Case studies are still the most valuable kind of content to have in your B2B marketing arsenal. Prospects engage with them more and, according to Harvard Business Review, case studies have an 83% completion rate, which is higher than any other kind of content.
More and more, B2B buyers refer to case studies to help inform their buying decision no matter where they are in the buyer’s journey. But rather than reading about how great your business is, buyers want to learn how you’ll help them accomplish a specific objective or overcome a business problem. This means writing case studies that make your customer shine and show readers how you can make their jobs easier.
So how do you make sure your case studies deliver?
Here are some best practices for case studies that give your prospective buyers exactly what they want.
SELECTING THE RIGHT CUSTOMER
Writing a great case study begins with the right subject.
Don’t just pick anybody! Pick a customer that embodies your ideal customer profile. Their experiences should resonate with your target audience so that potential prospects can see themselves as one of your customers.
And there should be mutual familiarity—the right customer should know your company as well as you know theirs. That way, the story will really show off how your business helped your customer accomplish their goals. We also recommending choosing a customer with results that can be illustrated with impressive metrics.
If you have any customers that are recognizable or are a household name, we recommend using that to your advantage. This will help give your business (and case study) authority.
In their case study, Slack took advantage of Lyft’s brand recognition to boost company 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 their permission. Reach out and share what story your case study will be telling 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.
FINDING THE STORY
Now that you’ve chosen the right customer, it’s time to pick questions that will help you tell their unique story.
When choosing questions, focus on ones that will help you get the information you need to put your customer front and centre. Organize your questions in terms of stages of the buyer’s journey. That way, you’ll be able to address your audience’s needs at all stages of the buyer’s journey. And this, of course, also maximizes your case study’s usefulness.
Use the interview process to get quotes or testimonials from your customer. This helps add authenticity to your 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 (like your sales team!), so you can be sure your interview delivers the information you need.
Spotify communicated their case study as a news story, taking advantage of direct quotes to put their client’s success in the spotlight.
Structuring your interview questions
Like we’ve already mentioned, your case study is all about making your customer the star. In order to create a blockbuster picture of your customer, there are certain sections you should cover.
Most case studies follow a standard format: The customer, the challenge, the solution, and the results. You can use this as a guideline to craft a compelling story of how you helped your customer.
We recommend following these sections to help structure your interview questions:
1. Introducing your customer
Who is your customer?
These kinds of questions should help introduce your customer and frame their business. Use these answers to describe their industry, expertise, and business objectives in your case study.
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 chose your business over the competition. What makes you unique? This is the opportunity to show yourself off and why your services/products are indispensable to your customer. This way, you’ll be able to help a 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 picture of how the product/service was used strategically and 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 highlight your wins. You are the champion, my friend. These interview questions will help you get information that shows off your results in action. Focus on gathering real numbers and quantifiable information (like notable KPIs) and the what the results looked like over a significant period of time. We also recommend collecting a forward-looking statement about what’s next for your customer and how your product/service created long-term benefits.
CREATING THE CASE STUDY
Tell their story
Don’t just list facts. Tell a story! Make sure it’s short and snappy, rather than lengthy and high level. Your case study should include sections that define: The customer, their challenge, their solution, and their results. By using the standard case study structure, you’ll create a detailed picture of your customer’s journey and how your product/service drove 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 draw them in. By providing clear quantifiable data to support any statements about how you helped your customer, your positive results will 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”. Give it context! Explain how you helped your customer accomplish an objective or overcome a hurdle. And remember to keep the future in mind. We 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
No matter the format you choose, it should be one that makes sense with the story you’re telling. You can use formats to create a more interactive experience with your case study. The best place to start is to look at 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, infographics, and other visuals, you increase engagement by making it interesting for your reader. Plus, you also improve its accessibility (a huge win) 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
You’ve done all the work, now keep it simple. Use plain 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 your 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 for producing case studies on a regular 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 resource 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.