Case studies remain the most valuable kind of content in your B2B marketing arsenal. Prospects continue to prefer case studies over any other piece of content. According to Harvard Business Review, case studies have an 83% completion rate, which is higher than any other content format offered in the buyer’s journey.
Plus, more and more B2B buyers are referring to case studies at all stages of the buyer’s journey to help inform their buying decision. B2B customers want case studies that are more useful to their needs regardless of where they are in the buyer’s journey.
Rather than reading about how great your business is, buyers want to learn how your business and services will help them accomplish a specific objective or overcome a business problem. This means writing case studies that are customer-focused and provide value by showing readers a holistic picture of your business, your services and offerings, and how you can make their jobs easier.
So how can you ensure that your case studies deliver value?
We’ve compiled these best practices to help you write an effective B2B case study so you’re providing the information your prospective buyers want.
SELECTING THE RIGHT CUSTOMER TO FEATURE IN THE CASE STUDY
Writing a compelling case study begins with finding the right subject.
You want to pick a client who embodies your ideal customer profile. Their experiences with you should resonate with your target audience so that potential prospects can see themselves as one of your customers.
There should be mutual familiarity—the right customer should understand your company and you should understand theirs. This will ensure that the story you’re telling is clear and demonstrative of how your business helped your customer accomplish their goals based on specific business objectives. The right customer should have results that signal significant wins that can be illustrated with impressive metrics.
If you have any customers that are recognizable, such as a company that is a household name, we recommend using that to your advantage. This will help heighten the authority of your business and case study in the eyes of your audience.
In their case study, Slack took advantage of Lyft’s established visibility, using the recognizable brand to give their company additional credibility.
Where you can, feature a variety of customers, whether that be through industry or location. Diversity will look differently depending on your business and your customers.
Finally, once you’ve chosen the subject of your case study, get in touch with them. It’s important to get permission from your customer before you begin any other part of the case study production process. Reach out and make it clear what your objective is with your case study and what trademarked material will appear, whether that be logos, people, images, visual examples etc. By making things crystal clear from the get-go, you can avoid any surprises on both sides.
We also recommend beginning to contact customers in advance of the projected publish date of your case study, in the event that their company has strict sharing policies and they say no.
FINDING THE STORY
Now that you’ve chosen the right customer, it’s time to pick the right questions that will help you tell their unique story.
When choosing the questions for your case study interview, focus on the objective of creating a full narrative that puts the customer front and centre. Create customer-focused sections that address each stage of the buyer’s journey. By doing so, you can ensure that your case study provides the information your audience needs at all stages of the buyer’s journey, which maximizes its usefulness to a prospective customer.
If possible, use the interview process to get quotes or testimonials from your customer, which can be included to add dimension and authenticity to the case study. When your customer’s experience feels real to your audience, there’s a greater chance they will feel connected to it and see themselves in that situation.
Once you’ve crafted your questions, pass them to colleagues who know your customer best so you can be sure your interview delivers the information you need.
Spotify has chosen to communicate their case studies as a news story, taking advantage of direct quotes to put their client’s success in the spotlight.
Structuring your interview questions
Your case study should tell a story about the customer. Using the typical case study format helps you craft the most compelling story of how you helped your customer. Most case studies follow a standard format: The customer, the problem, their solution, the strategy and plan, and their results. Think about these elements in your questions and then incorporate them into your final case study.
We recommend following these sections to help structure your interview questions to create a full, customer-centric narrative in your case study. These are the questions your case study should be answering:
1. Introducing your customer
Who is your customer?
These kinds of questions should help introduce your customer and frame their business. Use the information from these questions to construct a description of their industry and expertise, as well as their individual business objectives.
2. Defining the problem
What problem is your customer trying to solve?
These kinds of questions should help explain your customer’s challenges. They should provide information that will give a clear picture of your customer’s pain points and how your solution helped overcome these obstacles to accomplish their goals.
3. Finding the suitable solution
What solution did you provide? Why did they want to work with you?
Use the answers from these questions to help your audience understand why your customer decided to choose your business over the competition. Give a clear picture of your services/products as well as what makes you unique, and in turn, indispensable to your customer. This is an important section to focus on because it can help your prospective customer visualize how your business can help them in a similar way.
4. Creating the strategy and plan
What did your business do for your customer? How did you create the strategy and plan?
