Humans love stories. We also happen to love data. And what do you get when you mix data with storytelling? For our purposes, a case study.
When you have a compelling story to tell potential clients, one about how your widget can solve not only X problem but also Y and Z tangential pain points, your secret weapon is a client case study.
This format lets you combine potent storytelling with real-world data from an existing client to add punch. Bonus points are given, in the form of traffic, for well-executed studies since not only do people trust numbers, they also trust people. And telling a story that combines your client and their company brand and personality with the power of numbers and statistics is the best way we know of to truly drive the point home.
What is a Marketing Case Study?
Formally, a case study is a detailed analysis of a given situation, used to highlight particular effects a service or product has on a given customer. For example, if you’re a business consultant, you can talk about client ABC Co., who was having a hard time getting their invoicing system up to snuff with increased client load. The inefficiencies were drowning them in incomplete invoices and inconsistent results that required rework from multiple stakeholders. Then they hired you, and in X months, they saw a Y% improvement in P2C and a decrease in rework of 15%. All that from implementing your proven Z system. See how that works?
Case Studies: Marketing Gold?
According to the CMI, case studies rank #5 on a list of content marketer’s favorite tools, and 63% of those surveyed say they consider them a highly effective tactic.
That’s a good place to start. Some additional benefits provided by high-quality client case studies include:
- Self-promotion, without the sales pitch. Because you’re touting the results your product/service delivered to your client, the study will convey the benefits provided naturally in the course of telling the story. No sales pitch to turn away potential customers.
- Keyword integration. Case studies are the perfect way to use your long-tail and semantic search phrases, naturally. In fact, they can enhance the flow of the narrative, since other people will have the same problems and questions; putting the semantic search phrase in the mouth of the client will draw readers in.
- Audience targeting, baked right in. Since your existing client likely matches your target audience, in writing about that client you’ll be targeting audience members who can relate.
- A natural venue for product placement. Your client used your product/service, or else you wouldn’t be writing a case study about them. So when you work in a paragraph outlining the features of that product, it’s a natural part of the flow rather than a jarring sales pitch.
- Ready-made evergreen content. The benefits seen by your client won’t age, so the content you create to highlight those benefits is perfect evergreen content. Post it to the blog, then promote it via social media and maybe produce a video testimonial from the client. Then in 6 months, do a more in-depth review of the case and make it a gated download. Then in 6 more months, start the cycle over again.
Case Studies: A Short How-To Guide
As with any quality content marketing, there are some things to remember about crafting great case studies. This is not meant as a definitive guide, by any means. Use these tips as starting points, something to guide your first foray into case study production, then go from there as questions arise.
Don’t Be Sales -y
We know, we already mentioned this, but it’s important. People are turned off by sales pitches. Think about those phone calls during dinner trying to woo you over to a new cellular provider - no, thank you.
What people do want is to be told a good story. So tell them about how fast your client was able to get up and running because of your intuitive user interface. Then include stats that prove your point, followed by a quote for some social proof (see below).
Along with stories, people love numbers. Numbers don’t lie, so they’re reassuring. Pepper in some statistics and a graph or two that add weight to the story you’re telling. Be sure they’re appropriate numbers, and don’t get too technical; there’s a time and a place for deep, technical detail, but a case study isn’t it. Save the deep dive for the whitepaper.
Add Social Proof
Quote the client; this kind of social proof is invaluable in helping prove your worth to a potential customer. Remember, people trust people. Some quotes spread throughout the narrative that drive home a point are a great way to provide social proof that you are as good as you say you are.
Stay In Voice
Just because this is a piece of business writing doesn’t mean you have to break the brand voice. In fact, don’t do that. Your readers have come to trust your brand voice, so the last thing you want to do is turn on an academic-sounding, bone-dry voice just because you’re presenting something different in the form of this case study. Be who you always are. Your audience trusts you already - play on that.
Tell the Story
Again, we know, we already said that. And again, it’s that important. The whole point of releasing a case study is to tell the story of how your client used your product to solve their problem, and how your product or service can do the same for your readers.
To ensure the best reach for your new case study, be sure you make it as easy to access as possible so the most eyeballs get to see the story you’re telling.
Post a summary blog post, with a CTA to download the full study. Then link to the summary from your social media accounts.
Then, after some time, post the whole thing as a pillar page, with more linking from social. And finally, make the whole thing, maybe with additional details added, available as a gated PDF, so people can take it with them and print it out, whatever they want. Now the story of your success, and your client's results, is available and ready to start directing new interested parties your way.
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