Case studies are the solution to last-minute resistance (LMR). When a prospective customers can’t make up their mind, a case study puts the debate to rest. It’s like a “proof of concept” that shows potential customers that your product or service really works.
That explains why B2B marketers are big on this tactic, with two-thirds of them admitting to using case studies as part of their digital marketing strategy.
Case studies tell the story that a prospective customer is desperate to hear — a success story. Do you understand their pain points?
Or do you know of people who have been through the same struggle and come out unscathed?
Showing them that you understand their problems and how you solved them for someone else can be the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity.
However, creating a great case study isn’t easy.
You’ve got to find the right customer or client and get them on board with your idea. Remember, we all have stories to tell, but not every story inspires trust. So, when you approach a customer for their story, ensure it aligns with your brand and values.
You must also track down the client and ask them permission to tell their story. Plus, you’ll need numbers to back up the case. Numbers add credibility to any story. You also have got to put the study in a format that is easy for your target audience to digest.
What’s a Case Study?
Let’s first define what we mean by “case study.”
For the unacquainted, a case study is a detailed write-up of how your product or services helped solve a customer’s problem. It usually includes details such as the customer’s background, problems, and how your solutions helped them overcome them.
It’s more than a testimonial in that it provides an in-depth look into the customer’s experience with your product or services and how it helped them solve their problems. It’s also more than just an article about your product in that it provides context and proof to back up your claims.
In the case study, the client’s outcome from using the product is clear:
- They receive 1800 plus email subscribers
- They also recorded a $17,0000 average sales profit
- And lastly, their website retention rate increased by 35%.
To summarise, case studies deeply examine a customer’s problem and how your product or services has helped them solve it. The idea is to build trust and credibility in the process.
So, you’re not just telling them that your product solved their problem but walking them through the details, including the process, the data, and the cumulative outcome.
Each case study focuses on one specific customer, not a lumped-up group.
What Information Should You Include in a Case Study?
A case study should neither be long nor overly technical. It should be concise and to the point. So, what information should be included in a case study?
- A basic overview of the client: You should start by introducing the client, what they do, and stand for. The chances are good that not all of your readers know the client, so this is a great way to get them up to speed.
- A description of the problem they were facing: What challenges or roadblocks were they facing that prompted them to reach out to you? It’s an opportunity for you to dive deep and establish some empathy with your readers.
- A Description of the Solution: How did you solve their problem? What steps and tools did you employ to get the client out of that sticky situation?
- The Results after Intervention: This is the most important aspect of a case study. You want to include direct, measurable results (numbers) that clearly show how your solution helped the customer. For instance, maybe their website visits increased by 500%, or they saw an average sales increase of $5,000.
- A Testimonial from the Client: People love reading what others say about your solutions. Ask the customer for a testimonial and include it in the case study.
That’s pretty much like it. Now you have all the information that should be included in your case study. The rest is just a matter of putting it all together and ensuring it flows nicely.
After all, you want your case study to be engaging and persuasive enough to convince more customers that you are the real deal.
Some caveat: Case studies can be a huge waste of time and resources if you try to turn them into these massive projects. The truth is, your customers don’t read them like novels. They want to get in, learn the facts, and move on. So, don’t overdo it. Just keep it simple and to the point.
3 Tips to Create Case Studies That Convert Prospective Customers into Buyers
#1. Tell the Story but with the Client as the Star, Not Your Brand
You’re only a tool in the story. The focus is on the client and how your product or service helped them reach their goals.
Custom-centric case studies are what really pull the reader in and make them trust you. After all, prospective customers consume case studies because they want to see how other companies or businesses solved their problems.
You don’t want to sound too promotional or sales-y, as this will make your readers think you are more focused on selling yourself than helping them or too good to be true.
By placing the client at the story’s centre and making them the hero, you’ll shift the narrative away from yourself and your brand to your customer’s success.
Here’s an Example:
The perfect example of a company that does this right is Xerox. Instead of harping about how great their product is and how it’s helped their customers, they have made themselves a secondary character in their case studies.
In this PDF compilation of Xerox case studies for banking and financial markets, you’ll see how they emphasize the customer’s successes and challenges instead of tooting their own horn.
The language is very customer-centric, using the word “you” throughout” the text and sparingly opting for first persona language such as “we” and “our.”
Here’s their opening statement:
They begin by talking about customer loyalty and how it’s influenced by effective communication. They then explain how they can help you integrate paper-based and digital workflows, automate processes, and make unstructured data in documents more accessible and searchable.
