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Part 3: Why Customer Case Studies Pack The Most Marketing Punch

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Part 3: Why Customer Case Studies Pack The Most Marketing Punch

Out-of-the-box Case Studies

Go outside the format box

The traditional case study format with four subsections isn’t written in stone. Shaking things up can grab a prospect’s attention and provide a bit of entertainment along with education about your product.  

  • Make it eye-pleasing. I’ve seen a case study that placed just Problem and Outcome side by side at the top of the page. I have to say it looked less like an ugly homework assignment than those case studies with long bullet lists at the beginning.  
  • Slideshares can present key info in an inviting format that’s quick to go through for prospects with little time to spend reading. And who can resist clicking those arrows?  
  • Infographics are great for presenting key numbers and stats you’d like to boast about.  
  • Video case studies are an increasingly popular alternative to long-form text case studies. One study found that 72% of consumers prefer video messages over text. Consider the power of marketing content that combines their preferred media (video) with their preferred message (real customer review). A three-to-five-minute video featuring a customer can give a prospect a personable introduction to the brand that’s hard to achieve in text — and it can be less time consuming for fickle searchers at the beginning of the sales funnel.  
  • Some of the best case studies combine text, video, images, etc. on the same page, immersing prospects in a multimedia experience of the product and customer.  

Use visuals — and not just pie graphs

Photographs, pictures, vivid colors, animations and video — especially video — can all help bring your customer story to life.  

  • If your numbers — for increased sales, growth, etc. — are impressive, consider placing them at the top of the page, enlarged and in color.  
  • Visual elements are especially useful if your case study text content is limited. A large photo with some punchy text and blown-up statistics or percentages can make an impact on prospects.  
  • Dramatic before and after pictures that demonstrate a product’s effectiveness can be compelling. If you can get your client to collaborate, you can also make a photo story following the company from initial adoption to results.

Use a different variant of the case study for each part of the sales funnel

Show B2B buyers at the beginning of the sales funnel case studies in the form of infographics and video (actually, video’s a great converter at any stage); show those at the middle of the funnel articles, interactive content, webinars; and give those at the end longer case studies that emphasize ROI. 

 This is especially important for companies with dense or difficult material in their case studies. Technology companies, for instance, might do well offering a light video testimonial as an introduction rather than a long text filled with technical terms. 

 Make a sidebar for long text-based customer stories that gives an overview of the story with important data. Use color or images to make it stand out and attract the eye. Those without time to read the full can read the sidebar to get the gist of the problems and outcomes. 

 Combining text, video, infographic and slide share on the same page offers a version of the case study for every kind of prospect in one place.

 Repurpose case study material  

The material in one case study can be spread and repurposes all over your online sites. Not only can you can publish the case study on your company website, Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. You can also place glowing customer quotes on product pages and near CTAs, tweet them out and post them on Facebook (and use them in FB ads) and LinkedIn. Passages can be used in emails, presentations and eBooks. They can be used in white papers to make them less dull. They can be referred to in subsequent blog articles on your site.  

The cross-promotional potential of case studies presents a particularly interesting opportunity for exposure. Request that case-study participants — which may be just the person interviewed or every person in the company, depending on how you look at it — to pose the story on their social channels. That will instantly put your brand in front of all of their combined social followers. After all, you are giving them exposure to your audience by posting it on all of your pages, so they probably won’t mind reciprocating.  

Case closed  

True customer accounts are what customers want to see when they have a buying decision to make. They are also the kind of high-quality original content that search engines reward with high rankings. A great case study combines so many high-power marketing elements in one package — real reviews, unique material, authentic quotes, data and stats, a relatable story, etc. They answer your customers’ pressing questions about how your product or service performs in real life in an enjoyable format. Competitors publishing rehashed mush from around the web or tooting their own horn with overused buzzwords won’t be able to compete with that.  

Contact CMHWorks today to find out how we can help you reach your marketing, content and social goals.


