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:
- Social media content (tweets, stories,etc.);
- Blog posts/short articles;
- email newsletters;
- in-person events;
- 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 Google, which 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.