Memorable content starts with a great story…
Customer case studies have been around awhile, and for good reason — they work. Almost 90% of consumers read online reviews, and stories straight from your customer can pack a punch. But not all case studies are created equal.
One of the most effective content marketing strategies is to spread the word through happy customers. And one way to do that is through telling a customer’s story, which you can then promote on your website and through social media channels, as well as through collateral given to your sales team.
A good case study can provide leads, help close sales and build your brand. Nearly nine in 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39 per cent do so on a regular basis, according to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey. A case study provides a high-value testimonial from someone who trusts your brand — and that speaks volumes.
But no one wants to read a marketing brochure with the nitty-gritty technical details about your product or service. The key is to avoid sounding like an advertisement, but to address a specific business problem and show how a customer solved that problem using your product, service or solution.
It all starts with a story
The first step is to find the right client — one who has a great story, is passionate about your solution and is known to your target audience or vertical market. (Don’t feel compelled to write a case study about every single customer.)
Remember, though, that you may not discover the angle of your case study until you interview your subject. Have a set of questions handy, but be willing to dig deeper and take a different course if necessary to find insights that will make your case study stand out.
That also means finding the right person to tell the story — not the marketing exec, but someone who is directly impacted by your solution, such as the CEO or CIO. When interviewing your subject, record the interview so you can be sure to include some stand-out quotes.
Choosing the right format
Structure the case study in a way that tells the customer’s story, and make sure all your case studies are structured the same way, for consistency. Here’s what to include:
- A backgrounder on the customer (who they are and what they do). This could be done as a sidebar or even in point form.
- The business problem and how they attempted to resolve this issue before you came along. Include details such as impacts on revenue or productivity.
- How you helped the client — including the solution, the process and the timing.
- The impact of the solution. If the client isn’t willing to talk specific numbers, you can reference percentages or soft benefits.
- End with a call to action including how to find out more information or contact your sales team.
Include quotes from the client, as well as photos, logos, diagrams or other visuals that illustrate your point and that make the case study more compelling than a big block of text. If you don’t have the skills in-house, consider outsourcing the writing and editing to a copywriter.
It should go without saying that a poorly written case study reflects badly on your company, as well as your client. Make sure the copywriting matches the tone of your corporate brand, is proofread for accuracy and fully edited by your content team.
In most cases, the client will want to see a draft of the case study, make comments and suggestions, and sign off on the final version. In this case, try to set expectations ahead of time. If the client is too heavy-handed with edits, your case study could turn into an advertorial or marketing brochure, rather than an impactful story about the business.
The goal should be to provide a business benefit to the reader, build trust and encourage follow-up conversations with your team.
Getting it out there
Now that you have a great customer story to tell, you need to make sure people read that story. Case studies should live on your website, preferably on a dedicated page (perhaps titled ‘Customer Success Stories’). Once you have several case studies to draw from, divide them into vertical markets or specific solutions.
Include links with highlight quotes and testimonials on your homepage. Those quotes should be results-based (such as ‘we increased our sales by X per cent') rather than using generic statements about how great your company is to work with.
Then spread the word over your social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Highlight it in your latest newsletter and have your teams send it out in personal emails to customers that may find it valuable. You can even write a ‘teaser’ blog post with a link to the full case study.
Hard-copy versions (preferably on high-quality stock) should be given to your sales team, which gives them an opportunity to reach out to new prospects. These hard copies can also be handed out at trade shows and conferences.
Case studies can also take on completely new formats. Consider creating a podcast or video case study to supplement the written version. Or turn some of the key points into an infographic which can also be promoted on all the other digital locations mentioned. The beauty of a well-crafted case study is that the story can be explained in so many different formats.
The story never ends
Once you’ve completed a case study, don’t post it and forget about it.
Review your case studies on an annual basis to make sure they’re up-to-date and relevant. If any have become old or stale (say, the customer has upgraded to a newer solution), consider contacting the client to update the case study. You may also want to track which case studies are most popular or have resulted in the most qualified leads, which can help you craft future stories.
Overall, the key is to avoid going on 'ad nauseam' about your company or solution, and instead focus on your customer’s story. If you find it engaging enough to read until the very end, it’s likely that potential customers will too.