Case studies are some of the most effective website content you can develop. Here are 5 tips on how to develop and write informative, persuasive case studies.
Today, we all know that online reviews are critical. Consumers want to know about the experiences of their fellow customers. We’ve entered a time in which social proof is – arguably – the most important part of your marketing message.
However, for many businesses, reviews and testimonials are mainly based on the emotional responses of the customer. The content is, after all, in their words. They can say a lot about their experience, but they only provide cursory details about how the solution worked, and often no hard data that proves why it worked.
This is where the case study comes in. A case study is a story about the successful journey of a client, offered with details and data that give a complete picture of the service.
Case studies are especially important for businesses that have a more complex offer that requires greater detail to explain and verify.
Not enough businesses take advantage of case studies, often because they feel they must personally involve the client who is the subject of the piece. This means the client must take the time to work on the case study. They may need to provide images and make time for an interview.
The client, in short, has to put their name on the case study – which is excellent when they’re willing and the time can be made. For example, we recently did an auto repair marketing case study and a Yoga studio case study where we worked with the clients to create video success stories. Very effective.
However, we also write many case studies where we essentially maintain the anonymity of the client. We tell their story, display collateral, and show the data without directly mentioning the client.
We get their permission, but beyond that, the client doesn’t have to do anything. Also, with that level of anonymity, the client doesn’t become an involuntary referral (one problem you can run into with case studies is leads that read them will directly contact the client).
When you remove direct involvement of the client from creating the case study, it speeds things up. Marketing 360® now has hundreds of marketing case studies we use for sales and lead nurturing. Many of these involve client input, but the majority we crafted without it.
We’ve found this material to be effective in our sales process. They provide not only social proof, but the details and hard data that convinces people we have a solution that works.
Read through some of these marketing case studies to get an idea of how we structure them. Here are some important tips to remember.
#1. Have One Main Idea
Another reason case study writing seems daunting is people think they have to capture the entire experience of a client, with every aspect of how the solution worked for them. It’s difficult to develop a narrative flow with that broad of a topic.
Instead, focus on one thing that was effective for a particular client, making that part of the solution the main idea of the piece.
For example, we write case studies that feature a client that did well with one marketing channel, such as our website designs or social media advertising. The case study focuses on how that solution worked well for that client.
We often allude to the bigger picture, but the story is more effective when it has a single, focused idea.
#2. Focus on a Type of Client
We’ve found that leads relate to – and are more persuaded by – case studies that feature clients that do the same work they do.
In other words, plumbers like to see case studies about other plumbers. Chiropractors are more influenced by case studies featuring other chiropractors.
Often, our solution works the same for different business verticals. There is actually little difference between the way we market for a plumber and roofer, for example.
The reason this works is that people are looking for a connection. When they see our solution worked for someone else who runs the same business as them, it creates an affinity. In their mind, the lead thinks Yes, these guys can solve my problem because the business in this case study is just like mine.
When possible, write case studies that feature a particular business type, demographic, or consumer need. Be clear about how the solution worked for them. Then when you have a lead that has the same needs, show them that case study.
This is another reason to have a substantial number of case studies that include all the types of clients you work with. Match the case study to the lead’s problem and it will have a powerful impact.
#3. Use Data, Details and Numbers
One thing that is vital in case studies is to provide concrete details about how your solution helped. To do this, use specific details, including data and numbers when possible.
For example, all of our case studies feature data from Marketing 360® that explicitly shows the client is having success. Most often, the number we feature is a high conversion rate, which we usually show by channel in this chart:
Those numbers are indicative of the results we’re getting for the client; conversion rates are the most common topic we discuss in our case studies.
This is the most important way a case study differs from a testimonial or a review. The case study demonstrates how we achieved success with hard numbers. This moves beyond the generalities often mentioned in reviews and shows how a specific course of action worked for a client.
If the results of your service are not numerically quantifiable, then make sure you’re specific about how you resolved your client’s problem. The point of the case study is to delve into the details.
#4. Use the AIDA Structure
When you write a case study, use the AIDA structure, which stands for attention, interest, desire, action.
- Attention: Start by stating the problem the client had when they came to you. This creates an immediate affinity for those experiencing the same problem and provides context for the rest of the case study.
- Interest: Detail how you apply your solution to overcome this problem.
- Desire: Detail the results so that it’s clear how you were successful (again, with data if possible). The lead reading the case study will desire the same results.
- Action: Discuss the happy emotional state of the client to create an emotional connection. End the case study with a dictate. If you’re experiencing the type of problem this person had, then you need to explore how our solution can help you.
This structure is proven to be persuasive in sales copy and will work with any case study you write. This will help you organize the piece and ensure that it motivates new leads to consider your offer.
#5. Use Images and Visual Examples
Whenever possible, use images and visual examples to demonstrate the work you did and display the results a lead could expect to get from working with you.
Images, videos, screenshots, and infographics engage readers online and help them grasp your point. There are few blog articles we write that don’t include images and visuals.
Screenshots that show the interface you use or your data graphs prove that you’re not just saying you got this result.
If you don’t have numbers, you can design an infographic that shows the client journey or details how you solve a particular problem. For example:
This business could include this infographic with a case study about a how honey helped a specific customer and have an effective piece of marketing content.
The way you use case studies depends a lot on your business itself.
For many businesses, it works best to just have a couple of really well-written case studies that involve interviewing clients and highlighting their experience. These case studies can epitomize the customer experience and fully demonstrate the benefits the business delivers on.
In other cases, the business might want to create an ongoing series of case studies that are organized into categories so that the different demographics, customer types, and solutions can be detailed in recent posts. In this case, you can create a blog category and continue to add to it as you have client successes.
Either way, put case studies to work in your sales process. Make sure they are easy to find on your website and use them in email campaigns to nurture leads.
Case studies offer the perfect blend of social proof, data, and persuasive content, making them some of the most effective material in your marketing arsenal.