A case study is a way of showing how your business’ solutions can help customers solve their problems. Besides that, it will tell an inspiring story about a successful instance and will make it easier to nurture and convert leads.
According to the B2B Marketing report, 66% of marketers surveyed answered that case studies were the most effective content format in their strategies. In Eccolo Media’s B2B Technology Content Survey Report, case studies are the third-most influential content format, just behind white papers and datasheets.
An efficient case study format includes a problem to be solved, an environmental analysis — problems and opportunities that must be examined by the leader —, and how products and services from businesses help solve the original point.
Making sure all the elements of a case study are there to convince and engage the audience is as important as telling a story. To make sure you cover all topics, in this article, you will find out about:
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What Is the Best Case Study Format?
First and foremost, the best case study format is a realistic one.
Do not write about things that never happened or do not make case studies bigger to appear better. Using some data, you can improve the narrative and convince your reader.
Storytelling is the most important narrative to give life to your case study and to set you apart. To do this, follow the classic narrative arc: using between 200 and 300 words, introduce the client as well as the problems they are trying to resolve.
Then, you can talk about the solution, with a brief explanation of what drove the client to seek out the products, before going into more depth about how they use it. You could add direct quotes and data to be highly effective in the end.
When using storytelling in your case study, you need a conclusion to follow from the main body. Avoid needless words and be a professional writer: use a persuasive discourse with action words, such as discover, learn, or unveil.
Following this structure — problem, solution, result, and conclusion, just like a hero’s journey —, you can drive more clients to know and like your brand.
What to Consider When Preparing Your Case Study
The case study writing process includes written planning and information structuring. In this first step, you have to identify your subject, considering how much does the customer or organization uses your product or service.
Also, think about how long they’ve been using this and if they had a positive result that would make a good story. Your sales team could suggest who might be willing to participate.
Ask for an authorization to talk about it. You can write a permission letter to do this and here is a template you can adapt to your needs:
Hi, [name of person],
We are conducting a case study and my team would like to tell the story of [name of company]. Would you be interested in working with us to create a case study around the use of our product? Here’s a description of our process and what we would need from you.
The process begins with an interview: it could be at your office or by phone or video call. Our marketing team will build a story out of it. We would also need to use some email conversations — to gather extra information —, a high-resolution company logo, images of your team and your company office, and some stats — before and after you used our products and/or services.
Once the final draft is complete, we will send it over to you for review. We will also create a landing page and build a campaign around it. In the end, we will share the final story with you.
Then, you can schedule the interview and formulate questions to do it. Make sure that you have a way to document it — a recording device or even note-taking.
The questionnaire will help you get the necessary information to develop the story of your case study. Check out some potential questions below:
- What does your company do?
- What is your work process?
- What are your goals as a business?
- How long have you been using our product or service?
- What problem did you experience before using our product or service?
- Did your problem happen suddenly or did it occur over time?
- Why did you select our product or service over a competitor?
- What solutions did you try before you came to us?
- What materials did you read or watch that influenced your decision?
- How did our product/service solve a problem you were experiencing?
- What tasks did our product or service simplify for you?
- How much time did you save?
- What tasks did our product or service eliminate?
- What difficulties did you face in the transition process?
- What advice do you have for anyone implementing our product into their work process now?
- Could you share some data and metrics to demonstrate this success?
Structuring Your Customer Story For Utmost Engagement
Downloadable PDF is the most common study case format, but it could be shared as a website page section, a video, or a slide presentation.
Although the content itself is more important than the appearance, some rules could organize ideas to make reading more attractive and fluid. Check out which items are essential for this:
- title: it should include the company or product name, identify the customer, and the result, but it must not exceed 67 characters;
- executive summary: this is a section summarizing the content;
- the subject: could be about the company or its product or service;
- problem or challenge: what did the client have difficulty achieving before using your product or service;
- solution: how did the company or product solve the problem or challenge;
- results: describe the results and use statistics, if possible.
- quotes: pick some quotes to feature in strategic parts of the case study;
- plans: in the end, tell what your subject requires for the future.
- CTA: not every case study needs a call to action, but this could induce the readers to pay attention to the website, or product.
Make your conclusion action-oriented: tell the reader what to do next and how to do it. You can use interactive content to make your case story format truly engaging.
Elements of a Case Study: 6 Tips to Build Brand Trust
The following elements are considered essentials not only because they make the content more pleasant and more accurate, but also because they make your brand trustworthy.
They prove that your company goes beyond idealizations and implements practical solutions. Make sure this is all covered when writing a case study!
1. How to set up the strategy?
Any type of content you share should come with a plan. The customer journey itself is part of a bigger marketing plan, after all. Therefore, the first step to building a case study is establishing where you are going with it.
Of course, you want all the benefits that come with this material, but it is even better to define the main goals. Do you want to generate more leads, or maybe nurture the ones you already have? Assist the sales team or orient the public to take the initiative?