Part 2: Why Customer Case Studies Pack The Most Marketing Punch

Part 2: Why Customer Case Studies Pack The Most Marketing Punch

Part Two: How to Awesome Case Studies

Posted in Articles Mar 23 5 min read Digital Marketing, Case Studies
Part 2: Why Customer Case Studies Pack The Most Marketing Punch

How to Inject Some Awesome in Your Case Studies 

Write like a journalist

Or hire one. Eighty-four percent of B2B marketers outsource content creation. When it comes to case studies, look for a writer with journalism experience. Most case studies begin with an interview of the customer. Having a third party do this can help loosen up the customer and get honest opinions from them. Someone outside the company will also be more likely to ask the kinds of questions a random read would ask. The interview can be done over a video call and in emails to follow up. A journalistic writer’s interviewing skills will be useful for drawing solid, real-life examples and great quotes from your customers. And their narrative-crafting skills will likely be better honed than those of a typical copywriter.

A good example of how much more attractive article-like content can be compared to marketing copy comes from Microsoft. It first pitched the story of its project to turn its-500-acre headquarters into a smart campus to journalists, but they declined. So, it wrote the story, titled 88 Acres: How Microsoft Quietly Built the City of the Future, itself. Within two days of publishing it, 800,000 people had read it.

To give your case study a journalistic look and tone:

  • Compare a press release and editorial article side by side, and make sure your case study reads more like the later.
  • Use your writer’s byline on the piece and mention that they work/have worked as a journalist. This can boost the reader’s trust that content provides an objective outlook.
  • Don’t bury the lead. Include an introductory paragraph that gives the reader the main points of the piece upfront.
  • Use a strong title that conveys the most interesting thing about the case study. Include strong data, like “customer increased sales by 80% in first six months.”

Tell a story in which your target customers/readers can see themselves 

First, think about which segment of your target customers you are trying to reach with the case study. Then, determine which of your customers most closely resembles that demographic — that’s you want to write your case study around. The more the reader can see themselves in the subject’s shoes, the more strongly the case study will grab and impact them.

Convey your knowledge of the subject’s industry by writing about it intelligently and in detail. Go deep into the common pain points those in the industry face. Fill the case study with material the target reader can relate to, scenarios in which they can see themselves. When the reader reads material about their own industry, they will “click” and identify with your brand.

Say you sell a suite of recruiting software tools, and you’re going after young companies that need talent but can’t afford full-time recruiters. Select a subject that fits into that demographic, and get him/her to talk about the day-to-day realities of trying to balance recruiting with all the other duties of a startup, the need for software to cut the leg work out for them, the prohibitive cost of headhunters, how well the solution worked, how perfect the new hire is for the company, etc. The more detail, the better.

Content that’s presented as a story can increase audience engagement by 5x. To make all the stages of the subject’s journey vivid, and help your reader fully relate:

  • Remember your reader is currently in the midst of making an important, potentially high-cost decision and play to that. Highlight the indecision and confusion your subject faced when trying to make a choice. Playing to the emotions the reader is feeling in the current moment will have a powerful effect on them and help them identify with the subject.
  • Take the reader all through the rollercoaster of the subject’s journey in a dramatic story with suspense, surprises, and finally relief and success. Give a lot of attention to the pain points they experienced and the ill effects their lack of a solution had on them and their company.
  • It’s important to detail the shopping process they went through before coming to your products. Your reader may be considering those very competitors at the moment. Have the subject name the other brands they investigated or tried and why they ultimately chose yours.
  • Detail all the benefits the subject realized from using your product or service. How did their choice result in increased revenue, efficiency, happier customers, employees with more time to work on other tasks, a work day that goes by easier, etc.
  • Remember to ask your subject to be honest about any weak spots or things they wish your product did better. Your case study should cast your product in a positive light overall, but allowing a small dent to show gets honesty points and raises the reader’s trust level.
  • Quotations are among the most powerful, persuasive case-study elements. Try to get memorable, revealing, true-to-life quotes about your interviewee’s experience. Use them throughout the text. Enlarge them, set them off, or use color or graphics to make them stand out.

