A good content marketing strategy requires that you create and publish different types of content that are helpful and informative to readers. Content that is relevant to your audience and that they can relate to in a meaningful way is particularly effective. It’s one of the reasons why case studies should play a prominent role in your content marketing strategy.
What is a Case Study?
A case study is a unique type of content for several reasons. A case study allows you to focus on a particular product or service. Generally speaking, most content strategies shy away from promotional material (unless they are advertisements in nature, such as PPC ads). Visitors rarely want to have ads shoved in their faces and tend to be looking for content that’s more on the informative side. Case studies are unique in that they allow you to highlight a product or service without coming off as promotional. Case studies are a demonstration of how your product or service was able to achieve successful results in a real-world situation.
Types of Case Studies
Because case studies explore how your product or service is an effective solution to a specific problem or challenge, there are really only two types of case studies that you can create. These include customer success stories and project result case studies.
Customer Success Stories
Customer success stories demonstrate individual examples of how customers have adopted your product or service as a solution to their specific problem or challenge. However, it’s important to note that a customer success story is much more than just a customer testimonial. You’re crafting a narrative that engages your readers by turning the customer into the protagonist of the story. You’re showcasing a real-world use for your product or service by explaining how real people or companies used your product or service to solve their problem.
Project Results or Success Stories
Whereas customer success story case studies generally focus on a singular customer or client and their experience with a specific product or service, project results case studies are larger in scope. Individual success stories demonstrate the success of a product or service on a personal level that your prospects can relate to; however, they don’t really provide an overall idea of how successful your product or service might be.
Project result case studies give your leads a bigger picture view of the effectiveness of your product or service. You can use data that you’ve collected for a study or even collect information via surveys from your customers to put together such case studies. For instance, if you’re selling some kind of sales software, you could collect data on the average increase in sales your clients experienced following the adoption of that software.
Reasons to Create Case Studies
Putting together a case study can be a lot of work. However, it’s absolutely worth the effort. Here are seven reasons why it’s worth your organization’s time and money to invest in the creation of case studies:
Build Brand Authority
A detailed case study will allow you to focus on a specific problem, provide information about that problem, and explain how you have provided a solution to that problem. Through the narrative that you construct throughout the case study, you can showcase your authority on the subject.
Because a case study should home in on the pain points of specific types of customers, it will allow you to focus on a particular niche as well. All of this will help to build your brand authority. This is especially true if you also create project result case studies that are backed by hard data.
Increase Brand Trust
While boosting your brand authority will directly help to increase brand trust, this is not the only way that case studies can help build trust among your audience. The simple fact that case studies are based on the experience of previous customers will help increase brand trust in itself. Prospects will trust what other customers have said about the effectiveness of your product or service. A good customer success story focuses on the experience of a previous customer and gives them a voice. Case studies will act as social proof of your company’s trustworthiness.a
Target a Specific Audience (Buyer Persona)
To ensure that your marketing strategy is successful in general, you need to know who your audience is. The best way to get a clear picture of your audience is by creating buyer personas (which are representations of your ideal customer). Case studies are a fantastic way to target specific buyer personas since customer success stories are based on actual customers. This means that you can target a specific audience by creating case studies using a customer that fits each one of your buyer personas.
Target a Specific Industry
If your organization does business within several different industries, then you can also target prospects by creating case studies that target specific industries. This can be done by creating customer success stories within each industry you work with as well as by creating project results case studies that focus on specific industries.
Showcase your product or service as a specific solution
In a way, case studies allow you to highlight products or services without coming off as overly promotional since case studies focus primarily on the customer and what their needs and challenges are. However, the reason why case studies are so effective is that they allow you to focus on a specific application of a product or service and how it solves a specific challenge or helps achieve a specific goal.
Case studies also allow you to provide prospects with a much clearer picture of how a need is identified, how your product or service should be used to address the need, and what the outcome of its use will be.
Create evergreen content
Evergreen content is content that will never go out of date. It’s important to create evergreen content because it serves as a long-term marketing tactic so that even years after it’s creation it can still help attract and nurture new prospects.
Case studies are a form of evergreen content. Unless your organization maks a major pivot and rebrands to provide different products and services, your case studies will always be an effective way to demonstrate the value of your products and services to your customers.
Improve sales enablement
Sales enablement is the process of giving your sales team the tools and resources to close sales more effectively. The idea behind sales enablement is to encourage sales personnel to focus on the prospect and their needs instead of on the product or the service they’re selling.
Because prospects these days tend to be much more informed before they engage with a company, simply listing the features or benefits of a product or service isn’t going to do much good since it’s information the prospect can find on their own. More in-depth case studies are an incredibly useful resource for your sales team.
