Last Updated on June 8, 2022 by Troika Gellido
Without customers’ trust, a business is nothing.
Trust can turn a curious online lurker into a paying customer. But with numerous scams and fraudulent acts happening online, customers have turned wary and more guarded. How can you, as a marketer, gain a customer’s trust without directly speaking to them?
Case studies are the answer.
Case studies allow businesses to showcase their products and services in the real world. They are very effective trust-builders and content marketing tools. Through case studies, you give your customers a chance to see how you can help them solve their problems through the product or service you’re offering.
Not sure how to start one? Let’s walk you through the process of building an effective case study that will help you generate better leads, convert customers, and gain their loyalty. Whether you’re new to case studies or just looking for some tips to improve yours to build trust, read on for helpful advice.
What Is a Case Study And Why Do You Need It?
A case study is a detailed examination of a particular situation or event used to explore a problem, examine a decision, or investigate a change in business practice. Case studies are often used in business and marketing to show how a product or service can achieve desired results.
Case studies are an effective content marketing tool for businesses because they help build trust with potential customers. They provide a real-world example of how your product or service helped reach goals or hit objectives, which can be helpful in convincing potential customers that your product or service is effective and worth their investment.
Case studies are also critical for businesses because they can provide valuable insights into how customers use and interact with your product or service. By understanding how customers use your product, you can make changes to improve the customer experience or address any pain points.
Who Cares About Case Studies?
Case studies are valuable to you as a marketer or as a business and serve a purpose for other audiences. Prospective customers who want to learn more about you, your existing customers who want a reminder of your value, and the businesses you study are all other groups that case studies will benefit.
- Prospective customers:
People interested in your product or service but are not yet ready to make a purchase are a perfect audience for case studies. Case studies can help move them further down the sales funnel by providing examples of how your company can achieve desired results.
- Existing customers:
Case studies can also be effective in retaining existing customers. You can remind them of your value by sharing stories of other customers who have used your company to achieve their goals. A gentle reminder like this can help to reduce customer churn and increase customer loyalty.
- Businesses you study:
The businesses you feature in your case studies will also be interested in the content. By promoting their successes, you can help them attract new customers and grow their business.
Aside from these audiences who care about the information case studies provide, case studies are valuable to your business as well. They provide insights into how you benefit your customers, allowing you to communicate more effectively and providing opportunities to improve.
Characteristics of a Good Case Study
There are several critical characteristics of a good case study. If you’re missing one or more of these factors, you might find that your case study isn’t producing the results you’re after.
To avoid a lack of results, understand what all the best case studies have in common. The best ones all:
Focus On a Relatable Client, Not Yourself
The best case studies are focused not on your company and what you did but on the client. And, you shouldn’t pick just any client. Pick one that your ideal customer can readily relate to. Your goal is to demonstrate that you are familiar with your ideal client’s industry, industry-specific needs, and strategies to produce intended results.
The more relatable the case study is, the more potential customers will be able to see themselves achieving the same level of success with your help.
Tell a Full Story
A case study is not just a glorified testimonial. Yes, it should include quotes and details about what you did, but it should also tell the full story from start to finish.
Your case study should have a beginning (the problem or opportunity), a middle (the solution), and an end (the results).
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you’re selling a service, you don’t have to worry about results. You do. It’s even more important to focus on outcomes when marketing service because your potential customers will want to know exactly what they can expect from working with you.
Lead With the Solution
When you’re writing a case study, it’s tempting to lead with the problem. That’s what you’re solving, so it makes sense, right?
Remember, your potential customers don’t care about your product or service. They care about themselves and their problems. So, while it’s important to mention the problem, your case study should focus on the solution.
You should only talk about the product or service that made it possible after discussing the solution. It’s a small trick, but it can keep readers engaged and help them “skip to the end” where the problem is solved.
Make It Easy to Read (and Scan)
Most people don’t read case studies from start to finish. They scan them. According to the Nielsen Norman Research Group, only 16% read websites word for word.
It’s crucial to make your case study easy to read and scan. Use headlines, subheadings, and bullet points to break up the text and make it easier for readers to find the information they’re looking for.
