Andrea Stevens: Case studies are very different from other marketing content that you produce for your business.
OPINION: The wide range of content types that you can create as part of your marketing strategy can be mind-boggling.
Website content, landing pages, social media content, radio ads, Google ads, email newsletters, blogs – the list goes on.
Case studies deserve a special mention, however.
For many businesses, they should be a crucial marketing strategy component. They validate the customer value you create and can be used and reused almost anywhere.
Examples include on your website – the home page, or a news or case studies section – in email marketing campaigns, in advertisements, on social media and in RFPs.
* Building a services website that sells
* Why your company profile needs to be all about your client
* Brand purpose: your gold nugget that drives everything
What are case studies?
Case studies focus on a specific customer who used your products or services to overcome a problem they were facing.
In other words, case studies are very different from other marketing content that you produce for your business, such as advertisements, product descriptions and brochures.
While you should talk to your customers with this type of content, the content itself is still about you, in your own words – your brand, capabilities, products, services, etc.
Case studies, on the other hand, are not about you. They are about your customer and the steps you took to solve their problem, often with customer quotes through the text.
Case studies are also stories with a beginning (where you introduce the customer and explain the problem), middle (what you did and how you did it), and end (explaining how the customer’s problem is now solved).
What’s the difference between a case study and a project description?
Case studies and project descriptions are often referred to as being the same thing, but they are quite different.
A project description is a brief and high-level overview of a project you have completed for a customer. Case studies go into much more detail with specific information, so they are usually longer.
Also, project descriptions are about you – how you delivered a project for a customer. As mentioned above, case studies are your customer’s story. There is also a format where you can blend the two styles.
Why case studies are a business asset
Case studies validate the benefits and outcomes your business creates – as described in your marketing and communications.
Potential customers get to peek ‘behind the curtains’ of your business. They learn about your approach and process, via the words of existing customers, to gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to work with you.
Case studies provide strong proof that you can actually do what you say you can do. They also show you have real-world experience in solving problems similar to those a potential customer wants to solve.
How do case studies help the buyer journey?
Customers go through several stages when buying a product or service. These stages are often referred to as the buyer journey.
The stage where case studies are most commonly used – and where they are arguably the most effective – is the consideration stage.
This stage follows the awareness and interest phases where your customer identifies a problem and starts to search for a solution. The consideration stage is where the customer starts to focus on specific products and services, researching them in more detail; case studies are an ideal tool for this stage.
What makes a good case study?
- It’s relatable – the customer, problem, and overall story that is explained in your case study should be relatable to the customer. This will help the customer see how the solution you delivered can help with their problem.
- It explains the full story – from start to finish.
- It shows, rather than tells – the story should illustrate your products or services in action.
- It gives the customer’s perspective – case studies should demonstrate how your products or services solved a problem, with customer quotes as proof.
- It uses data – saying that ‘productivity improved by 18 per cent’ is more effective than saying ‘productivity improved’.
- It’s easy to read – the people reading your company’s case studies don’t have time or patience to wade through challenging text.
Andrea Stevens is the director of the copywriting agency Folio and Folio Digital, working with B2B and professional services brands to publish brand-building content. Her specialist sectors include architecture, engineering, construction, technology, finance, management consulting and the public sector. Her previous article was on Building a services website that sells.