You’re probably no stranger to the formulaic “problem>solution>result” case studies that often include a sentence like “X used Y solution and had a 500% increase in sales.” Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point.
Still, businesses keep churning out these formulaic case studies because those case studies work. At least most B2B marketers know this. Data from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 69% of B2B marketers use case studies, compared to only 20% of B2C marketers.
For customers, your case studies:
- Build confidence in your product or service
- Show them their problems have solutions
- Tell them how to solve their problem (by using your product or service of course)
- Show them they’re not alone, and your product or service is feasible for them
So, how can you write a case study that is useful, relevant, and appealing? It begins with your choice of case study participants.
How to determine the perfect customer to interview for a case study
Every customer is a potential participant, but the reality is that you can’t use all of them. And several factors could be responsible.
It may sound ridiculous but I’ve heard business owners say they’re not using a customer because they don’t like them. Just that. Nothing else.
Most times they can afford to because they have a huge customer base. For others, that’s impossible.
Regardless of your feelings, here are six types of customers you should always consider when choosing participants for case studies:
1. Big-name customers
They’re an obvious choice. Seeing names like Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, for example, on a business’ case studies page is instant credibility. But don’t overdo it, especially if you’re trying to target small businesses too. The big names could scare them away.
For B2C organizations, this might mean considering celebrities, if you’ve worked with any, for your case studies. But balance is still key.
2. Customers in an irregular niche
Maybe your solution has only been used by folks in the automotive industry, but you’ve recently had a client from the IT industry. You can eye them for a case study, especially if you’re trying to break into the IT industry, or they had exceptional results when using your solution.
Talking about exceptional results…
3. Customers with outstanding results
Remember the “X used Y solution and had a 500% increase in sales” line I used earlier? Sometimes they’re true.
Your customer doesn’t need to have such seemingly outrageous results; however, if you have any doing exceptionally well, they’re case study candidates.
4. Customers who switched from a competitor
This would highlight your competitive advantage to potential customers. It can help indecisive leads who were considering a particular competitor switch to your solution instead.
5. Customers who had strong objections
Let’s say you have a page for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or Help Center on your website. But a prospect raised bigger questions and stronger objections not found on the FAQ. Eventually, you won them over, and they’re enjoying your solution now.
Write a case study about them already. Well, finish reading this first. But while you’re at it, don’t forget to add their questions(s) to your FAQ too.
6. Knowledgeable customers
In some cases, all you need to convert a lead may be an explanation of a particular feature of your solution. If you have customers who are familiar with your product, especially those you’re hoping should give you a competitive advantage, use them for a case study.
If you’re still stuck, carry out a survey, speak to your sales or customer support team to help you brainstorm ideas.
How to write a case study that brings clients
Sometimes the plot for a romance novel or movie goes this way:
Boy meets the girl.
Boy loses the girl to a villain.
Boy embarks on a dangerous quest to get the girl.
Boy rescues the girl.
They live happily ever after.
There are slight variations sometimes but it’s a formula that works till today. What’s the point here?
1. Narrate a story
Some folks will tell you to use a case study format. While that is true, and I’ll share one that works in a moment, don’t brood over a format. Just tell a story.
For example, in the format below, your customer is Alice.
Alice experiences difficulties with a part of her business.
Alice tries to solve it on her own or with her team (internal or external) but fails.
Alice “goes out” to find help but is disappointed again.
Alice finds a new helper (your product/service).
Alice works hard with the new helper to resolve the problem.
Alice successfully resolves the problem.
Alice sees better results and ROI.
Alice continues working with the helper and tells others about them.
If your customer didn’t come from a competitor, you can remove the third part of the plot and you’ll still have a wonderful story.
Some important questions you should ask to get a storyline are:
- What problems were you facing before purchasing our solution?
- What were you trying to achieve?
- How did you discover us or where/how did you find us?
- Why did you choose us?
- Why did you choose us and not (insert competitor A or B)
- How are we different from other solutions you considered?
- What was our implementation or onboarding process like?
- What obstacles did you have to overcome to benefit from our solution effectively?
- How has our solution made a difference to you? Can you mention specific instances this was the case?
This isn’t an exhaustive list of questions, but they’re a good starting point.
