Case studies can be an effective way to build credibility and persuade potential customers to work with you, particularly in the B2B world where products and services can be complex and not necessarily ‘sexy’.
But many case studies are filled with meaningless marketing fluff. They spend more time gushing about how great the business is than actually providing useful information that will help people make a purchasing decision.
In this post I’m going to discuss what I think is the most effective template for B2B case studies.
This template doesn’t focus too much on aesthetics, but rather provides a simple structure for the order in which you deliver information.
In very basic terms, the template is as follows:
You could argue this is the most important element, so as with a blog post or article headline it’s worth spending time getting it right.
But unlike a blog post, case study headline should always focus on a specific result, i.e. ‘Company X increases revenue by Y% by doing Z.’
You can see a few examples of this in the image below:
“Quote from customer”
Including a quote early on makes the case study instantly more credible, so I always try to include one right beneath the headline.
Preferably the quote should summarise the specific benefit that came out of the work rather than just giving generic praise.
You can either list these as bullet points or do something more creative, but keep it brief and stick to the most attractive results that came out of the work.
By this point you have given everything away within just a few seconds of reading, which is the idea.
Now potential customers can either make a decision based on that information or go into further detail if they’re interested.
Describe the aim/challenges in general terms, followed by what this specific customer was trying to achieve/overcome.
Talk about what you did specifically for this customer, followed by how this work could be applied generally to other businesses.
Use solid numbers where possible and try to present the results in an easily digestible format such as a bulleted list.
General --> specific --> specific --> general
You might have noticed that under the brief and work sections the format follows the above structure.
No doubt you’ll already have heard about this structure at some point. You don’t have to stick to it religiously, but it does help when trying to build a coherent story.
Let’s go into this structure in a bit more detail.
Presenting the problem: general --> specific
When discussing why you did the work, start by describing the general problem faced by companies.
This could be something like, ‘For businesses trying to personalise their marketing campaigns, volume of data is often a challenge.’
Then talk about the specific issues your customer was having, for example: ‘Company X had limited resource and was spending too much time sifting through masses of data with inconsistent results.’
Discussing the work: specific --> general
Then when you talk about the work, start with what you did specifically for this customer, i.e. ‘For company X we provided data analysis and in-house training to help people focus on useful data and make more efficient use of their time.’
Finally, talk generally about how this kind of work could benefit other businesses going through the same kinds of problems.
For example: ‘Analysis and training of this type would be beneficial to any companies struggling with huge volumes of data but limited resource to process it.’
Avoid pointless and irritating business jargon such as 'solution', 'add value', 'innovative', 'groundbreaking', 'outside the box', 'impactful', and so on.
You wouldn’t talk to friends and family like that so why inflict it on your lovely customers?
Follow the same formatting rules as you would for any piece of online written content: Plenty of white space, short paragraphs, descriptive subheadings, etc.
Use plenty of quotes from the client if you can, but make sure they actually add something to the story. Don’t just insert generic praise for the sake of it.
Keep it brief: Get the key points across in as few words as possible. Case studies aren’t for gushing about how brilliant you are. They’re for telling people about a specific piece of work: What you did, why you did it, how it helped your customer.
Use different media types. Words are great, but if you can tell some of your story through pictures and video that’s even better.
'If you build it they will come' does not apply here. As with all types of content marketing, if you've spent time creating a great case study then you need to work hard to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.
A good starting point
I’m not by any means suggesting this is the perfect template, but it’s one I’ve used in previous marketing roles and I’ve always found it really helps to get things started in terms of structure.
Once you get going you can be as creative as you want in terms of the look and feel of the case study, but anything to get you through the ‘staring at the blank page of doom’ phase is always helpful.
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The marketing case study is one of the oldest and most venerable examples of content marketing. From Oprah touting howWeight Watchers has worked for her, to American Express endorsing SalesForce, case studies are prevalent across industries and marketing forms.
According to a B2B marketing trends report, customer testimonials and case studies are considered the most effective content marketing tactics by nine out of ten B2B marketers. According to Social Fresh, customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89 percent.Seventy-three percent of people have used marketing case studies in the past 12 months to make B2B purchasing decisions.
Use this guide to understand how to use case studies for your organization. It offers instructions on how to secure a first-rate case study, and a template for getting started on a case study today.
