as a thought leader means that your expertise is sought by others and rewarded through additional sales, higher visibility and increased personal integrity and authenticity.
Case studies are an excellent way to demonstrate thought leadership especially in niche areas as you’re positioning your business as the solution to your client’s problem; case studies showcase your advice as the answer to their questions.
Imagine how much more successful the landscape gardener might become if they publish a whole series of case studies that highlight how they resolved the most common issues that their clients faced. They will appear as a trusted authority on landscape design and people will begin to seek out their expertise. Being viewed as a thought leader will further increase their credibility as a designer and their business will bloom (pun intended) as a result.
What value will case studies bring to my business?
People are interested in other people. For this reason, a well-crafted case study that’s relevant to your target audience can make for a highly effective promotional resource for your business or brand. Case studies also have the additional benefit of providing you with material that can be repurposed for a number of different uses, for example:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
Because case studies come from the mouth of the consumer, your prospects will be less skeptical about the content and if you add in some direct quotes from your happy customers, they’ll have even more credibility with your audience.
They’ll also really help to support your sales and marketing campaigns. You can incorporate case studies into emails and newsletters which you can send to prospects whenever you’re promoting a product. If your case studies demonstrate real examples of how your product should be used and the benefits of using it, then your emails will have a much greater response rate than you would normally expect to see.
Your sales and marketing agents can also access your library of case studies to help them initiate a conversation with an interested party and to close a deal.
Where’s the proof that case studies work?
Every serious business recognizes the importance of case studies for lead generation and research from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) confirms this. The CMI reports that 73% of B2B marketers publish case studies whilst the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community ranks case studies in the top three content marketing tactics after blogging and social media content.
Ascend2, a team of research and marketing professionals, found that case studies are among the most effective and least difficult to create forms of content marketing out there.
How long should a case study be?
500 -1500 words in length. Any longer than this and you’re heading into whitepaper territory. (If you want to learn more about the value of whitepapers, you can read my article about them here.) You can certainly write a whitepaper off the back of a case study - or incorporate a case study within your whitepaper - but the case study itself should be relatively concise. Your readers won’t want to read pages and pages of information, so get to the point quickly.
What should a case study include?
The problem, the solution and the tangible result - perhaps with a client endorsement as a conclusion. Don’t stray too far from this format. A case study should be concise and to the point, too much waffle will irritate your readers and lose you leads.
Where should I publish my case study?
The most obvious place is on your website but don’t feel limited in how far you can publish it. A good tip is to use your case study as the basis of an article. If you write an article that serves to highlight a particular problem that is being faced in your industry, embedding a case study can be a subtle way to draw readers towards your business’s solutions. You could also include the case study within your monthly newsletter or blog.
How many case studies should I publish?
Your case studies should all be unique and each should deal with either a different type of client or a different type of problem. There is no limit on the number of case studies you can host on your website but take care not to repeat yourself. Sometimes less is more.
How do I write a case study?
You’ll begin by identifying the business solution/problem that you want to highlight and then work out what it was specifically that your client needed and how you met that need or exceeded their expectations. You will need to speak to your client directly and ask them very specific questions about how your product/service helped them. You will also have to ask them to provide you with evidence (statistics, photographs etc.) of the benefits that your business has provided to them.
How long does it take to write a case study?
It can take quite a long time to pull a solid case study together and if you haven’t produced one before it can be hard to know where to start. You will need to plan carefully and draw up a list of questions to ask your client. You should be very clear about what the aims of the case study are and your questions should be focused on meeting them. You will need to interview your client and write up their response and it may take quite a few redrafts to get it right. An effective case study is not going to be something that you can produce overnight and they can often take a couple of months to create.
How much does a case study cost?
If you are unable or unwilling to put in the time to write the case study yourself, you can always hire someone to write it for you. A freelance copywriter will spend time researching your business and getting to know your services and can often offer insights that you had not considered yourself. A carefully researched, professionally written and well executed case study will always pay for itself in terms of leads generated and so it’s really worth spending money on.
You can read more of Victoria’s content and download her whitepaper ‘The White Stuff: Why Whitepapers are Good for Business’ for free from her website.