If you have a lot of data to share, use infographics or charts. These convey complex information quickly while interrupting what can become walls of text.
Use Hard Numbers Where Possible
When making claims in your case study, use solid, real numbers as much as possible. Don’t just say you “doubled” conversions, give the original numbers and the improved numbers themselves.
In one case study example, “double” could mean going from 2% conversion to 4% conversion, or it could mean 50% conversion to 100% conversion. That is a HUGE difference.
The biggest reason for developing case studies is to build trust, and finding unique ways to get around using hard numbers works against this goal. The more direct numbers you can use, the more believable your case study is.
Speak to Specific Strategies Used
To write a practical case study, you need to be clear about the strategies used to produce the results achieved. Clarity and conciseness are essential for two reasons:
First, it helps build trust. It’s much easier for potential customers to believe that you can do the same for them if you can show that you used a specific strategy to achieve specific results for a specific client within a particular industry (especially when they have a lot in common with the case study client, see point #1).
Second, it helps you generate leads. When you’re clear about the strategies used, potential customers can clearly see how they can apply that strategy to their business, and they’ll be more likely to contact you.
Appeal to Different Learner Types
People learn in different ways. Some people want to read hard numbers and data, others want to see visuals, and others want to hear or watch how the process works.
The best case studies appeal to all learning styles by including a mix of data, results, and behind-the-scenes details.
Is Easy to Locate
Make it easy for potential customers to find your case studies. Add them to your website in a prominently located and easily navigable section. If you have a lot of case studies, consider creating an ebook or PDF that people can download and read while on the go.
When emailing leads or sending direct mail, include links to specific case studies interesting to the person receiving the message.
Also, share your case studies on social media and other online spaces where your target market hangs out.
Are Clear and Concise
An effective case study should be clear and concise. No one wants to read a 10,000-word essay on your latest project. Get to the point quickly and focus on the results achieved. Try to keep it between 1,000 and 1500 words, or as short as 500 words if it is possible, without losing critical details.
Offer Valuable Insights and Takeaways
As you conclude your case study, offer valuable insights and takeaways that your readers can apply to their own business. These could be topics like “3 Ways to Increase Conversion Rates” or “5 Tips for Creating Effective Landing Pages.”
Make it easy for readers to find these takeaways by including them in a bulleted list or an infographic, and ensure they are directly related to the results or findings outlined in the case study.
Include Imagery to Support Your Points
A genuinely effective case study should also include images to support your points and break up large blocks of text. Choose pictures that are directly related to the content of the case study, and be sure to caption them so readers understand how they fit into the overall story.
You can also use infographics, charts, and other types of visuals to make your data clear.
Tips On How To Write An Effective Case Study
The ideal case study should follow a process to ensure you choose the right customer to highlight, convey the correct information and create the intended effect among your target audience.
Start at the top and use this case study template, so you don’t miss anything important.
1. Establish the Goal of the Case Study
Before you begin writing, determine the goal of the case study. What do you want to achieve with it? Is it to illustrate how you used a product or service or provide insights into overcoming common industry challenges?
While every case study will have the overarching goal of building trust among your audience, you should be able to hone in on something a bit more specific.
Once you know what you want to achieve, you can determine what information to include.
2. Choose the Right Customer
You cannot write a compelling case study if you don’t have the right customer in mind. Choose a customer relatable to the industry you serve and a business that has achieved substantial results with your product or service.
It’s also essential to choose a customer willing to participate in the case study process. You’ll need their permission to use their story, and they’ll need to be available to answer questions and provide additional information as required. Plus, the more input you can get from them, the more you’ll be able to portray your effectiveness.
3. Choose the Right Format
There are several different formats that you can use for a business case study. The most important thing is to choose the layout that will achieve your goal.
Standard formats include a report or a white paper, which primarily uses text to convey results. Examples of common formats include a one-pager, which minimizes text and focuses on the most important results, an infographic, which is perfect for sharing information in an aesthetically-pleasing and visual way, and a video, which is superior when it comes to storytelling. You may also choose a combination of these, utilizing infographics, text, and critical points.