With the last question, you’re looking for numbers in terms of their metrics for success. Was it increased sales? More efficiency? More savings? Find out
2. Use quotes
Get quotes from the decision-maker who was responsible for the purchase of your solution. If more than one was involved, let’s say the Chief Marketing Officer and the Content Manager, for example, get quotes from both.
It’s often better to get quotes during a live interview, but if you can’t, emailed quotes or recorded quotes—video or audio—are fine too.
Don’t forget that with live interviews, you’ll likely edit their quotes later for grammar and accuracy. Whatever tweaks you make, be sure the customer approves the final piece.
3. Include visual content
Whenever possible, especially when you’re producing a longer case study, use pictures or charts to strengthen your case or just to add clarity.
For example, if your solution helped a customer’s business grow from $500,000 in annual revenue to $3 million, you can use a chart to portray what the growth looked like.
Depict what happened “before your solution and after your solution” in the chart. Like, you know, how a plastic surgeon would depict the before and after pics of a client’s tummy tuck.
Heck, thousands of people are searching for several variations of “plastic surgery before and after” as you can see below via SEO tool Ahrefs.
If you perform a Google search for any of those keywords in the screenshot, you’ll find that some plastic surgery centers have already optimized a page on their site to feature before and after images of their clients.
That’s credibility. It screams: “CHECK ME OUT I CAN DO THIS!!”
In my experience, it makes a huge impression on prospects.
If you’re in a B2B organization, you can also add a picture of the customer after asking for their permission to do so. It adds a human touch and ascertains that there’s a real person behind the story.
If you love videos, and you find a willing participant among your customers, go ahead and make one, as many as you want to, or as many as you can afford.
4. Promote your case studies
Successfully producing your case study is just the first part. You need to promote your case study just like you’ll promote any other content you create. In fact, due to its higher conversion rate, you should even promote it more than other forms of content. But that’s your choice to make.
You can promote your case studies in the following ways:
- Create a page for your case studies
It doesn’t matter what you’ll call it—customer stories, use cases, or success stories—they should have their page. Make it visible, preferably on the menu tab of your website. Here’s the page for success stories on GetResponse.
- Repurpose your case studies
Use them as a lead magnet for subscribers or publish a longer, detailed version as a blog post. Republishing it as a blog post can also boost your SEO efforts depending on the keywords you’re targeting.
As an example here, the folks at Ahrefs don’t typically publish case studies, because they’re incorporated into their blog posts. Here’s one subtly touting the success of their tool for finding SEO leads.
This page currently ranks no. 1 on Google for “seo leads.
Additionally, this post about consulting websites on Elegant Themes ranks on the first page of Google for “consulting websites.”
Though visitors may not be searching directly for “consulting websites built with Divi,” the post helps them to see that they can build successful consulting websites with Divi too through the success stories there.
- Share on social media
Whether they’re on the “Case Studies” page of your website or your blog, share your case studies as you’d share any other piece of content you create for more visibility. Also, promote them with ads on social media.
- Add them to your landing pages
Use relevant quotes or other nuggets from your case studies on your landing pages to add credibility to your claims there. SEMrush does this well on its home page.
It highlights the clients’ major achievements while using SEMrush with a link back to the full case studies. You’ll also notice the same layout on GetResponse’s case studies page shown in an earlier screenshot.
- Write guest posts/send outreach emails
Pitch guest posts to popular sites in your industry and share a link to your case study or discuss it in the article where applicable and if the site allows it. But building links via guest posting alone can make the Google gods punish your site.
Diversify your backlinks by sending outreach emails to other sites about your case study. If it’s good enough, they’ll either share it on social media or link to it on their site.
- Tweak for SEO
If you optimize your website and your pages well for search traffic, you will reap results in terms of more visibility for your case studies in the future.
The examples of Ahrefs and our post on consulting websites mentioned earlier are a testament to the possibilities when you tweak your case studies for SEO.
Use case studies to improve conversions
When writing case studies, start with choosing the right customers, and you’re more likely to have a fun story to tell about them using your product or service. A case study is still one of the most effective ways to generate and convert leads for your business. If you’re not using them at all or not using them as much as you should, start creating them.
Since you’re here:
My content marketing services can help you incorporate case studies effectively into your content marketing strategy for more credibility and sales.