December 12, 2016
Case studies are like souped-up testimonials that tell the world how amazing your business is, without any self-promotion.
Case studies go beyond the “X company is so great, choose X company” of testimonials and dive into the specifics of how you helped real people solve real problems.
The secret of successful case studies is to make readers feel like THEY are the subject of your story, and visualize your company helping THEM, too.
So without further ado, let’s look at 8 ways you can accomplish that goal and write a great case study.
The point of a case study isn’t to break your hand patting yourself on the back. Case studies need to tell a story your customers can superimpose themselves into—your readers must be able to visualize themselves as the hero in your tale for it to be effective.
If you work with clients in multiple industries, for example, but 80% of your business comes from Labradoodle & Goldendoodle breeders, shouldn’t your case studies (or at least many of them) target dog breeders? At the very least, your case studies should be written in a way that addresses issues common with most of your clients.
After reading your case study, your customer should get the impression that:
Imagine you’re looking for travel tips, and you’re digging through Google as you plan for vacation. Most sites focus on generic tips, such as preparing for flights or packing suitcases or not catching the latest tropical disease from those pesky mosquitoes.
But when you read a post about preparing to visit your specific destination, all of a sudden the information becomes highly relevant. You assume (hopefully correctly) that the writer has visited that country, and has some level of expertise both on general travel and travel to your target destination.
The post becomes more about YOU, and you’re more likely to pay attention. You trust the source more, which is half the battle when people are reading your case study.
First and foremost, your case study is a story. You don’t need to be a literary genius to write a good case study, but you should still keep in mind the basic structure of a story, paying particular attention to the beginning and end.
And as you explain your main character, do your best to make them relatable to your target customers, which means explaining:
Even better, after you’ve written your case study, do a follow-up to show that your company is still providing amazing results for the same client. It shows you mean business, and you can really put your money where your mouth is.
Huge blocks of text rarely work on the internet. We mention this a lot here, but it doesn’t matter how awesome your case study is if nobody reads it. You face enough barriers trying to get people to read your content already, and poor formatting is one of the few obstacles you can actually control.
Some of the basic formatting tricks you should use to make your case study more digestible are:
Great formatting appears less daunting to readers, plus it helps potential customers skim through your content to find the information most relevant to their needs.
There’s a difference between saying “We tripled leads using our elite skills” and “We tripled leads through a combined, full-frontal assault of weekly blog posts targeting customer pain points concerted with a carpet bombing SEO campaign, a total overhaul of web usability and a 4-week social media blitz on Facebook and Instagram.”
Explain HOW you did everything to make it more believable—they say the true sign of a person who knows what they’re talking about is the ability to explain it in layman’s terms, and in great detail.
Yes, stories are fantastic ways to deliver case studies. But they aren’t the only way.
Another great case study format is the interview, where your client answers all of those questions that we listed above in point 2 in a kind of Q&A session. Speaking directly with the client is a great way to let readers transport themselves into the case study, and better visualize you solving their problems.
Not everyone likes to sit and read. Others are visual or auditory learners, and might prefer videos, podcasts or infographics to your standard case study. Finding the right blend of text and visuals is key to making your case study a success, but you might also consider alternate delivery methods depending on your industry and clients.
Infographics, podcasts and YouTube videos have the added bonus of being really, really easy to share. So don’t be afraid to experiment.
You have to be able to back up what you’re saying. If you talk about redesigning a website, include before-and-after shots of your client’s site. If you talk about revamping content strategy, link to a few of your hottest new posts. The list goes on and on.
If potential clients can’t see exactly what you’re doing, they’re simply less inclined to believe you. And even if they do believe you without seeing proof, providing examples is still a powerful tool to show that you truly walk the walk.
Your case studies are important, and they shouldn’t be buried in layers of menus or pages. Be proud of them, and put them out there where visitors to your site can easily find them.
Your case studies are designed to sell, so don’t make it hard for them to do their job. A well-built case study is one of your most powerful marketing tools, after all.
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