Publishing case studies is one of the oldest and most effective types of content marketing. In the context of business-to-business, a case study is the analysis of a project you have successfully accomplished which identifies the problem points, the proposed solutions, the implemented actions and the end result. In essence, it’s a customer success story which if done right, can help you establish proof and build trust with your prospective clients, so they feel comfortable progressing down the funnel.
According to a survey done by Content Marketing Institute, the top three most important marketing tactics for B2B businesses are in-person events, webinars and case studies. Case studies build credibility because they show prospective clients how you solve problems. Additionally, if some of your clients are well-known, that speaks volumes about you and your expertise.
You can use case studies to illustrate the power of a specific technique or tool or to showcase your creativity and problem-solving skills. Whatever business you are in, case studies will make what you do more relatable to your prospects and will show them the real value of working with you.
For case studies to work, you need to make sure they are clearly visible and easy to find on your website, preferably in the main navigation menu of the website. You can create different case study categories for your visitors relevant to their own business. You should also promote them regularly to make sure people are actually reading them. A well-done business case study speaks louder than a paid ad campaign, because it is informative and, if targeted correctly, specific to your prospect’s business needs.
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Why You Might Have Avoided Case Studies Until Now
Case studies are hard. There are a lot of things to consider before, during, and after writing a case study. And even after it is done, regular promotion is necessary to ensure your hard work does not go unnoticed. Below are some of the most frequently quoted reasons for not creating case studies. All or some of those may be legitimate reasons for you as well.
- You are too busy doing the actual work.
- You don’t think your results are impressive enough and worthy of a business case study.
- You have to gather and understand specific information from the entire team.
- You need the client’s consent to reveal information that is often sensitive/confidential.
- Your client will have to take the time to contribute with testimonials.
- Your case study will have to appeal to several different types of professionals in a company.
Finding the time to discuss the project with your team and gathering information for a B2B case study depends entirely on your organization, and convincing your client to consent and even contribute with feedback and details may be tricky. They may have objections to releasing facts and figures about their business because they fear it will reveal strategies and tactics to their competition.
You can solve this problem in two ways:
- You can either use growth percentages instead of specific numbers and highlight the solution more than the details of the process.
- Or you can keep the case study anonymous if your client prefers omitting the company name, any unique details about their business or even which industry they are active in.
Different solutions will work for different clients. The point is to not let the reluctance of a client prevent you from reaching an agreement with them. Make sure you make it worth their while by offering some sort of incentive for their participation: for example a discount for their next project or an extra product or service.
You can make creating case studies a formalized process to ensure it happens on a regular basis. If you contact a client directly after finishing the project when they are satisfied and are telling you so, they are more likely to agree to share feedback, answer questions and give permission to add them to your portfolio. This is what your prospects are interested in: proof that your clients are happy with the work you do.
Once you have a case study, you can repurpose it several times over the course of years. You can create a video version, prepare a talk for a conference, and add the stats to a sheet for your sales team to use when talking to leads.
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How to Write a Compelling Business Case Study
B2B case studies are part of the middle stage of the sales funnel, as businesses would rather have this info available before contacting a salesperson. They can include different information depending on your industry. The structure, however, is rather simple. These are the two most common ways to arrange your data.
1. Problem → Solution → Results → Customer Quote
This structure is the most common. It is logical, easy to follow and geared towards a pragmatic reader who prefers facts and figures to feelings. You may decide to summarise the main points at the top so that the visitor does not need to read the whole text to find out what the result was.
Creating suspense is not a good B2B strategy, your prospect wants proof of the best solution to a problem as quickly as possible. Once they know the outcome though, they might be more interested in learning the details in the rest of the case study.
2. Q&A with the Customer
This strategy works best if the client is a big fan of your services and product. You can ask them questions connected with their initial problem, solution expectations and overall experience with your company. This method may appeal more to a more emotional audience. People interested in the technical aspect and specific solutions will most likely find it a bit frivolous and not detailed enough.
Steps in Preparing a B2B Case Study
- Pick a project that showcases the type of services you want to offer to more clients.
- Prepare interview questions for your client. Ask them about their initial problem, why they chose you and the specific solution you offer, what their experience has been and how the result has improved their business. If several people were involved, choose the contact that works most closely with your team.
- Interview the members of the internal team that worked on the project. Pay special attention to those from other departments, as they will have information that you do not.
- Structure and write your case study.
- Get approval from the client to publish the ready case study.
- Promote your case study continuously and add links to it from other pages on your website.
Structure of a B2B Case Study
While the structure can vary, we, at DevriX, recommend you keep it simple and logical. A typical order may look like this:
- Headline: Make it solution-related. Including only the name of the client as a headline may not be enough. Include the specific problem you solved to make it easier for prospects to find case studies that apply to them. “How to” titles generally work well.
- What the case study is about: A short overview of the problem, solution, and result.
The initial problem the client had and the project objectives and goals.
- The process used to reach the expected solution: You can get technical here if it makes sense. Some amount of detail will help a potential lead get a better idea of how you may be able to assist their business.