4. Identify the Key Players
To write an effective case study, you need to identify the key players involved, including the customers, employees, or other individuals directly involved in the situation or event. Once you have identified them, you can start to gather information.
If you were not on the client team, find out who was. Get on their calendar so they can brief you on the project.
Then, identify who at your customers’ company was most directly involved, and find their contact information.
5. Start Researching
Now it’s time to start gathering information. Collect data about the situation or event and stories from the individuals involved. The data will help to support the stories and provide insights into what happened.
Conduct interviews, review past reports, formalize data, and collect testimonials that will all support your case study.
6. Ask Questions
When writing the case study, it’s crucial to ask questions to understand the situation better and identify any information gaps. Asking questions also allows you to get clarification from your sources to be sure you’re on the same page.
First, determine if your questions would be better answered by someone on your team or your client’s team. Establish a point of contact on both teams where you can bring your questions so they can point you in the direction of the best person to answer them.
7. Pick Three Highlights to Focus On
Once you have all of your information, it’s time to start writing. But before you do, identify the three most important highlights you want to focus on. These are the points that will help you achieve your goal for the case study.
Focusing on just three main things will help you cut through the noise of all of your research and condense it into the most valuable points.
Sure, it’s tempting to use all of the great data you’ve found. But if you use all of it, you’ll water down what’s most pivotal and increase the chance your audience will get overwhelmed and not finish reading your case study.
Some KPIs you might want to consider focusing on include ROI, your customer’s total return on their investment in your products or services, productivity increases, or sales results (i.e., your customer’s bottom line).
8. Write the Case Study
Once you have gathered all of the information, it’s time to start writing the case study.
- Introduce your customer and their problem – Give a bit of background on your customer, including their name, what they do, their size, location, industry, and product or service. Avoid getting too far into the details. Keep it high-level, and don’t use too much of your time or space covering customer specifics.
Remember, you need your audience to relate to this customer, so pick your words accordingly. You also need to introduce the problem that you helped them overcome. Explain why the problem was relevant by describing its wider impact on the company and show what was at stake if you didn’t come along and help.
- Introduce the solution – Describe how you solved the customer’s problem. Include details, such as products used, services provided, or processes implemented. Use big, bold, eye-catching numbers here that will keep your reader wanting more.
- Backtrack and share the process – Next, get into how you arrived at the solution. Share the process your team went through to get to the final solution. You want to be as detailed as possible and include who was involved, what methods and strategies were used, and what tools or resources were utilized. Aim to fill in the gaps between the problem and the solution.
- Define results and back them up – After you’ve detailed the process, it’s time to get back to the results. Share how effective your solution was and how it helped your customer achieve their goals. Include any relevant data or statistics that support your claims and share keys to success. Then, your reader can apply what they read to their business.
9. Edit and Proofread
Once you have written the case study, edit and proofread it to ensure it’s accurate and error-free to ensure that the case study is effective and will achieve your desired results.
10. Publish and Promote
After editing and proofing, go ahead and publish it. Share via your website, social media channels, or other online platforms like the Project Management Institute or the Harvard Business Review. Once published, promote it to reach the widest audience possible.
Case studies are an effective marketing tool that can help you to gain customer trust and win new business. By following the tips above, you can ensure that your case study is impactful and build the trust you’re looking to gain from potential customers.
Key Points and Takeaways
In summary, a case study is only as effective as its process is solid. An effective case study must also have several characteristics to distinguish it from others that are just average.
Review the biggest key takeaways you can apply to your next case study:
- Case studies are impactful marketing tools that build customer trust and win new business.
- Case studies are pivotal to existing customers and the business you’re highlighting but are most important to prospective customers who can learn more about your real-life results through them.
- To create a practical case study, tell a complete story, but stay focused on the results you produced and how it’s relevant to other businesses.
- Make it easy to read and scan, staying concise and using imagery.
- Be specific with your strategies used and the data that portrays results.
- Work with your team and your customer’s team to develop the case study.
- Once finished, make the case study easy to find and promote it to amplify exposure.
If you can apply these tips to the next case study you work on, you’ll help your customers (and potential customers) see the real results you’re capable of producing. It will only be a matter of time until they reach out to see what you can do for them.
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