In the content marketing realm, there are dozens of types of content you could use to build your reputation, grow an audience, and make more money. Blog posts are the most common, and visual formats like infographics and videos yield a high ROI, but if you want to see the best results, it pays to invest in more in-depth material.
Original research offers many benefits — it’s unique and valuable, but the downside is that it takes a lot of time (or a lot of money, or both) to produce. So what about a hybrid, which constitutes elements of original research in a more digestible, easier-to-produce package?
This is where case studies come into play.
Case studies are essentially analyses of a given situation to demonstrate an effect; generally, this means showcasing a client before, during, and after you provided services for them. For example, if you’re a sales consultant, you might write a case study about how one of your biggest clients was struggling with sales, explaining exactly what you did, and what results you saw from your efforts.
You could also write a case study about a cause and effect that exists outside your own offerings; these lose the benefit of promoting your services, but are also seen as more neutrally informative and trustworthy.
Case studies come in a variety of forms, ranging from a single page to several pages, and incorporating both written and visual elements.
So what are the benefits of writing a case study?
· Audience targeting. Because your case study will likely involve describing the cause of — and solution to — a common problem faced by your target demographic, case studies are naturally adept at targeting and appealing to your target audience. The people who end up reading your case studies will be the people most likely to buy from you.
· Natural keyword targeting. The language you use throughout the case study, including your descriptions of the problem, will naturally fall in line with the types of keywords and phrases your users will be searching for. This makes things easy if you’re trying to optimize your site for user intent. Obviously, you’ll still want to research keyword volumes and competition ratings, but it never hurts to have an extra boost in a cluster of long-tail keyword phrases.
· Detailed information. Case studies are often filled with detailed information, usually spanning several pages. Length isn’t a direct indicator of content quality, but concise descriptions and statistics are almost always valuable to your readership. Because case studies verge on the border of original research, this makes them exceptionally valuable to your audience.
· Service promotion. In most case studies, you’ll write about a client that you’ve done business with; as long as you’ve done a good job, and can prove it, this makes case studies the ultimate opportunity to promote yourself. You’ll have clearly described what you do for your clients, and you’ll have established your credibility (since you have a named client reference, and data to back you up).
· Call to action. The end of your case studies is a perfect opportunity to place a call-to-action (CTA). With readers already thinking about their own problems, and what you can do to solve them, they’ll be far more inclined to reach out for more information.
Comparison to Other Types of Content
Are case studies more valuable than other types of content? There are too many variables to give a concise answer, but case studies do tend to be more detailed and more specific than other types of content, and they’re evergreen, so they’ll stay relevant longer.
They also do a better job of directly addressing common client concerns, and have a built-in call-to-action (CTA). For those reasons, when executed properly, case studies can yield a higher ROI than your typical blog post. Just keep in mind they also take longer to produce, they require the willing participation of a subject, and they can fall flat if you don’t prioritize their quality.
Key Factors for Success
Assuming you’re ready to write a case study, make sure you follow these important tenets for success:
· Do your research. Before you write the case study, do some research to see what other, similar case studies are out there, and educate yourself on the topic (if you aren’t already familiar). You need to come off as an expert, and only foreknowledge can help you do that.
· Show off your brand voice. Despite being a formal piece of research, you should still show off your brand personality. Keep a consistent brand voice, true to your core brand, throughout the piece.
· Include measurable stats. People are more easily persuaded by citable, numerical information. Include as many statistics as you can to prove your points.
· Get client quotes. Make sure you get permission from your clients before you reference them in your case study, and if you can, cement your reputation by getting them to leave a quote about you for other prospective clients to read.
· Offer in multiple formats. When you publish your case study, make it available in multiple formats, including text on your website and in downloadable PDF form. The more opportunities people have to read your case study, the better.
· Avoid overt self-promotion. Though case studies are a good opportunity to promote yourself, there’s a line you should be wary of crossing. If you advertise yourself too explicitly, you’ll lose trust, or may seem tacky in others’ eyes.
Ultimately, case studies are a valuable and high-returning addition to your content portfolio, especially if you have significant client work to show off in an informative and engaging way. These aren’t throwaway pieces, so invest some serious time and effort if you want them to succeed.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!