Using case studies, sales personnel will be able to demonstrate to prospects how other clients within similar industries have benefited from the use of your products or services. Such information is much more relevant to the prospect and will help to address their specific needs and questions. This, in turn, helps to improve engagement and make it easier for your sales team to nurture prospects to the end of the sales funnel.
How Case Studies Will Improve The Buyer Journey
Used as evergreen content as well as a sales enablement tool, case studies can nurture leads throughout the buyer’s journey. Although case studies could technically be considered helpful to those who are in the awareness stage (since this is when they are looking for information about their problems and challenges), case studies tend to be more useful for leads who have begun searching for solutions. You’ll find that they have a bigger impact during the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.
Using Case Studies in the Consideration Stage
During the consideration stage, prospects have identified what their problem is. They should be fully informed about their problem at this point and are now looking at potential solutions. Case studies are great for this because they present specific solutions to specific problems. Leads can read your case studies to find out about solutions to their specific problems and to identify how your products and services provide that solution.
Using Case Studies in the Decision Stage
Case studies can help nurture leads through the decision stage because they also function as customer testimonials. At this point, your prospects will know what kind of solution they need for their problem and will be deciding on what product or service to purchase. A case study that showcases how previous customers successfully solved their needs using your product or service can help convince them to make the purchase.
How You Can Implement Case Studies
One of the wonderful things about case studies is that you can leverage them in many different ways. Here are just a few examples of how you can use your case studies throughout your marketing strategy:
Your website’s homepage
Your homepage is the most important page of your website, so why not prove to new visitors that your product or service is effective and that your customers or clients are happy right out of the gate? Although your case studies might be too in-depth to post to your homepage in their entirety, you can certainly link to them in a number of different ways.
For example, you can pull customer quotes or statistics from your case studies to highlight on your homepage and then link to the full case study for further reading. You can also just post a CTA that leads to a case study section of your website or to a specific case study that you want to highlight. You can even use a slide-in CTA on your homepage linking to your case study page or to a specific case study.
A case study section on your website
Detailed customer success stories or project result case studies should be published on their own page. Create a dedicated section on your website where all of your old case studies can live and where you can upload new case studies as you create them. This will make it much easier for visitors to find your case studies, while also making it much easier for you to keep them all organized and to link to them in general (if you have a case study section, then you can link to them from your website’s main navigation menu).
Repurpose into other content
One of the major advantages of putting time and effort into creating detailed case studies is that you can repurpose them into a variety of other content. Ways to repurpose your case studies into new content include:
- Blog content – Information from your case studies can be used to enhance blog posts. For example, a local bank could write a post called “How to Get Your Small Business off the Ground.” They could then use information from a case study about a client who started a successful business using a small business loan to back up their post. You can use the data included in your case study or just cite the challenges of the client as an example in the post. You can then link to the case study you used.
- Infographics – If you collected a significant amount of data for a project results case study, you could repurpose this data into an infographic or chart that can be used as supplemental material for other content.
- Video testimonials – You can repurpose an entire case study by creating a video testimonial version of it. This can be particularly effective since people are often more willing to watch through a video than they are willing to read the text. Since creating a video can be a little more time-consuming and expensive, you’ll want to make sure that you choose the best case studies to repurpose if you go this route.
- Downloadable content – You can use information from your case studies to create an eBook or whitepaper. You may even be able to expand on a case study in order to turn it into an eBook or whitepaper. You can then offer this content as a free download in return for the lead’s personal information. Such lead magnets can be used in the CTAs for relevant blog posts, PPC ads, social media ads, email newsletters, and more.
Relevant landing pages
Once a lead has made it to a landing page, give them an extra push to help encourage them to perform the desired action (whether it’s making a purchase, filling out a form, or downloading something, to name a few possibilities). Pulling a few choice quotes or snippets of information from a relevant case study to add to your landing pages can help do just this. If you created a video testimonial from a case study, you could even embed that video onto a relevant landing page.
Email marketing campaigns
Case studies are a great way to nurture leads who have opted into your email list. In fact, they’re an excellent way to build more personal relationships as long as the case studies are relevant to the prospects you’re sending them to, like if they have a similar goal or challenge to the customer that the case study focused on.
Additionally, case studies can also be very effective in re-engaging with leads who you haven’t heard from or who haven’t engaged with you in some time. Just keep in mind that to successfully use case studies as part of your email marketing strategy, you need to carefully segment your email list.