These questions can help you give a more tactical picture of the product/service your customer used, how it was deployed strategically and how it was integrated into existing workflows to help overcome a problem or close a gap.
5. The results
What did the strategy and plan look like in action? How did it run? What were the results?
This is the section to show off your wins. Use these kind of interview questions as an opportunity to gather information that will give an in-depth view into the results of your product/service in action and what the strategy and plan looked like when it was running. Focus on gathering real numbers and quantifiable information on the results (like notable KPIs) and the outcome over a significant period of time. We also recommend collecting a forward-looking statement that helps define what’s next for your customer and how your product/service helps generate long-term benefits.
CREATING THE CASE STUDY
Tell their story
Use a narrative to convey your message instead of just listing off facts. Tell a story that’s short and concise rather than lengthy and high level. Your case study should include sections that define: The customer, their problem, their solution, the strategy and plan, and their results. By using the standard case study structure, you can create a narrative that paints a detailed picture of your customer’s journey and how your product/service played a primary role in their success story.
Put your best foot forward by presenting impressive statistics right away. Place them at the top of your case study in a visually interesting way that will pique your reader’s interest and compel them to continue reading. By providing clear quantifiable data to support any statements you make about how your product/service helped your customer, the positive results you define become more tangible to a prospective customer.
Facebook puts impressive metrics at the front of their customer success story and makes sure they stand out.
Incorporate specific strategy
Make it clear how your product helped your customer. Don’t just say “They used Pardot”, incorporate how it helped them accomplish an objective or overcome a hurdle. We also recommend keeping in contact with your customer and updating the case study when necessary to show the long-term effects of your services/products.
Pick the right format
Your case study can be a video, podcast, infographic, interview, or you can combine any of these formats to create a more interactive experience. The best place to start is to examine the information you’ve gathered from your interview for elements or stats that can be turned into a visual that calls out your results in an engaging way.
Don’t feel pigeonholed to use only text. By incorporating different interactive elements like video, text and other visuals, you not only make it interesting for your audience and increase engagement, but you also improve its accessibility and take into consideration the different learning styles of your readers.
Looking for inspiration? Cisco was really thinking outside the box when they created their B2B graphic novel case study.
Make it easy to read
Your case study is an opportunity to deliver persuasive, pertinent information about the positive effects your business and products/services had in your customer’s success. The best way to do this is by making it easy to read. This means using simple language, short sentences, subheads, bulleted text, charts, and images so that your case study isn’t just wall of text.
It’s also a good rule of thumb to use phrasing that can be easily translated into other languages, which means not using idioms that are specific to one language. This increases its usefulness and helps you access markets in other regions.
Find a home for it
Now that your case study is complete, it’s time to spread the word! Promote the case study on your social media channels, share it with your email subscribers on your newsletter or feature it on other platforms. Finally, make sure it isn’t buried on your website and make it easy to find so there’s less friction for your audience.
CREATING CASE STUDIES AT SCALE
Despite your best efforts, sometimes you may not have the resources or time to create new case studies. For teams that are running low on capacity or do not have content capability on their team, outsourcing this work can be a great option to ensure that your case studies are produced on a consistent basis.
Choosing an agency partner that’s the right fit can be its own challenge. That’s why it’s important to be thorough in your selection process. Here are some questions to keep in mind when determining if a potential vendor partner is the right fit for your specific needs.
At Brainrider, we offer a unique flexible resource model that helps our clients make the most of their time and budget. We work closely with you to craft a personalized content offering using the right combination of on-site and off-site resources that is customizable to meet your distinct business needs. We make ourselves accountable to tackle any of your capacity and capability gaps to make sure your content does the hard work for you, celebrating customer wins and showcasing your business’s great work on a regular basis.
Show your customer successes off with a stellar case study. When you celebrate their wins, you’re also celebrating yours.
– Create content that meets your audience at every stage of the buyer’s journey—from identifying their problem, to searching for solutions, to comparing vendor options. This guide will show you how to better integrate your marketing efforts to provide the buyer with greater value and support as they move through the marketing funnel.
– Brainrider’s flexible resource model was built with your unique business and operational needs in mind. With a customizable combination of on-site and off-site resources, Brainrider creates a natural extension of your team that provides support that’s responsive and adaptable. Learn more about flexible resource model here.