Case studies are highly valuable bottom-of-the-funnel content pieces. Throughout the sales process, your prospective buyers are likely looking to online reviews to steer their way through the awareness and consideration phases of the marketing funnel. Case studies come into play during the decision stage; they are aimed at helping your potential clients make a final decision in favor of your B2B technology company.
A case study is a detailed account of how your company’s product has improved a client’s processes, helped the client meet a goal, and/or overcome a particular problem/struggle. A case study proves that your product and company truly deliver on your brand promise, which builds trust and credibility — even more so than testimonials, which some prospective buyers sniff out as phony.
You may be familiar with the term “case study” from your last science class — as well as the terms associated with it, such as “hypothesis” and “findings.” And while a case study isn’t a science project, it is important to approach it from an analytical — borderline scientific — perspective.
What is Included in a Marketing Case Study?
A case study for marketing purposes contains five key components that make it an informative and compelling piece of content to aid in the decision-making process.
1. Description of the client: This portion of the case study will most likely be your introduction, as it will explain your client’s history, pain points, obstacles, etc. You may also find it helpful to share your client’s company size, and even budget for the project. Having this type of information will make it easier for prospective clients see how you’ve helped companies like theirs in the past. Here, you’ll also want to detail what led the client to seek out new technology in the first place, which will transition into the second key component: the goal.
2. Client’s goal: Based on your client’s history and pain points, they likely had a goal. You’ll want to identify what the company’s goal was early on in the case study, and make it tangible and measurable. If you can give exact numbers, that’s great, as this will allow to you showcase the original goal in comparison to the outcome.
3. Strategy hypothesis: As a B2B company, you already know that one size does not fit all. This means you likely proposed a particular product, platform, and/or process with anticipated results. Share what your “plan of attack” and predicted outcome were, both of which will highlight your company’s thorough and thoughtful processes. Hopefully, the actual outcome is even better than predicted!
4. Strategy implementation: Take your readers through the exact process you implemented ( maybe leaving jargon out of it) to help your client meet its goal. Here, you may want to include quotes from team members who worked on the project or the client.
5. Results: Results are the most important facts your prospective clients are looking for in the case study. Be sure to deliver your results in as much detail as possible. Provide any exact numbers that are available, and be sure to include some quotes from the client. Don’t be afraid to share areas of struggle, too. It demonstrates real life and the truth that not every tactic works. It’s best to present a bad result and how you corrected it, but err on the side of real life.
Six Tips for Compelling Case Studies
With a variety of products and clients, you may wonder how or where to even begin. For case studies, it is important to have a process that saves you time and results in compelling content. Follow these six tips for success:
1. Create a List of “Must-Ask” Case Study Questions
Because all of your case studies should consist of the same five components, you’ll want to create a list of questions to ask during your client interviews. While the best interviews will consist of follow-up questions, and even some awesome side tangents you didn’t plan for, you’ll want to walk into every interview feeling confident you’ll get exactly what you need.
Here’s a list of suggested questions to get you started:
Description of Client
- First thing's first, the basics! Ask your interviewee to state their name (and spell it), their title, and role in the purchasing process. You may also want to fill in any blanks on client background that are important to you, such as budget, company size, etc. Then, you can move on to the meaty questions.
- Can you talk a little bit about what led you to start looking at new technology for [insert industry/niche etc.]?
- What were some specific pain points and/or obstacles you were experiencing that led to your search?
- What were some of the most important qualities you sought in your provider?
- How long did the selection process take?
- What ultimately led to your decision to go with [your company name]?
- What were the goals you set prior to working with [your company name]?
- Have you met those goals yet? (If not quite yet, be sure to find out why!)
- Can you provide details on how [your company name]’s technology has helped you reach your goals?
- How are things different now that you’ve met your goals? What’s next on the horizon?
Strategy Hypothesis and Strategy Implementation
For these two sections of the blog, much of the content will come from internal sources, including you! However, you may want to ask some questions like:
- How was the transition to the new technology?
- What part of the process did you find particularly helpful?
- How long did the implementation take?
- How are things different now with [technology name] in place?
- Can you provide any data or analytics on how much time or money has been saved by implementing [technology name]?
- How do users feel about the purchase?
- If your goal has been met, can you provide more details?
2. Use NPS Data to Create a List of Happy Clients
One of the most difficult parts of writing case studies is actually finding the right clients to speak to. Nothing is more embarrassing than sending an email to a client asking them to chat, only to find out they’re unhappy with your product.
For this reason, we recommend doing an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey. According to the NPS survey website, “the Net Promoter Score measures customer experience and predicts business growth. This proven metric transformed the business world and now provides the core measurement for customer experience management programs the world round.”
In short, NPS survey results give you a pulse on client happiness based on a single score of 0-10, representing how likely a client is to recommend you to a colleague/friend, etc. Those who score you as a 9 or 10 are your ideal points of contact for a case study.
Be sure to focus on variety, too. Once you have your list of happy clients, determine what makes them similar and different. Variety will help you cast a wider net when meeting with prospective clients.
3. Be Mindful of Timing
Great case studies are all about great timing. You want to give your clients enough time after they’ve launched your product to use it and meet their goals. But, you also sometimes want to capitalize on the positive interactions your client may have had during the roll-out process.
If you’re not doing an NPS survey, follow up with clients directly after launch to get a pulse on their satisfaction. Depending on the topic at hand, now may be a great time to schedule a call. Then, follow up a few months later to give them enough time to use the product. You may also find it helpful to reach out to clients who your company has worked with for years.
4. Always Allow Clients to Review
Case studies are written based upon great relationships, which you want to maintain. This means, you always want to give the featured customer an opportunity to review and edit the case study. They’ll be happy you asked, trust us!
5. Remain Objective
Unlike blog posts, or even eBooks, where you may feel the need to interject your opinion or a personal anecdote, case studies should always be objective. Time to return back to your college thesis days and focus on the facts at hand.
6. Distribute When and Where Appropriate
Case studies can either be housed on your blog, or behind a form in your resource library. Placing case studies behind a form aids in lead generation and marketing automation, while placing them on the blog can help with SEO and nurturing leads along in the funnel. And remember, having them available in both places can’t hurt. You can also use them in email, on social media, and more.
Case studies are a vital component of your company’s content marketing strategy, and can ultimately tip buyers over the edge to purchase your product. Because case studies are meant to detail how a particular process helped a client obtain a positive outcome, case studies are often treated as more of an analytics (or even scientific) piece of content. And without them, it’s quite difficult to sell prospective clients on the value of your product.