A post on social media
Posting content to social media is a proven way to engage followers. However, simply posting a link to a case study out of the blue won’t have as big of an impact as you might hope for. When you post a link to a case study, first tag the person or company that it’s focused on. This way, not only will they be more likely to engage with the post somehow (such as sharing, liking, or commenting on it), but their followers will be more likely to see it (and it may be more relevant to them than to others).
Secondly, post the right message to encourage followers to click on the link. Don’t just label it as a case study. Explain the challenge that was overcome or the goal that was achieved to attract interest. Finally, you can also post links to case studies on social media when the situation calls for it. For example, if you belong to specific groups where the case study is relevant to the discussion or if someone asks a question and the case study provides more depth to your answer.
Your case studies don’t have to be limited to your online marketing efforts. They can be very effective offline as well. For example, many companies will turn case studies into video testimonials to be used in TV commercials. You can also publish your case studies in your newsletter or in magazines that are relevant to your industry (whether in the form of an article or an advertisement). Many companies will also use case studies as part of their presentation at trade shows.
Creating Case Studies
As useful as case studies can be to a variety of your marketing tactics, creating them is no small task. A good case study consists of multiple components, and creating a case study from beginning to end is a process in itself.
The Components of an Effective Case Study
The following are the major elements to include when creating a case study:
A specific challenge or problem
The main goal of a case study should be to explore a specific challenge or problem and how the use of one of your products or services was able to solve that challenge or problem. With that in mind, you need to identify the challenges and problems that your customers are solving with the use of your products or services to create an effective case study. This isn’t as obvious as you might think. There are many examples of companies that were surprised to find that their customers were using their products or services for reasons that they were unaware of.
To establish any kind of authority, you need to go into detail about the outcome of the use of your product or service. This includes providing step-by-step details about how your product or service was used to address the challenge. You will also need to back the outcome up with facts, either through data that you’ve collected via analytics and studies or through first-hand accounts from a customer or group of customers. A case study without proof loses its effectiveness.
A text-heavy document filled with numbers and statistics is not only more difficult to read through, but also more difficult to relate to. Adding visuals to your case study will make it much more engaging. Things like charts and infographics will organize your data in a way that makes it easier to read. Adding before and after pictures will help to sell the impact of your product or service. If your case study is focusing on a customer success story, then a picture of the customer you’re focusing on will make your case study instantly more relatable to your prospects.
Effective organization of content
Besides making the case study easy to read (by breaking it up using headers, bullets, and visuals), you should also organize it using a narrative structure. This is the most effective way to engage your leads.
It’s not difficult to do this, simply use basic storytelling techniques. Begin by introducing the main character (the customer) and then set up the inciting incident (the problem or challenge). Your organization is a secondary protagonist that offers a solution to their need. Describe the steps taken by the customer to implement the product or service, and then end on a positive outcome, which is the conclusion of the story.
Quotes from the customer
Don’t tell a story about a customer without providing a first-hand account from them. By adding direct quotes from the customer, you make your case study significantly more authentic and believable.
Finally, like any piece of content you create, every case study should have a relevant CTA at the end. The CTA should be obvious — it should encourage the prospect to address their need (which should be similar to the one solved in the case study) using the product or service that the case study highlighted.
The Challenge of Creating Case Studies
A good case study needs to tell a clear story that’s relatable to your leads. It should clearly demonstrate how your product or service provided a successful solution to a specific problem or goal. Unfortunately, this can be challenging for two main reasons:
Case studies require extensive information gathering
Depending on the type of case study you’re creating, you’ll need to collect certain types of information. For project results case studies, you may need to use analytics, send out surveys, perform studies, and more in order to collect the fact-based results you need.
Even if you’re doing a customer success story, you will need to interview the customer, which not only requires you to set up an actual interview, but also to prepare for that interview thoroughly. For example, if it’s an in-person interview, then you need to set a location for the interview, as well as prepare a list of questions. All of this information gathering will be both challenging and time-consuming.
Case studies require content creation
Creating case studies requires talent, whether it’s writing the content, creating supplemental visuals, or creating video content (which not only requires camera work, but also lighting, sound design, editing, and effects work). While creating video content has never been more affordable or easier to do, creating professional video content requires specialized skills.
Not only does it take talent and know-how to create high-quality case studies, but you’ll also likely want to make more than one case study as well. Creating the content you need not only requires a lot of specialized work, but it can also be quite time-consuming.
Boost Your Marketing Strategy Using Case Studies
While it can take some work to create high-quality case studies, they can play an essential part in your content marketing strategy. Not only are they a form of evergreen content that can be used to improve sales enablement, but they are also packed with fact-based information and social proof that can help nurture leads through the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.