All of that can happen, but if you decide exactly what is better for your company at the moment, you can make the entire content leading up to that specific result!
2. What is there to know about storytelling?
Ultimately, a case study is (or, at least, has to be) a well-told story. Even though you’ll need numbers and other kinds of data, actually what engages the reader is a good narrative. For that, you have to consider the basic aspects of storytelling: characters, scenarios, and beginning-to-end chronology.
The main character is, of course, the client on which the study is being based. If you can’t or don’t want to use their real name, you can still give it a backstory and, if possible, even a personality. That is what’s going to make the narrative plausible and appealing, with a strong emotional connection.
The scenario is the situation in which your client was before meeting your company’s solution. Remember to make it realistic, so that anyone who reads it can imagine it happening to them.
With that all set, the story should fluidly be constructed. You will present a challenge in the first chapter, then move on to the solution found by the character, and finally, the results lead up to a happy ending.
3. Why do you use relatable testimonials?
If this is B2B content, you may encounter a common problem: creating a face for a company. In this situation, the best way out is to work even more with testimonials, from owners to workers.
Yes, testimonials are some key elements of a case study, and they will appear no matter what. However, are they relatable? If your storytelling is based upon that, absolutely you should make sure that they are.
Once you get a chance to interview someone for the case study, choose the interviewee wisely. Who is the person most capable of telling valuable info about the time before, during, and after the use of your services? And who is the person that most resembles your target audience? Once you cross those lines, you will have found the perfect testimonial.
Therefore, when the conversation takes place, don’t forget to ask about both aspects that brought you to that person. You do need data, facts, and comparisons, but you also need to make the readers feel like they could be giving that testimonial themselves.
4. Why should you always use reliable data?
Even though storytelling is a major part of the process of writing a case study, it can not be mistaken for the average storytelling applied to other marketing strategies. Data is used in all situations, but case studies require a lot of specifics — not to mention you are talking about an existing client, and they will know if something is off.
You will have to gather every kind of fact, number, and proof before you start writing the content. Instead of just saying the client “doubled the results”, for example, include the exact numbers and graphics to show how and when that happened.
For this step, the collaboration with the customer being used as an example is massive. You just have to display proof of how they were before they had your product or service as a solution. If not, how will the reader believe that the results were so promising?
5. What is the importance of interactiveness?
Going through 2020 and seeking the best during the next years means one thing: interactiveness. More specifically, interactive content ― that is, if you want a differential to your case study.
We’re talking about a type of content that requires action from the audience. It has been some time since this trend started and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. Users like to be a part of the things they consume, whether it’s by commenting and making their voices be heard, whether it’s by being entertained.
There are a lot of different kinds of interactive media and content that your company can use on case studies. From apps and videos to quizzes and infographics, it all depends on how it fits with your services and the public.
- Do you want the reader to find out if the case study he just read can work out his numbers? There’s an ROI calculator for that!
- Or maybe you want to provide information that your company knows all about? Try an interactive white paper!
The list goes on and on.
6. How to choose the right channels to promote your content
Although it can — and should — be posted on your website and social media, a case study may be way more effective if spread to other channels as well.
For starters, send it to your sales team, along with a description and guidelines about the best circumstances to use it. Other coworkers should also have access to it, especially if they are frequently in touch with clients and potential customers. A link for the content can be placed on their emails’ signatures, for example.
A few extra tips:
- write a complementary blog post to attract traffic;
- create landing pages or add the case study to relevant, existing ones;
- place a button or banner on your homepage, leading to the right page;
- send it as a part of your newsletter or as an exclusive email to all relevant contacts;
- insert it into long presentations, when you feel it is called for.
What Are the Benefits of Publishing a Case Study?
All of this may sound like a lot of work, but don’t lose focus on what is important: the results! Let us briefly remind you of some major benefits that come from successful case studies.
It creates useful resources for the sales team
We said earlier that you should hand the case study to your sales team, and that’s no joke: it can help them a lot.
Convincing strangers that they would be better off with your services is a hard task, but a good story with great data can, sometimes, do the trick.
It nurtures and converts leads
Since it is bottom-of-funnel content, the case study will be the most strategic piece in the customer journey.
Some leads can be generated, depending on the promotion put in place, but the number one task here is to finish the client’s journey. It will likely get them to feel convinced and make a move to buy that product that seems so good for others like them.
It reinforces the peer-to-peer influence
People are naturally skeptical of businesses talking about themselves. They want the content for learning about what you do but need other perspectives to find out if the company is reliable.
A case study is just that: a way of showing your product does work, by the words of those who bought it.
It shows your brand evangelists
There is no better way of testing the quality of the services you provide than asking customers to talk sincerely about it. When building a case study, you will inevitably find out who are the evangelists among your clients!
So those are all the benefits and key elements of a case study. Did you find this article helpful and want more on the subject? The next step is already here: discover examples of great case studies from Ion!
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