Content Marketing 101: Our Guide To A Great Business Case Study
Don’t Just Tell Prospective Customers How Awesome You Are–Show Them With A Case Study
Before you can expect to gain the business of a prospective customer, you need to demonstrate your ability to deliver on what your product or service promises. One of the best ways to do this is with a strong, well-written case study.
You see, any prospective customer is going to believe that you think what you’re selling is great. What they really want to know is what others think about it. And by others, we mean your customers!
A case study is an opportunity to not just tell, but show, a customer’s real-life success story–made possible, of course by you!
When told effectively, a case study can help a prospective customer envision how your product or service will solve their problem. As you can imagine, a case study is an extremely valuable asset to the sales process often serving as the missing piece that moves prospective customers to purchase.
Today it is my goal to guide you through how to write your OWN high-quality, effective case studies so together we can show people just how amazing you and your product or service are.
Guidelines For Writing Your OWN Great Business Case Study
1. Select a customer who prospective customers can relate to
The subject of your case study should be a customer whose success story is guaranteed to resonate with your prospective customers (and it’s ok to be selective!).
To determine what is guaranteed to resonate with a prospective customer, you must first have a thorough understanding of who that prospective customer is. If you don’t already, this may be a good place to pause and download our Guide to Understanding Your Target Audience.
When selecting the subject of your case study, consult with your sales and service teams to find a customer who:
- Doesn’t only know your product or service inside and out, but takes full advantage of many, if not all, of its benefits.
- Switched to your product or service from a competitor’s product or services and saw better results with you.
- Achieved exemplary results with your product or service.
- Has a big name and/or recognizable results.
It’s likely that if a customer attributes their success to you, they’ll be more than willing to help you create a content marketing piece. Moving on to the recruiting process…
2. Put in your case study request
When it’s time to reach out to the customer whose story you’d like to spotlight, follow these tips from Hubspot:
- Be complimentary. Let the customer know their story is special and will help others achieve success too!
- Keep it brief. No need to bog them down with the nitty-gritty details. Simply suggest a time and date to chat further about the piece.
- Attach the questions you’d like to ask. This way, the customer can decide whether or not they want to participate and if so, are prepared for the interview to follow.
- If you received their contact as a referral from someone on your sales or support team, mention them by name in the email for familiarity.
- Remember they’re just as busy as you are. Don’t expect every customer to respond as soon as you reach out, you may need to follow up. But be sure to communicate deadlines.
- Schedule a time for a phone conversation to conduct the interview that works well for both parties.
As long as you’re not too pushy, and you make participating easy–there shouldn’t be an issue. Now it’s time to prepare for the interview…
3. Ask the right questions
Prepare a list of questions that will help you to get plenty of valuable information out of your customer. Open-ended yet specific questions will keep the conversation flowing and your customer on topic. If you notice a customer touches on a point your company is trying to emphasize–don’t be afraid to ask a follow-up question.
Structure your questions like this…
Their experience before using your product or service.
- What were you using before our product or service?
- Summarize three points of frustration you faced before our product or service?
- Describe your “ah-ha” moment when you realized it was time to try something new.
- What were the top reasons you selected our product/services?
Their experience using your product or service.
- Was it easy (or hard) to get started with our product or service?
- How has our product or service helped you overcome the challenges you faced before?
- Explain how our product or service is different than the alternatives you’ve tried
- What is your favorite aspect of our product or service and why?
- Describe the most positive experience you’ve had while using our product or services.
Their results with your product or service.
- How has our product or service helped you achieve your business or personal goals?
- What specific metrics can you share about the impact it has had? (Percentage changes are useful if the customer is hesitant to give you raw data.)
Why they would recommend your product or service.
- What is the single biggest reason you would recommend our product or service?
One last tip, keep your eyes (and ears) open for an impactful quote to use as a headline in your case study. Now time to pull it all together–let’s tell this story.
4. Format Your Case Study
Once you’ve selected your customer and collected the necessary information, it’s time to put it all together. According to HubSpot, this is the format that seems to be the most effective, follow along.
A mini headline to grab your reader’s attention. Then, two to four sentences summarizing the entire story you’re about to tell, making sure to include the most relevant points of the case study.
About the client
A short description of your customer. They likely have an “about” section on their LinkedIn page or website you can reference. Be sure to link within your case study to the customer’s homepage so readers can see for themselves who this company is.
Provide two to three short paragraphs (under 100 words) detailing the challenges your customer was facing before they found you. This is a good place to mention who’s product or service your customer was previously using and what ultimately lead them to switch to your product.
No need to hate on your competitors. Simply state the truth and your readers will hear you loud and clear.
Describe in two to three short paragraphs (100-150 words total), how you helped the company overcome its challenges and win big! This is your chance to shine, so don’t be shy.
Wrap the case study up with two to three paragraphs discussing the results your customer was able to see with your product or service. Here, you’ll want to provide proof of how your product or service impacted the customer’s business.
Be sure to include visuals that highlight results and bring the customer’s story to life.
If you can, end with a brief summary of your client’s aspirations for future growth and how your product will help them get there. This is exactly the high note you’ll want to leave your reader on.
Call To Action
As with any piece of content marketing, you’ll want to end your case study with a CTA (or call to action).
Generally, a case study is classified as BOFU (or bottom of the funnel) content. Based on the Inbound Marketing Methodology, it can be assumed that by the time the reader gets to your case study they already know they have a problem (TOFU), they are looking into solutions for their problem (MOFU), and they’re curious as to how your company’s solution is better than the rest. Keep this in mind when determining which CTA to use for your case study.
After reading a case study, the reader should ideally be ready to be contacted by your sales team. Offer them an option to “contact us”, “request a free trial”, or “receive a quote”. And if you did your job writing a great case study–getting them to click through should be no problem.
5. Write for SEO and readability
When writing any piece of content you one, want people to be able to find it and two, want people to read it. When creating your case study write in a way that will allow you to rank better, gain more traffic, improve engagement, and with any luck see more conversions.
How to write for SEO
- Include keywords or phrases in headings, subheadings, and body copy but be careful not to “keyword stuff”–find a balance
- Strive for long-form content. We recommend you aim for 800-1200 words
- Add internal and external linking where it’s appropriate
- Organize content so Google can easily digest it
How to write for better readability
- Keep paragraphs short by hitting the return key where it makes sense to
- Use descriptive and eye-catching headings or subheadings (for the skimmer!)
- Write at an eighth-grade reading level (don’t use industry jargon or huge words)
- Speak the language of your reader
- Sentences should be no longer than 20 words
6. Don’t leave the numbers out
Like I said in the beginning, it’s not enough to simply tell your prospective customers how awesome you are, you have to show them–and have the numbers to prove it!
Ensure that any claim you make in your case study is able to be backed up with data that is well represented. These real, tangible results will allow the reader to see with their own eyes exactly where your customer started off and where the customer was able to end up with you on their side.
A case study allows a prospective customer to envision how you could help them. If your product or service is really as great as you say, it will show.
I’d like to go back to one important point I made earlier. Without completely understanding who your target audience is you won’t be able to create an effective case study. It is true that your target audience shapes the direction of your marketing efforts. Download our guide to Understanding Your Target Audience.