Note: Some companies do not want to reveal who their clients are publicly. They can use descriptors, like “a medium-sized hotel in the Middle Atlantic” instead of the actual name. 


Part 1: Why Customer Case Studies Pack The Most Marketing Punch

Part One: Why Case Studies

Why Should I write a Case Study?

Over 90 percent of companies are  using content for marketing and growth. But when you look at what they’re actually producing, it’s pretty clear that few are   pushing the envelope. Most of the content they put out  doesn’t stand out or  work for them like it ought to. The internet provides cheap or free space on which to broadcast their message. And there are tons of creative resources and tools available for crafting practically any kind of material they can imagine. You’d think this would fuel an outpouring of novel brand content that doesn’t cleave to tired old formulas. Yet most companies are coming up short. Case studies are a prime example of this. I believe real-life customer stories might be the most underutilized tool in the modern marketing scene.

Data from surveys of B2B marketers and buyers says it all. One study from Content Marketing Institute asked B2B marketers what types of content they were using.  

The top five types were:  

  1. Social media content (tweets, stories,etc.); 
  2. Blog posts/short articles; 
  3. email newsletters; 
  4. in-person events; 
  5. videos (excluding live streaming). 

Case studies came in at a humble number six. It’s not that the top five aren’t good; they have their place; they can be great. But what could be of more interest to prospects than what your product actually did for a customer just like them? Straight from the horse’s mouth? Would they perhaps prefer more “enterprise grade,” “scalable,” “next gen,” “solutionized” about us blather?  

Your prospects want to hear about their issues, their problems, their wants. A good way to deliver is through an account of someone who has stood in their shoes. A number of surveys have shown that at the middle and late stages of the sales funnel, nothing converts better than customer case studies. According to one such study, 73% of B2B marketers named case studies as the best content for accelerating leads in the mid and late stages. The same study found that 73% of B2B marketers said case studies accelerate leads at the mid and late stage.  

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who shops online and knows how they react to customer quotes versus company copy. Product reviews are 12x more trusted than product descriptions when consumers are trying to make a buying decision.  

Case studies that read like articles are also good for organic search rankings Seventy-two percent of buyers begin their research with Googlewhich has updated its algorithms in recent years to reward quality content. This means original research or analysis, new information and overall good writing are favored over rehashes, keyword stuffing and low-grade content-mill type stuff. Case studies tick a lot of the right boxes for quality, search rankings and buyer traffic. They present totally unique content and straight-from-the-source info that you and only you can produce. Competitors can’t copy them, and that makes them just about the most valuable content pieces possible. This is good news because it’s pretty tough for small to medium sized companies to outrank Wikipedia on basic, universal topics.  

That said, the fact is that a lot of marketers produce case studies that are not as good as they could be. It’s an area where I’d like to see better storytelling, multimedia innovation, creativity, authenticity, person profiling, entertainment, etc.  

In the rest of this article, we’ll look at the basic outline of a customer case study. Then, we’ll look at some ways to make a case study better than basic — a highly charged power tool for winning over buyers at all parts of the customer journey.  

What Is a case study?  

A case study is any type of content that details a particular customer’s experience with a product or service. A typical case study comprises the following four sections:  

  • Client: The opening section provides an overview of the client and its basic stats, like size, market position, and any unique or significant facts about it.
  • Challenges/objectives: The second section details the specific challenges that led the customer to seek out a solution. It may also be that it was not a pressing problem, but rather a desired goal which sent it in search of assistance.
  • Solution: The all-important third part tells all about how the client solved the problem with your product or service. Naming the companies it previously looked into before deciding on your own is usually a good idea. Dramatic anecdotes about how individual parts of the problem were solved also make a strong impression on readers. 
  • Outcomes: The fourth and final part states the ultimate outcomes. Data, impressive numbers, dramatic before-and-afters and customer quotes make for strong endings to case studies.  

That’s the template for a standard case study. How you tweak it, add to it, improve on it, or amplify certain sections, though, can take your case study beyond standard, make it stand out and speed customers through the sales funnel. 


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