What is a case study and why are they so important?
According to Top Rank Marketing Blog:
A “case study” in the context of marketing is an analysis of a project, campaign or company that identifies a situation, recommended solutions, implementation actions, and identification of those factors that contributed to failure or success.
As the aforementioned stats illustrate, marketing case studies are important because they help you sell your company’s product. They validate the statements your company makes about your product, and allow potential buyers to see your product in action. This blog post will help you secure and create a case study that sets your company apart from its competitors.
Here’s what you need to do to secure a case study.
Steps for Getting a Marketing Case Study
The first (and often hardest) part of creating a marketing case study is getting a customer to agree to one. No doubt many customers are pleased with your product. But it’s no small thing for them to take time out of their busy schedule to talk about how awesome the product or service they’re paying for is.
Many larger companies also have formalized rules around providing testimonials. This can extend the process of getting a case study, as they have to go through legal, senior management, and more, just to get approval.
Increase your case study prospects. Create a formalized process that ensures you get the case studies you need on a regular basis.
Meet with customer success, sales, and marketing to get them on board with creating regular case studies. From this meeting, create a formal document that outlines how to submit marketing case study opportunities, the frequency that customer success are expected to do so, and the process/time commitment involved after a client has agreed to participate.
Include a case study request email template to save customer success time. Consider these sample templates:
Including It in the Contract
Some companies choose to include a customer testimonial or case study commitment in part of their purchase agreement. This is a great way to guarantee you’ll have case studies in the pipeline. It’s also a conflict of interest, and some would argue flirts the line of ethical behavior. By including case studies in a contract, you’re essentially paying for testimonials.
You want to publish only truly impressive, stand-out marketing case studies. Customers who are doing so well with your product that you’d want to make a case study from their experience are likely to be happy to help. Customers who need a contract to be forced into a case study aren’t often the ones you want as a face for your brand.
Gather Information for Your Marketing Case Study
After a customer agrees to do a case study, take the following steps to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Send an Email
It should introduce you if you haven’t already. Confirm the date and time for your first phone call or in-person meeting. Address the time commitment of the case study, and include the questions you plan on asking.
With customer testimonials the person you’re interviewing needs to have well-spoken and thought out responses about your product. Here are some sample questions you could ask:
- How did you find out about our company?
- What made you start looking for our solution?
- Which other products did you look at before deciding on ours?
- Why did you choose our solution above others?
- How has using our solution been so far? Tell us about your experiences and what you’ve done with it?
- How has our product benefitted you and your team?
- What results have you seen with our solution so far?
- What do you hope to do with our product moving forward?
Next, conduct the interview. Whether it’s in person or over the phone, make sure to record the interview for transcription later. Make sure to inform them that you’re recording them. Aside from being common courtesy, it’s also illegal in some states to record someone without their consent. As you’re interviewing, make note of any especially interesting points, as well as numerical results.
Take Pictures and Record Video
If you’re conducting an interview onsite, take pictures and video. If not, ask your customer to send some over. The more visual your marketing case study is, the better. According to Animoto, four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it.
Transcribe and fact check the interview. Try using a service website like Fiverr for quick transcription that won’t break the bank.
Find out information about the company and their results with your product outside of the interview. Ask if you can see their results or look into their reporting for numerical information to back up the information in the interview. If they don’t have this information, look internally for more general stats on your product’s impact on the people that use it.
Find a Story, Start Writing
Once you have all the data you need, start pulling together your copy, video, and images into a shareable document. Use the marketing case study template below to create a first-class case study.
Marketing Case Study Template
Too many companies title their case studies things like “[insert company name here] Case Study.” This is both boring and uninformative. Use the case study title to help potential readers decide if it’s something that applies to them. Include a description of the company and some of their results. E.g. “Case Study: How CS2 Compliance Is Succeeding With Curata Content Curation Software”
The subtitle should round out the reader’s expectations of what’s in the study. Include more numerical improvements, or an overview of what happened. E.g. “Creating and Growing an Excited Community in a Highly-Regulated, Niche Market”
Their Company Overview
We recommend pulling the company overview directly from the company’s website. It should be two or three sentences and highlight parts of the company most important to your audience. If you’re looking to highlight the company size, mention it here.
