Knowing how to do a case study can help you convince potential clients to buy your core product or service. When well done, case studies help you build trust with your audience. However, a case study is more than just good storytelling. To do it well, you need to understand which elements make it such an effective type of content marketing.
Before we get into how to do a case study effectively, let’s talk about what it is.
What is a case study?
A case study is a relatable story about a real client who solved a real problem using your core product or service.
Imagine you’re shopping online for a new pair of shoes. You find a beautiful pair, but you’re not sure if it’s worth the money. What do you do before you decide? You read reviews, right?
If you have any friends who shop online, maybe you’ll even ask them if they’ve ever shopped at this particular store. If the answer is yes, you will want to know what their experience was like.
The point is, when you’re buying shoes at a store which you’ve never shopped at before, you will need evidence from other customers that these shoes are a good deal.
Now, imagine you’re a business and you’re shopping for a solution to a specific business problem which you’re facing. As before, once you find a solution, you’ll need proof that it’s the best solution on the market.
This is where case studies come in. They’re essential pieces of content, especially in the B2B market. When a potential client is experiencing a problem, they usually spend a lot of time comparing different solutions before making a decision. Ultimately, your case study could make the difference between a client signing up with you or going to your competition.
Why do I really need to use case studies?
At this point, you might be asking, “Do I really need to invest time and energy into developing case studies when I can just share reviews on my website?” The answer is yes. If you want to convert more leads into clients, then case studies should be a priority in your content marketing strategy.
As a content creator, case studies can be a powerful piece of B2B content marketing. Case studies can help you in the following ways:
Creating a relatable narrative
Since a case study is a narrative, it follows the standard arc of a story. And, as we know, every story has a beginning, protagonist, conflict, climax, and resolution.
By following this narrative arc, a case study triggers emotions and creates a sense of connection with your reader. Everyone loves a good underdog story, and this is essentially what your case study is. It is the story of a protagonist who triumphed over incredible obstacles, thanks to your core product or service.
When done well, a case study helps your audience to put themselves in your client’s shoes. They can imagine the problems your client was facing because they are facing similar problems themselves.
Similarly, just like your client, your readers are looking for solutions to these problems. An effective case study drives feelings of empathy and helps your audience to be emotionally invested in the outcome. They will therefore be more open to hearing about your solution.
Creating a sense of hope
A good case study will go beyond just helping your readers to identify with your client and the problem they were facing. An effective case study will convince your readers that just as your solution worked for your client, it can also work for them.
In other words, a well-done case study should create a sense of hope while also portraying your brand in a positive light. When potential clients read your case study, they will be convinced of the benefits of signing up with you.
Helping you to stand out
There are tons of good blogs out there but not as many good-quality case studies. Although case studies do a good job of showcasing a brand’s expertise, not everyone builds case studies.
For this reason, if you start building case studies for your brand, then you will stand out from the competition. The right case study can build a strong case for your brand, therefore improving your brand image.
How to do a case study in 3 steps
Developing a good case study isn’t hard. To make the process less daunting, we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple steps:
1) Select your case
You may have many clients to choose from, but not all of them will qualify for a case study. If you want to build an effective case study, then you need to look out for clients who are unique and memorable. These are clients who:
- Are facing a unique problem
- Are using your business solutions in a unique way
- Have switched from a competitor
- Have experienced dramatic results with your solution
Given that you want your case study to stand out from the crowd, the first step is choosing a case which is is out of the ordinary. Provided that a client meets one of the above conditions, they are a good candidate for your case study.
2) Do your research
Once you’ve chosen the perfect case, you can start gathering evidence. In order to be effective, your evidence simply needs to offer proof that what you’re saying actually happened.
Most people assume that they need hard numbers to prove their point. Even so, you can go beyond data when doing your research. Quality evidence can be as simple as a before and after description.
While the type of evidence you use isn’t carved in stone, there are two essential steps in the research process.
Developing an introductory questionnaire
An introductory questionnaire explains the purpose of your case study to your client. More importantly, it is a place where you ask a few preliminary questions to help you begin your research.
Interviewing your case study
The interview is the most important part of the case study, since this is when your research really starts. An interview gives you an opportunity to not only ask more questions but also get clarification on any vague answers in your questionnaire.
It’s always a good idea to prepare for the interview in advance instead of just winging it. Thinking through the information you need and writing questions down in advance will help you get more relevant information.
3) Write your story
Once you have all the relevant information, it’s time to sit down and write your story. As we stated before, every good story has 5 different parts:
- Beginning: This is where you give some background information on the case study.
- Protagonist: Your chosen client. Introduce them and explain what they do.
- Conflict: The problem they are facing
- Climax: How the problem is affecting the client and what makes it unbearable
- Resolution: How your solution helped the client to overcome their problem
Your case study must follow this structure closely, so that readers can follow along easily. However, you can break the standard narrative arc into 6 different parts so that you can add important details to your case study:
Headline: Create a compelling headline for your story to attract attention.
Summary: Develop an overview of your case study. 100-200 words is sufficient.
Subject: Introduce your client and explain what they do.
Problem: Explain the problem. Why does it exist? How does it affect your client?
Solution: Describe the solution. Offer supporting evidence for why it was the best solution.
Results: Explain how your solution helped your client to overcome the problem.
Case study format
Once you’ve written your case study, there are various ways you can tell your story.
- Downloadable PDF
How to do a case study: Best practices
A case study that follows the structure outlined above can be a powerful piece of content marketing. Even so, we want to go beyond simply helping you to do a case study, and show you how to write a case study that will stand out.
Here’s how to write a case study which people will remember:
Use evidence to back up your claims
People will get emotionally invested in a good story, but you still need some evidence to back what you’re saying up. One way to do this is by using hard numbers from your client. Alternatively, you could create a “before” picture and compare it with an “after” picture.
Make it visual
Visual elements always add value to a good story. Think about it. If you’re reading a book but you don’t want to focus on masses of text, what do you look for? Pictures! You can use visuals to retain a reader’s attention and break down complex information.
If you’re using the “before vs. after” model, you can do this effectively with an infographic or an image. If you’re presenting figures, you can use graphs to simplify the data.
Choose a fascinating angle
Given that you want people to remember your story, you need to make it memorable. You can do this either by choosing a client who does something differently or choosing a client with a unique problem.
However, even as you write a unique story, you must go out of your way to make the problem relatable to most of your readers.
Follow the standard narrative arc
Using the standard narrative arc will help you write a story which is emotionally engaging. If you’re story is engaging, then your audience will follow along until the end. Moreover, an engaging case study equals a higher conversion rate.
Use quotes from your client
Using quotes from your client will help in three ways. Firstly, it’ll make the story more unique and relatable. Secondly, it will highlight the protagonist of your story. Finally, it will help you back up the claims you are making in your case study.
Repurpose your case study
A good case study doesn’t start and end as a formal case study. Once you have developed a case study, you and your team should feel free to bring it up whenever you’re talking to a prospective client.
Quote your case study to a client who has called to inquire about the effectiveness of your product or service. This will help you to convince the client that your solution actually works, since it has worked for a different client in the past.
A good case study can convince a potential client that your business solution is worth investing in. Now that you know how to do a good case study, you can showcase your brand to potential clients.