When it comes to marketing your business, case studies are a highly effective tool. However, to drive results and increase conversion rates, you need to use the right type of case study–one that is structured in a tactful, compelling manner.
Think of any great case study as a detailed story, the type of story that showcases something your company achieved. While this strategy is powerfully effective, it isn’t necessarily easy. That’s why we’ve written this article–to help you in your mission to create an invaluable asset.
And as you create, remember what the infamous Seth Godin said: “If you wait until there is another case study in your industry, you will be too late!”
Why are case studies important?
As a whole, quality case studies are under-leveraged in the world of business, even though they’re incredibly effective. Think of case studies as your opportunity to tell stories about your brand–a chance to tell a bigger picture, one that influences your audience.
“If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.” -Jay Baer, keynote speaker, author, and motivational growth expert
One reason that case studies are so effective is that they are often targeted based on a specific niche. This means that you can address a highly specific goal in order to highlight your product or service. When designed and marketed properly, your case study will speak to your target customers–and in turn, you will:
Generate high-quality leads
Close sales and boost conversion rates
Build your reputation, positioning your brand as an authoritative leader
Provide social proof, allowing you to develop trust and loyalty
Be able to take specific takeaways for your case study research to develop future content (i.e. create a highly visual infographic)
Now that you know the “why” behind case studies, let’s move on to the “how.”
How to create the ultimate case study
While there is no singular “black-and-white” format in terms of an effective case study, the majority of case studies focus on three core components. These include: presenting a problem, outlining possible solutions, and then providing proof that your product or service can solve the problem at hand.
Use the following steps and tricks to guide you along your case study journey:
Step one: Hone in on a specific client
The last thing you want to do when creating a case study is to make it overly generic. Instead, focus on one client for a greater emotional impact. By showing how a client was transformed by your solution, you’ll speak to your audience on a more personal, powerful level. While your case study will be specific, those who read the type of results attained in their industry will feel as though the same is possible for them.
When selecting a client, be sure to:
Select a client who loves what you do
Choose a story that will resonate with your target audience
Highlight a client that is known and respected by your target audience, if possible
Tip: Think of the industry and/or niche you’re targeting and choose a client or project that will resonate with your target audience. Your goal is to position yourself as an expert in their industry, so help them see that you understand their needs and can deliver a solution.
Step two: Develop the structure
Your case study should flow like a story. It should not overwhelm your audience, which is why you should cover no more than six major points. Here’s an example of information you could include:
Context: The name of the company, their role, industry, and the amount of time you’ve worked together.
Content:Who is the company and what do they do? In what context and scope were you helping them?
Problem:What problem did they face and how were they solving it before you came along? How did this problem impact them?
How you helped: How did you work with the client in order to provide a solution?
The impact you had: What was the qualitative and quantitative impact?
Call-to-action: What action do you want the reader to take after reading the case study?
Write these major points down and then start to fill in the blanks, focusing on your experience and research. You can also include key sub-points, reworking the above structure to make it your own. Just remember, the ultimate goal is to tell a story from start to finish.
Tip: Whenever possible, insert a couple of relevant quotes from the client. This will humanize your case study and highlight the positive partnership you developed.
Step three: Create the content
Based on your rough draft or outline, now is the time to develop long-form text. Depending on your team and budget, you may want to outsource a skilled copywriter for this step.
Include numbers and figures: You want your case study to be as clear as possible. Get straight to the point and back up claims using real numbers. Charts and graphs are often an effective visual.
Once you’ve finished developing and writing the content, don’t forget to share the case study with the featured client to receive valuable feedback.
Tip: Whatever angle you take, frame your business as the supporting character. The client you highlight in your story is the leading character, and your objective is to show how you helped that main character overcome their hardships. This is important because you want your target audience to visualize themselves as the lead character in your story.
Step four: Design, design, design!
“The details are not the details–they make the design.”
-Charles Eames, architect and designer
When it comes to any marketing material, good design is imperative. Whether your goal is to communicate your brand, increase visibility, reinforce messaging, or drive conversions, you must invest in the design of your case study.
For your case studies, a professional, branded template will go a long way. You can work with an in-house designer or even partner with an external team for this. This will help you bring your case study to life so that it’s more appealing and impactful.
Tip: Be sure to include any relevant logos, charts, images, and diagrams. Once again, formatting is key. Since the majority of people will read your case study on their laptop or phone, you’ll want to embed links in the PDFs, leading your audience to key landing pages.
Step five: Distribute your case study
After you have finalized the case study with your team and client, it’s time to release it to the world!
Here’s where your case studies should live and grow:
On your website: Some businesses create a dedicated case studies page while others attach them to marketing content displayed on specific pages. Both are great tactics when you want to generate quality leads–just be sure that after a visitor downloads the content, you follow up!
Your home page is also a great place to showcase case studies. Whether you implement a slide-in CTA that links to a case study or attach a case study to a client quote/testimonial, this will give your visitors every opportunity to stumble upon positive customer experiences.
In the hands of your sales and marketing team: Whether you send case studies out in an email campaign, highlight them in blog posts, pass them out at conferences or leverage them on social media, your sales and marketing team can use them to bring in more customers. Even videos and presentations are rising in popularity!
Tip: Regardless of how you distribute each case study, it’s critical that you analyze performance and track results so that you can revise and update accordingly. Also, be sure to remain relevant–review your case studies on an annual basis and replace those that are outdated.
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Krista graduated from the University of Guelph where she studied psychology and neuroscience. Still active in her research, she now focuses on all aspects of health — both mental and physical. Based on her strong research skills, she is confident in a wide range of topics. Her specialties are health, nutrition, neuroscience, and business. She also owns a small business, which is most certainly her creative outlet!