Your Company Overview
It’s okay to use a boilerplate description here. However, if there is something else that might be beneficial to include in this particular use-case—add it. If you have more than one product description in your boilerplate description, focus on the product the marketing case study focuses on.
The introduction should present the company you’re talking about and their problem. Here’s an example:
CS2 Compliance, a regulatory consulting firm for financial services clients, wanted to build a community for its clients and save time answering regulation-specific questions in individual emails. They wanted a solution that made content creation easier, found topical subjects in their industry, and enabled them to quickly publish to their website and newsletter.
The next section should introduce your product and why your customer went with you. Example:
They chose Curata Content Curation Software (CCS). Curata CCS uses machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence to help marketers discover and publish industry-specific content across marketing channels.
This should describe how your product or service was implemented and how it made the overall process smoother, easier, cheaper, etc. Example:
CS2 uses Curata CCS to curate articles that answer a variety of FAQs, building a robust content program including discussion boards, webinars, and frequent newsletters. This has led to strategic and streamlined website content and newsletter publication for CS2.
Finally, show the results. They support the statement that this company was successful with your product. If you have further information about how customers perform with your product, include it here. Include how your client is planning on using your product in the future to grow and expand their goals. Example:
Newsletters now have an open rate of 42.52 percent, and a click-through rate of 23.11 percent, both significantly above industry averages. With Curata, CS2 exceeded community registration goals by over 60 percent. CS2 is now using Curata to expand their reach and create custom experiences for each sub-audience within their online community.
Once the meat of your marketing case study is written, choose some pull quotes to highlight. Example:
CS2 co-founder and president Mary Harris King had this to say about Curata: “Curata keeps our current clients up-to-date with interesting articles while integrating with our public facing website so potential clients can see our newsfeeds, and sign up for the daily news digest, etc. It’s a great way to reach both audiences.”
Case studies are a compelling way to convince prospects to buy your product. They’re even more compelling when your claims are supported by data and hard information. Use company information and stats, outside numbers, and numbers from your customer to round out your marketing case study. Writing on how curation improves content marketing ROI? Include a stat from a trusted source. Example:
Over 50 percent of marketers that curate content indicate that it has increased their brand visibility, thought leadership, SEO, web traffic, and buyer engagement.
Many case studies include a conclusion at the end wrapping up all the details. Instead, try a big, colorful CTA. While a conclusion is nice, making sure the reader doesn’t have to consume more than they need is even better. If your marketing case study is very long, include the most important points at the beginning in bullets.
Distribute and Promote Your Marketing Case Study
Case studies are effective on your website and as a sales enablement tool. They should also be sent to your sales team. Include a description of what it’s about and the situations it should be most effective for.
Other ways to maximize the impact of a case study include:
- Place it on your home page
- Send an email sharing it with the case study’s target audience, or as part of your newsletter
- Write a supplemental blog post to drive traffic to the case study. Focus on the problem solved in the case study and write an informational post on that topic
- Add the case study to relevant landing pages
- Add it to you or your coworkers’ signatures
- Insert it into a slideshow or longer presentation on product use cases
- Share the case study on social media
Examples of Awesome Marketing Case Studies
For more information, check out some standout case studies by other companies.
Bitly’s case study is notable for a couple of reasons. First, their decision to use a slide deck over a single page document. It’s easy to digest and different enough that it piques the reader’s interest. The layout is sleek and skimmable with easy takeaways. Bitly includes images and a colorful layout that’s more interesting than a traditional, text-heavy marketing case study.
Kantar Media Division Cymphony
Kantar media created a case study video of their work for Samsung. For a service-based product, this form of marketing case study proved extremely effective. Kantar describe their process, their findings, and their results in a quick, story-heavy video.
Zendesk include customer testimonials in a visually appealing multimedia library on their website. This allows visitors to search by use case, industry, and company size to find the most relevant story to them.
For an example of one of Curata’s case studies, check out “How CS2 Compliance is SucceedingWith Curata Content Curation Software” [pdf].
Marketing case studies can be hugely effective. They provide proof of concept to potential buyers, and drive your audience further down the funnel. They can also serve as a powerful sales enablement tool. For more on how to drive your audience further down the funnel and measure your content’s efficacy, read Curata’s eBook: Content Marketing Metrics: Account Based Marketing Edition.
Tags: case study, content marketing, marketing case study