By Rachel Foster published March 29, 2012

3 Keys to More Compelling Case Studies

According to CMI’s B2B Content Marketing 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, 70 percent of B2B marketers find case studies to be an effective content marketing tool. That’s because they can increase customer confidence in your organization, educate prospects on how to solve their challenges, and provide social proof that your solutions are valuable.

However, many marketers often put case studies on the back burner while they pursue sexier marketing strategies. Putting off your case study development isn’t a good idea, because you may find yourself with new products or services and not enough proof that they provide ROI.

Here are three ways that you can get your marketing back on track and create compelling case studies that excite and influence your potential customers:

1. Use photos and videos

Multimedia can make your case studies more engaging and give you a way to connect with auditory and visual learners. Here are some ways that you can incorporate multimedia into your case studies:

  • Add photos and charts to punch up your written case studies.
  • Film video case studies and use them throughout your marketing.
  • Create a video and text version of the same case study. Developing content in multiple formats will get your message across to a wider audience.  

2. Don’t write case studies from your own perspective

One of the biggest challenges in developing case studies is getting detailed interviews from your customers. You may get frustrated trying to coordinate interviews, or your customers may tell you to “just write something” and they’ll approve it. However, if your case studies don’t contain quotes from your customers, they won’t be as effective or credible. Plus, your readers will be able to tell when you’ve written a case study from your own perspective.

When you take the time to get a detailed interview from your customer, you may be pleasantly surprised by the great things they say. If you have a hard time scheduling interviews, try using scheduling software that allows your customers to pick the best time. If you have trouble getting compelling quotes, be sure to ask your customers a range of questions that take them through their entire story — from the problems they faced before they started working with you to how they implemented your solution to the ROI that they achieved.

3. Create dual case studies/“how-to” articles

A great way to turn case studies into content marketing tools that will educate and inform your audience is to sprinkle in “how-to” tips. “How-to” tips can work nicely in the implementation part of a case study. Instead of just explaining how your customer implemented your solution, offer advice on how others can do the same. Here are some questions to ask during your interviews if you want your case studies to also function as “how to” articles:

  • What steps should someone take to implement this solution?
  • What should someone know before starting this process?
  • What top five things should someone consider before purchasing a similar solution?
  • What can someone learn from this process?

Also, remember to create case studies for all of your solutions and verticals. When a prospect reads a case study, they often like to envision themselves in the role of your happy customer. To make their visualization process easier, you should develop case studies for as many of your customers and solutions as possible. Go through all of your products, services and verticals and see where you are missing proof points. Then, make a list of customers in each area who may provide you with case studies.

What about you? In your opinion, what makes a case study compelling? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Author: Rachel Foster

Rachel Foster is a B2B copywriter and CEO of Fresh Perspective Copywriting. She helps her clients improve their response rates, clearly communicate complex messages and generate high-quality leads. Rachel has taught white paper, sell sheet and case study writing for MarketingProfs. She is also one of the Online Marketing Institute’s Top 40+ Digital Strategists in Marketing for 2014. You can connect with Rachel on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter or check out her B2B marketing blog

Other posts by Rachel Foster

  • Anna Ritchie

    Great article, and I completely agree with #2. Case studies shouldn’t really be about you or your company, but they should highlight some issues or challenges your clients were able to overcome. At the end of the day, it should tell a good story, not be an overtly obvious marketing pitch, in order for people to find it valuable, credible and honest.

  • AlisonScammell

    Good article. I write case studies for IT clients and one important principle is to write in business langugae, not technical jargon. The other thing I would say is that a case study should clearly bring out the benefits of a solution.

    • rachelfoster

      Hi Alison,

      Good point. Most of the time, a business audience will read case studies. If they don’t understand the technical jargon, the case study won’t be successful.

      Sincerely,
      Rachel

  • http://www.showyourexpertise.com Carl Friesen

    In my work with professional firms (engineers and environmental scientists, mostly) I find it’s important to get the client involved in doing case studies. “Sell” the customer/client on the idea of getting involved by describing how the case study will make them look good, having adopted a leading-edge solution. Also, indicate where the study will be published, such as in a magazine read by their industry and peers. 

    Having involvement by someone on your company’s technical side helps too — it brings depth to the analysis. You can “sell” this idea to your technical people by indicating that it will give them a chance to understand the project or product from the customer/client perspective — often, the interview points to problems that your company was not aware of, or aspects to the work that were particularly important to the client. The discussion may even lead to another project or sale.

    This process works best if you get the client and your company’s representative in the same
    room to discuss the project or product, or at least on the same conference call. I agree that it must be done from the customer’s viewpoint — and cast the story in terms of “customer as hero” — they had a problem or a need and they fixed it with a leading-edge solution from your company or firm.

    Any suggestions on other ways to build involvement by the customer/client? Benefits they receive?

    • Rachel

      Hi Carl,

      Good points! Yes, it’s critical to get help from the inside. I find that a good way to get involvement is by minimizing your client’s work. If you have systems in place that can get them finished case studies with minimal work on their part, the process will go smoother. For example, interview their customer so they don’t have to. You can also offer to find charts or graphics to include with the case study.

      Sincerely,
      Rachel    

  • tcmarketeer

    It’s always nice when case studies don’t go the cliff-hanger novel route and offer some how-to advise. It gives the reader even more incentive to become invested with getting to know the brand in hopes of learning more about what they find interesting in the case study. Great post! 

  • http://thesistown.com/ thesis

    Written simply and tastefully. It’s pleasant to read. Thank u.

  • Marco Rossi

    The most difficult thing about case studies is not to make them too superficial. Customers are happy enough to do a case study as long as it does not go into too much detail. They don’t want their customers or competitors to find out just how difficult things REALLY were…

    • rachelfoster

      Hi Marco,

      Whenever I conduct interviews for case studies, I always ask about their challenges and the things that did not go well. Nothing goes perfectly. If they found a way to overcome the challenges, then it makes for a better story. It supports the arc of the hero’s journey. Most people are willing to share the ups and downs. 

      Sincerely,
      Rachel