How to get the most out of your case studies

Case studies are powerful learning tools, essential to your content marketing strategy. If you’re in charge of a company’s marketing, whether it’s a product or a service company, at some point in time you’ll inevitably stumble across a potential customer who will ask for more than your company’s presentation.

For any marketer this is close to an ideal situation: you’ve captured a prospect’s attention, made them visit your website and now they want to learn more about whatever your company does. Surely they will become a paying customer soon, right? Not so fast!

This is probably the most important stage in your sales cycle. Why ? Because all the effort you put into creating a great product/service, your ads budget, your social media and email marketing are worth nothing unless you can effectively answer one simple question: Why you and not your competitor?

When a prospect looks at your case study, he’s actively considering that you could solve his problem and he’s trying to get a better picture on the level of service that you have provided to others with a similar issue. So, what should you take into consideration when it comes to creating such content marketing materials? Here’s a short list that I hope you’ll find useful:

#1 — Write about someone your readers can relate to (so they can easily understand and apply the information)

Case studies are written accounts of a real incident, asking participants to put themselves in the problem at hand. They provide enough information and details so that participants can analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution presented.

Think of who you’re addressing the case study to? If it’s someone in the financial industry, then make your case studies about one of your customers that works in this area. People who read about results attained in their industry will most likely consider that using the same solution will produce similar results for them as well. This will allow them to accurately compare the benefits vs. the costs and reach a conclusion.

Key takeaway: Ensure that once your potential customer has read your case study, they will feel comfortable in working with you because you’ve proved that you understand their industry’s specific needs and have the knowledge to provide targeted results.

#2 -Provide easy to read formatting (so they can find the important parts of your case study)

The reality is that no one really likes to read a huge chunk of text, no matter how interesting and informative it might be. Formatting your content so that it looks good and is easy to go through, is crucial. Make good use of elements like: headers, images, lists, bolded or italicized text. Some won’t read the whole case study, so creating an easy to read structure will make them see faster what your business could do for them.

Key takeaway: Make it easy for your readers to find the most important parts of your case study.

#3 -Your headline should be focused on results (so readers know what to expect if they buy your product/service)

“A Case Study on Company X” or “Integrated CRM solution helps Company X increase sales volume by 40 %” , which one sounds more interesting to you? If you chose the later, than you’re right.

The headline is a good way of letting your potential customer know what they should expect if they decide to work with you, and since the purpose of a case study is to show the value of using your product or services, you want to make sure your headline focuses on exactly that.

Key takeaway: The title should not just tell what the product/service is, but instead it should tell what was achieved with it.

#4 -Have a concise summary (stating both the problem and the solution)

When the reader first lays eyes on your case study, they should get a brief summary of the entire thing. That means you state the problem and the solution. Using bullet points here is often a good idea.

#5 -Include real numbers (so customers can see what results you can achieve for their business)

Have you ever read case studies where it was stated that they “doubled traffic” for the customer and wondered if that meant they went from 10 to 20 monthly visits or 20,000 to 40,000 monthly visits?

Make your case study to be as clear as possible, so instead of saying that you doubled a customer’s website traffic, show real numbers and (if possible) real proof. Having a visual proof of what you can do for their business can help the potential customer envision exactly the results you can achieve, making the case study that much more powerful.

Key takeaway: Show real, tangible results.

#6 -Add the client’s input (to make your case study as persuasive as possible)

To increase credibility, get a quote from the company you’re highlighting. Customer feedback should verify the results you’re presenting and endorse your product/service.

#7 -Use cause-effect analysis (to uncover the causes and explain how you solved each problem)

A common issue with creating effective case studies is that many content marketers don’t use cause-effect in their analysis. Often, what you read in such marketing materials is the effect (what the problem is), as opposed to describing the cause (what caused the problem in the first place).

Taking the example you read above, if you doubled a website’s traffic, how did you do it?

What not to say: our services led to this results.

What you should say: it was a three-month effort planning and designing the custom CRM solution and the website’s e-commerce system which led to a 60% increase in customer inquiries and a 40% increase in sales volume.

#8 -Don’t use industry jargon (so your case study can be read and understood easily)

A case study is a marketing piece, not an academic journal. Make it as easy to read as possible. Industry jargon does nothing but confuses readers and dilutes your message.

By the time your potential customer finishes reading your case study, some important things have happened. They now know who you are, what you’ve done for others and the results you’ve achieved. If to your case study there is a testimonial attached, then they’ve been given a reason to believe that it is genuine.

As a conclusion, when writing your next case study make sure that you take an analytical, rather than descriptive approach and provide honest evaluations of what was achieved. Being able to present hard facts to back up your product’s/service’s value can make the difference between winning or losing a new customer.

What other tips would you add to the list?

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Originally published at cristianechitei.com on June 15, 2015.

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