In praise of the case study

In Atom by Rachel Miller0 Comments

shutterstock_270143441Content marketing is more important than ever. Every buying decision starts with a search for content – from simple product information or delivery details to expert advice; from customer reviews to opinionated blogs.

But there’s one type of content that is absolutely worth its weight in gold. It entertains, it informs and it inspires customers to buy, all in one readable package.

I’m talking about the case study.

So why does the task of writing case studies often get put on the back burner? Sure, case studies can be time-consuming to produce and they always need close cooperation from the customer in question. But they work on so many levels and they can get real results.

If you’re in any doubt about their potential, check out these five key reasons why you should create case studies:

They tell a story that people want to read

Case studies show the human face of your business – even if you sell widgets, case studies allow you to show your people working closely with your customers.

This is about real people getting things done. There’s no hint of selling and all references to your products and services are in the context of a real-life situation, often where a problem is being solved.

When potential customers read a case study, they are seeing your business through the eyes of your happy customers. That’s powerful stuff.

They are tailor-made for media coverage

Many businesses struggle to get coverage in the press; case studies can be a fantastic way to get publicity.

Written well, they are ready-made quality editorial material that websites and publications in your sector will thank you for. All you have to do is give journalists a good story, with a compelling angle, customer quotes and decent images. Don’t let your case studies become too salesy though and avoid jargon.

They show you in the best possible light

Case studies show you and your business in action, doing what you do best. They can help you convince customers that you know what you are doing, demonstrate that you really are the expert in the field and prove that you will deliver on your promises. They show you rolling up your sleeves, getting stuck in and going the extra mile.

In short, case studies can help turn a prospect into a customer.

Once you’ve created your case studies, distribute them widely. Publish them on your website or in your email newsletters, make downloadable PDFs, give print-outs to your sales people, create case study collatoral for your exhibition stand and, above all, flag them up on social media sites.

They are the ultimate testimonial

Positive reviews and star ratings are great but for anyone browsing online there can be niggling doubts about authenticity. It’s relatively simple to get a customer to give you a decent rating but only really happy customers cooperate with case studies.

A case study is a chance to offer overwhelming evidence that you and your firm are the best in the business. You can do this by showing in detail how you provided your customer with tangible benefits – include evidence in the form of images, statistics and quotes.

But don’t just ask your customer for quotes; otherwise they’ll provide a carefully-worded paragraph that will probably sound as if it was written by you. Have a proper chat with them, ask them about their experience of working with you and record what they say; the best quotes are conversational and unforced.

The more you work with your client on this the better; let them tell their own story too. That way they will not just approve your case study; they will actively promote it themselves.

Case studies get results

Think about the customer buying journey. Much of it is happening before you are even aware that a potential customer exists.

When someone is trying to find reasons to go with one firm over another, case studies give confidence. They are persuasive but not salesy; they are helpful and enlightening. They answer a lot of questions for potential customers and they give people reasons to trust you.

A case study can show attitude not just aptitude. No-one is doubting that you do what you do – but are you friendly, helpful, customer-focused? A case study says you are.

And finally…

There are lots of ways to bring a case study to life – you can make a YouTube video, create a Q&A or record a podcast. Whatever you do, make sure you include your contact details at the end. You’re very likely to attract new customers.

Rachel Miller is the editor of Marketing Donut.