- The results: Again, detail is crucial. Facts and figures are the best advertisements.
- Client quote: This can be used in your testimonials section too, but using it in the case studies makes them sound more relatable.
- Call to action: A link to your services or to another suitable next action in your sales funnels.
Tips to Make Your Case Study Amazing
Tell a Story
Do not just reveal the problem and then your solution. Make the study relatable by showcasing the whole process, the setbacks, the failed attempts, the eventual successes. Give the reader the opportunity to be able to empathize with and ideally identify with your client. The case study can be anonymous as long as it tells a compelling story.
Make the Title Intriguing
The title should highlight the main solution the case study reveals. Ideally, it should include your best achievement from the project. Just the name of the company may not be enough for a potential lead to decide if this is the case study they should be looking at.
Keep It Simple
Ensure that the technical information is accessible to the general audience. Include data and details as much as possible but remember to use terminology that is easily understandable to your audience. This means that your technical and marketing teams would need to work together to prepare the copy.
The Client Is the Star
Keep the customer success story revolving around your client, their accomplishments and how great they were to choose you and your product in the first place. Your business case study will be read by other potential clients that have similar business goals – you want them to not only know that you treat your customers well and help them grow their business but to also make them feel smart about considering you.
Make It Visually Appealing
Include images, infographics, charts, before and after shots of the project, if applicable. Adding video would be great – 84% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service if both text and video are available on the same page.
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Include the Client’s Participation
A lot of leads would be interested to know what level of participation will be expected of them when implementing a project successfully. If most of your clients are very hands-on and you are used to working like that, a company that prefers to delegate all decisions to your team might not be a good fit or vice versa. Since this is difficult to determine on the basis of the project requirements alone, case studies are a great place to talk about it.
Give Credit Where It’s Due
If your client or one of your team members came up with a really awesome solution or idea, mention it. Include all major contributions even if (and especially when) they were not yours alone. Also, include a link to the client’s site, so a prospect, reading the study, can confirm that this is an existing business and contact them for references.
Focus on Valuable Results
When discussing the results of the project, focus on those that made the biggest difference. Ideally, this would be an increase in revenue. It can also be brand awareness, or website traffic, or any other kind of result that the client was aiming at. While complicated animations or custom software is impressive to a specialist, a business owner will need to know the solution’s practical use.
Things to Avoid When Writing Case Studies
Any Mistakes: Factual, Grammatical, or Style Mistakes
A B2B case study should be impeccable. More often than not the visitor to the website is not the final or only decision maker in their respected organization. They will need to put their reputation on the line and convince the decision maker(s) that your company is the right way to go.
Other companies’ testimonials and the case studies on your website serve as a substitute for personal experience and take some of the pressure away. The case study needs to be a great customer success story that a potential client would want to show to stakeholders that are not yet convinced of the quality of the company’s services.
Making the Study Sound Like a Marketing Pitch
The customer success story in your case study should be factual, not cheesy. The more objective it is and the better it describes the actual work done, the more convincing it will be. We have read quite a few case studies that were beautifully written but included little actual information. Some studies may have a really wonderfully appealing copy but not one number to show the actual results of the efforts.
No Facts and Figures
As mentioned above, case studies should disclose proof of facts. Even if you cannot include the actual numbers due to confidentiality, you can add growth percentages, before/after comparisons or any other information that would showcase that the changes you made led to actual results, helping the client towards achieving a business goal.
Too Much Information
You can have too much of a good thing in a business case study. Even if you have, and are allowed to use all the data from the project, choose carefully which numbers to include. Generally, you would opt for what you want your prospects to understand: the most impressive statistic or the one that is most relevant to them. Visitors can always contact you and ask for more details.
No Call to Action
Make sure to give your visitors, who have read your case study, a clear next step to take. It may be a link to your services, or a contact form for them to ask more questions, or an offer for a free consultation.
You want to make sure that they reach the end of the page enthusiastic about the seen results and easily find a way to request you help them achieve the same. Keep the call to action relevant, but vague enough to be suitable for any potential lead that may visit your website.
Not Repurposing Your Case Study
A B2B case study is more than a sales collateral or a nice addition to your website content. Once you have created a great customer success story that promotes your products, services and expertise, don’t just let it sit on a page, repurpose it!
You can write a blog post highlighting the main points, and include it in your email marketing, eBooks and business proposals. You can break out quotes and use them as testimonials, on social media posts and press releases. You can use the data from your case study in seminars, webinars and guest stalks. And, last but least, you can create a video or a podcast, in addition to a written description.
Writing B2B case studies is a lengthy but a hugely rewarding process. You would first need to take the time to gather all the information and discuss with the client what part of it you can use. Afterwards, a structured copy needs to be prepared and enriched with visual materials. Finally, the ready case study needs to be published and promoted. A good case study can be repurposed and used for a number of years with a consistent result.
Do you have your own recipe for writing case studies on your site? Share it in a comment below.
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Awesome guide. Proud to be the first comment, cheers!