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Case studies are the fairytales of B2B content marketing. They give hope, are shiny, and make us feel heroic. They take you on a journey of humans who go beyond their struggles to achieve business goals.
They build an empathic connection while validating your position as a leading service provider. They tell a story of trials and triumphs through an informal narrative.
A case study is a perfect strategy to give your marketing campaign a competitive edge. This is essential even in the B2B landscape where most of us offer services to other companies or vendors.
Yes, the decision-making funnel is longer when it comes to B2B. It’s difficult to explain complex solutions. You work up a sweat to make the product appealing to a larger group of individuals.
Nonetheless, your customers aren’t B2B companies but humans who run them by pouring their everything to simplify lives.
It’s a given they’d want to feel a deeper connection that goes past generic, businessy messaging.
It’s a tough job, marketing a complex solution in simple and effective words. Whether your buyers are business executives, direct users, highly-technical, or on a budget, they all need to find product value in ways that resolve their business challenges.
So let’s dive into the best of best practices to write kickass case studies that accelerate lead generation and conversion.
This should be your first priority. Identifying a customer who not only represents one of your buyer personas but also knows about your company and products.
It will make your life easier.
They will be more open about their struggles and offer a detailed account of their thought-process, decision-making, and product implementation.
Always keep the interview format flexible. Ask the customer if they have any thoughts or information they’d like to share beforehand. This helps them ease in and get comfortable.
Start with sending them an email to gauge their interest and expand on the case study, why they were chosen, and what’s to be expected out of the interview. Calling directly puts them under an awkward spotlight which doesn’t exactly give out the right message.
What not to do: Move ahead with a customer who wants to remain anonymous. I know, I know. Publishing an effective case study is an arduous process and finding the right customer who’s willing to spill the beans is equally harder.
But a case study without an actual customer profile is blasphemy. Your prospects can’t relate to “anonymous”, let alone their pain points. This nullifies the whole purpose of writing the case study: Highlighting the awesome results your buyer achieved using your product.
No two case studies can be similar because they follow a person’s story from their perspective. And it will be your responsibility to communicate that, skilfully.
Don’t simply list down problems and solutions. Dig deeper. Find what caused your customer to face a challenge. What was their next plan of action? Where did they fall short? Take the prospect through an experience.
The featured customer is the champion of your story.
Infuse storytelling to describe the problem, strategies employed (even failed ones) to resolve it, alternatives the customer looked at, and the solution they found.
Storytelling is important to help readers experience a connectedness to the company through the buyer’s journey. It helps readers imagine themselves in the shoes of your buyer.
What not to do: Stray from the objective of highlighting the buyer’s perspective and stuffing the case study with surprise or suspense to make it more interesting.
The customer’s journey is the key to turning a case study into a success story. Use storytelling elements as long as they fit and don’t overpower the narrative.
Though it focuses on how your solution helped the buyer come on top as the winner, a case study should make everyone look good.
You can easily tip the scale in your company’s favor in the study, leaving the buyer high and dry. Don’t do that. The customer agreed to share sensitive information about their business needs and challenges.
You should always try to strike a balance.
Respect the time and effort they are putting to help you establish your thought leadership and land more clients. Give them a reason to love your company more.
Otherwise, it’ll only make it worse for you. And with the buyer losing trust in the company, you’ll be left with making amends.
Not every reader will have the time or patience to go through your case study. Write the case study in a clear and concise format that’s skimmable and easy to read.
Have a specific structure throughout: A beginning, a middle, and an end.
Use a strong headline to communicate the main objective of your case study.
Write subheads with short summaries underneath to tell the main points of your case study. The reader can choose to stop there or continue to read in detail.
Place an index in the sidebar of every page. This will allow readers to refer or jump to the parts that interest them the most.
Last but not at all the least — include and highlight customer quotes that quickly emphasize the pain points, strategies, your product, and observed benefits. This helps you get the point across through real emotions.
What not to do: Use customer quote that’s lengthy or talks about unnecessary things as is. Edit it without compromising the buyer’s voice and message. Make sure you inform the customer about the change. They might even appreciate you making them sound more intelligent.
Your case study can’t appeal to every buyer persona. You have to narrow down your target audience. The customer you decide to feature should match one of your buyer personas.
But it’s equally important to ensure the customer is identical to the decision-makers or prospects you’re trying to reach.
That’s not all.
You’ve to be strategic when highlighting your results. Kristi Hines, a marketing blogger, suggests including something like: “It was a combination of a three-month dedicated social media campaign focusing on Facebook and YouTube and five months of link building that led to an increase in rankings plus brand exposure that led to these results.”
At the end — offer the readers a clear direction on what’s expected of them after reading the study. Most case studies help you to connect with prospects in the bottom-of-the-funnel stage of buyer’s journey. So use relevant CTAs like getting in touch with a sales or customer rep.
You can make the calls-to-action attractive by highlighting end results your product or solution drives. For example — increase your customer engagement by 20% within 3 months.
Your case study shouldn’t become another number buried somewhere on your website. If you want to truly tap into the magic of case studies, repurpose them into different formats.
The case study gives you access to fabulous insights on customer pain points and needs. And by the end, you understand what resonates with a certain buyer persona.
So cast your net wider.
Turn the study into a slideshow, a webinar, an ebook, or a blog post. This way, you reach more prospects by giving them the content they want.
You’ll also save time and effort on content creation from scratch, something that 21% of content marketers still struggle with.
What not to do: Buyers still prefer traditional written case studies compared to slideshow, audio, video, or one-page summaries. You’ll get better engagement when you repurpose your success story using these formats instead.
Most of the times, your product isn’t going to be the only one the buyer used to transform a business challenge into a company win. Identify and credit other products that helped your buyer reach their objectives.
It’s a great opportunity to build connections with other companies by getting them involved in your case study and its promotion.
Moreover, the customer and prospects will see you as a transparent and reliable brand.
. . . .
56% of enterprise-level buyers and 23% of small business owners used case studies to complete a technology purchase in 2014.
Creating an effective case study takes time. But when you optimize this third-highest influential B2B content type through research, effort, and care, you transform it into a customer engagement strategy.
Think I missed out on anything or have anything to add to this conversation? Let me know in the comments.