Not once do they brag about themselves or their services, but rather focus on how the customer can benefit from them.
They then proceed to share eight case studies, only highlighting the things the reader might be interested in, like the challenge, solution, and results.
In each case study, they explain their solution from the client’s perspective without mentioning their product anywhere.
Xerox doesn’t even mention the stars (clients) of their story. They simply let the customer’s success speak for itself. It’s an excellent strategy if you do not wish to disclose who the client is but still want to leverage the power of case studies.
While this is not the best example of case studies, it’s still worth looking at.
Of course, they could have done better with an engaging story, but this just goes to show that you don’t have to be fancy when writing case studies. Just focus on the customer, and let their success story do the talking.
#2. Create a Familiar Story Structure
The second aspect of creating case studies that convert prospective customers into paying buyers is to create a familiar structure for the reader. This is not the time to get innovative. All reader wants to find answers to the same questions:
- Are you familiar with their problem?
- Do you understand the problem?
- Do you have a solution for it?
- And does the solution work?
If you can answer these four questions the same way the customer understands them, you’d have created a case study that resonates with the reader.
The last thing you want is to make the reader work harder to find answers to these questions. Use the same structure as other case studies, and make it easy for your reader to understand the problem and solution at a glance.
Here’s an example of a company that does this perfectly:
Cognizant, a global tech service provider, has created a series of case studies that follow a familiar structure.
Their structure is simple: challenge, approach, and outcome for each client.
In this case study, they tell the client’s story, Planned Administrators, Inc, operating a legacy customer service application that wasn’t integrating with their core administrative system, Cognizant’s TriZetto QicLink.
It then lays out Cognizant’s approach to the problem: to build an integrated customer service application that could be accessed from any device. Finally, it shows the results of their efforts —a 10% reduction in call time, $138,500 elimination in annual fees, and $80,000 saved in annual IT maintenance costs.
Even better, Cognizant provides a link to a PDF with more details, so you can dig into the details if needed.
The PDF covers the story but with more information: added quotes from the client and a side box that summarizes the key details — like the location, industry, challenge, product and services, successful highlights, and more.
The case study paints a vivid picture of how one partner solved a common business problem with Cognizant’s help, which makes it all the more powerful.
#3. Make it Visually Appealing
Just because you’re dealing with content doesn’t mean the presentation has to be boring.
Readers don’t want to dig through large chunks of text, bloated paragraphs, or anything that doesn’t stimulate the brain.
The goal here is to make the information easy for readers to digest and understand, and one way to do this is by adding visuals.
Include diagrams, infographics, screenshots, videos — anything that breaks up the monotony of a text-heavy page. You want to create a page that allows the reader to quickly scan the content and understand what it’s about at a casual glance.
Here’s an example:
Superior Essex, a cable manufacturing company, took a different approach with their case study. They opted for an interactive case study that tells the story of their work for the corporate space of Delos, a wellness real-estate firm.
You can find the case study here.
The case study follows the same format as other case studies with content blocks but adds a unique touch with interactive visuals.
First, they paint a clear picture of the client’s pain points/needs, then highlight how their solution solved the problem. Finally, they discuss the results before giving a testimonial quote to reinforce their message.
However, they do it in a visually engaging way, allowing the reader to move the story along on a whim.
Users can click through each section of the case study, allowing them to explore what interests them most and interact with the content as they go.
It’s an incredibly powerful tool for communicating the value of their product or service.
We mentioned testimonials earlier as a critical way to reinforce your story in a case study.
A good testimonial is like a cherry on top: it completes your case study.
A well-crafted quote from someone who has used your solution to great success is the perfect way to close out your case study.
Superior Essex’s case study included a quote from Delos’s Vice President, Janna Wandzilak.
While the rest of the case study is narrated, the quote comes straight from the client, which makes it all the more effective. It also allows you to link to the client’s website, if they have one, so they can corroborate the story.
It also adds a personal touch to the case study, bringing it one step closer to an actual conversation between two people.
How to Get the Testimonial
Finding a testimonial can be tricky if you don’t already have a relationship with the client.
Ask for It
Your best bet is to reach out and ask if they’d be interested in contributing one.
After a successful engagement with a client (assuming you asked them for permission to write a case study), they should be more than happy to help you.
You can email the client asking them to write a 2- or three-sentence testimonial. You can even give them an example of what you’re looking for:
“We had a great experience working with (your company). They were incredibly helpful throughout the process and went out of their way to ensure we were happy with the final product.”
