Of all the types of marketing content your company creates on its own, customer case studies are the most trusted by B2B buyers (MarketingProfs). Seventy-seven percent of B2B marketers use case studies as part of their content marketing efforts (Content Marketing Institute). Buyers rely on case studies in both the awareness and evaluation stages of their buy cycle.
The effectiveness of case studies comes from having your customer providing testimony that a product or service of yours delivers promised results. The third-party voice is a powerful one. You can use case studies not only to draw attention to a product, solution, service or even your company overall, but also to a specific customer type, such as one that has left for a competitor and then come back to you.
Are customer case studies part of your content marketing portfolio? They should be. Follow these tips to create compelling, effective case studies that will help potential customers decide in your favor when it’s time to make a purchase.
Adhere to a standard structure and format
Case studies fit neatly into a pre-defined structure, much like a three-act movie: beginning, middle and end. With case studies, the beginning presents the customer challenge, the middle talks about why the customer chose your solution and describes the solution, and the end is the payoff where you document the business results achieved. This structure works, and there’s no reason to vary from it.
Format aspects to follow include writing a benefit-oriented headline, using customer logos or other graphics, keeping the case study to 400-500 words, and fitting it onto a front and back of a sheet of paper (if it’s printed or a pdf). It’s also helpful to include a brief executive summary at the top and a sidebar with bullet point highlights of the problem-solution-results. This will help busy readers who are only going to scan the piece.
Use the customer’s point of view
Case studies are most effective when told from the customer’s point of view, not your company’s. Remember that it’s their story, their voice, that you want to promote. The point of the case study is that someone else is speaking on your behalf—a customer that other potential buyers can relate to. The case study doesn’t have to be a first-person narrative, but it has to be the customer’s story.
Prepare for the interview
Since you know that you want to follow a problem-solution-results storyline, you can prepare your questions ahead of time to make sure you get the information you need. Many companies develop and use a standard case study questionnaire.
Send your questions to your customer ahead of time so they can think about their responses. Customers may need to gather information or data concerning business results. Also ask permission to record the interview, whether you are in-person or over the phone. You’ll be able to write a more accurate case study and there will be no chance of misquoting your customer.
Think beyond a single case study
When asking a customer if they are willing to participate in a case study, it’s a good idea to expand your thinking and ask for a greater level of participation, or at least get them or their public relations department to sign a release allowing you to use their story for additional marketing purposes.
You may want your customer to co-host a webinar with you, or appear on a panel discussion at an event, or be featured in a video or podcast. You can include a customer’s story in a blog post or pitch an article for publication featuring their story. These are all savvy ways to re-purpose a traditional case study, and to extend your reach—and that of your customer’s. Because it’s their story, your customers also gain the benefit of greater brand visibility and increased awareness.
Use case studies everywhere
In whatever form they are produced in, case studies are powerful and compelling content in your marketing efforts. Promote them in your emails or through banner advertising, publish them on your website, and print and hand them out at tradeshows. IHS Engineering360 clients can link to relevant customer case studies from their company profile pages.
A final tip: While many customers who have experienced measurable success using your products and services are happy to participate in case studies, they are still taking time and effort to help you meet your goals. Be sure to express your gratitude. A discount or other incentive will be especially appreciated, but even a nice coffee mug or a gift card can appropriately express your thanks.