Good case studies win business. Telling the story of how real customers have successfully used your product or service convinces others to buy it.
Having written hundreds of case studies for a wide range of clients, we at Articulate know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.
The power of case studies
Case studies are too often seen as inert website furniture. But speed and reach is key – case studies have a short half-life.
A good case study should take about a week from first contact to final sign off, which is easy with an efficient external agency such as, ahem, Articulate, dealing with the fiddly bits like contacting and interviewing the customer and dealing with release approval. And, ideally, you want one person to approve the case study. Having a committee edit a case study results in endless drafts and a lifeless finished product.
With a quick turnaround, you provide your sales team with hot ammunition and you can broadcast the case study across your social networks – why not send it out to some prospects in a related industry who have yet to bite?
That’s the beauty of the case study. Used well, it’s a powerful piece of targeted marketing and your case study database on your website should reflect this. Rather than arranging them alphabetically, organise them by industry or, even better, by benefits. ‘Want to boost your sales? Here are some customers who’ve done just that.’
But, more than that, case studies are useful tools down the entire marketing and sales funnel, from top to bottom. For those just getting to know your business, they provide a brief, relevant overview of what your product or service offers; they give those further down the funnel the final push with a story they can relate to; and they delight your existing customers by exhibiting their success.
Ultimately, case studies make your business easier to relate to and the value of your product or service more tangible.
What makes a good case study?
First and foremost, the story.
This requires interviewing the right person. You need a case study champion – someone in the company who’s been successfully using your product or service. But avoid marketing and PR people; you risk getting a repackaged, hollow story that won’t ring true.
Your prospects don’t want a rejigged press release or a list of facts – they want a story that they can relate to. This means finding the unique heart of your customer’s story. Don’t just write the story you want to hear; companies don’t tend to grow by 250 percent in six months. Write the story they tell. This could be expanding into new markets, saving time and money on paperwork, or increasing productivity without an increase in personnel. Whatever it is, make sure it drives the case study.
Too many case studies fall into the formulaic ‘challenge–solution–results’ structure, making for a very dry, monotonous read. And that’s if they’re read at all.
That’s not to say case studies shouldn’t have structure. They should, but don’t rigidly stick to it. Structures are there to emphasise the story, not shackle it. Tweak your headings and layout if the story calls for it.
Equally, don’t sterilize the customer story with PR speak and jargon. You should try to let the character of the person you interview shine through the story with short, snappy quotes dotted sparingly through the piece. No frankenquotes.
And, just because it’s a story, it doesn’t mean it has to be long. Five hundred words is plenty. Anymore than 750 and no one will read it.