Here’s an example of an email you can use:
Subject: Request for Testimonial
We recently worked together to create a solution that improved (specific outcome). We would greatly appreciate it if you could provide us with a short testimonial about your experience. Here’s an example of the kind of testimonial we’re looking for:
“We had a great experience working with (your company). They were incredibly helpful throughout the process and went out of their way to ensure we were happy with the final product.”
If you are willing to provide us with a testimonial, we would be very grateful and will be sure to include it in our case study.
Thank you for your time,
Once you have the testimonial, you’re ready to move on to the next step in creating a successful case study.
If they don’t reply within a few days, it could mean they’re busy or have decided not to provide a testimonial. In either case, here’s another approach you want to try:
Write the testimonial for them.
Write a two or 3-sentence testimonial highlighting the value they received from working with you. Do it from their point of view and include specific details about how you helped them.
Then, you could send it to them for approval. Explain that your goal is to represent their experience working with you accurately.
Let them know that this is something you put together after your interaction and that you’d like them to either approve the testimonial as is, provide edits, or use it as a base for a testimonial they’d like to write.
Include a Picture
When you plan out the format for your case study, include a picture of the person who gave the testimonial (if possible). Including a photo helps make the testimonial more authentic and adds a personal touch to the story. Plus, it offers readers an easy way to connect with them.
Accompanying it with a quote from the person’s website or social media page further strengthens their credibility.
Keep it Short and Sweet
If you’ve done an excellent job of honing in on the details that matter to your prospects, you won’t need to include much extra information. The testimonial should be concise and to the point.
Try to keep it under three sentences if possible. Remember, you want to give your readers enough information to draw their own conclusions about the value of working with you without being overly wordy.
How to Package a Case Study
You’ve done the hard work and collected all the necessary information. It’s time to package it into a case study that will leave your prospects excited and eager to work with you.
So, how do you package the case study?
You can start by packaging the case study into a PDF file.
That’s because a PDF makes it easy to attach the case study to an email, add it to blog posts, include it in your social media content, and more.
Plus, you can include it in the proposal you send to your prospects as a way to add an extra layer of credibility and professionalism.
However, you do not want to overdo it with PDFs.
Too many PDFs can be overwhelming for your reader, so stick with a few relevant case studies that you think will be most effective in helping potential customers decide to work with you.
You also want to keep the case study at a maximum of one page, regardless of how large the case study is.
You also want to pay attention to the design of the case study.
First, it has to look professional, engaging, and polished.
Second, ensure that all the key information (like customer name, company logo, URL, etc.) is visible so your reader can easily find the information they need.
#2. A Web Page
If you want to take it further, you can create a web page for each case study.
The web page should include a brief introduction about the customer and the problem they were trying to solve.
It should then explain how you helped the customer solve their problem and summarize the results.
You also want to use visuals (such as screenshots, graphs, or other visuals) to help illustrate the results.
Finally, you want to include a call-to-action with a link at the end to direct people to other website pages or contact you for more information.
#3. A Video
Another great way to showcase your case studies is through video.
Creating videos gives people a deeper look into what you do and how you help your customers.
The video should be short (no more than 2 minutes), include a brief introduction, highlight the problem and how you helped solve it, and provide a summary of the results.
At the end of the video, you should also include a call-to-action with links to learn more or contact you.
How to Use Case Studies to Convert Prospective Customers into Paying Buyers
Once you’ve created your case studies, it’s time to put them to use.
So, how do you ensure that they convert readers into buyers?
Attach them to the Proposals You Send to Prospects
One of the most effective ways to use case studies is by attaching them to the proposals you send out.
The case study should provide evidence that you have helped other customers achieve success, which will help give your prospects the confidence they need to make a buying decision.
Cold emails are another way to make use of case studies.
When you send out cold emails, include a link to the relevant case study demonstrating how you’ve helped a customer.
The idea is to search for 30 to 50 potential prospects and then send them personalized cold emails with a link to the case study or an attached PDF (preferable) of the case study.
Finally, you can make use of case studies as a sales tool.
Instead of sending long emails or explaining the same thing multiple times, you can provide links to relevant case studies in your sales conversations.
That should make it easy for prospects to understand your value and how you can help them achieve their goals.
The Final Wrap Up
Case studies are more than a way to package your work and show potential customers what you can do.
It’s how you also tell a client that you’re professional, experienced, and worth their time.
And by creating compelling case studies, you can convince prospects that investing in your services is well worth it.
And yes, you don’t need a case study for every successful project. But having two or three effective ones on hand can help you close more deals.