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Aug 31, 2020 | 6 min read

The Dos and Don’ts of Creating a Case Study

Content Marketing

Case studies can make or break a sale. Make sure you’re showing prospective clients all you have to offer.

Case studies are a crucial part of the sales process. They are usually introduced later in the B2B buyer’s journey, and can make or break a potential sale. As a result, every case study you create needs to be the product of careful consideration. Your case studies showcase what your company can do, demonstrate the ROI on your products or services, and make a compelling case for why your company can solve a customer’s problems.

As with all marketing collateral, case studies should be designed with their audience in mind. Your prospects want to know: “Have you done this before?” The ultimate goal of a case study is to show them you have, and effectively. Walk your prospect through what you’ve done, and prompt them to visualize the benefits of working with you.

Designing a case study can be a delicate dance, but here are some of the do’s and don’ts to help you get started.

The Don’ts of Case Studies

Take a One-Size-Fits-All Approach: Don’t simply publish your case study and leave it at that – ensure that your content adapts to the format it’s presented in. If you have the budget, make multiple versions of a winning case study. Consider having two versions of your studies: a shorter version that’s available on your website and a more-detailed version that you send to low-funnel prospects. Also consider producing case studies in multiple formats — everything from social graphics, to videos, to designed landing pages, to PDFs — to appeal to multiple audiences.

Bury Them on Your Website: There’s no point in creating case studies if your prospects can’t find them! Potential buyers should not have to navigate a maze of menus and submenus to find your case studies. Make your case studies easier to find by creating a “resources” or “case studies” page on your website that is clearly accessible from the landing page.

Additionally, although case studies are a high-intent piece of collateral, don’t make the mistake of keeping them at the bottom of the marketing funnel. You want high quality leads to find your case studies easily — this can accelerate the sales process and invite deal-making conversations.

Overwrite: Keep your language simple, and don’t try to cram too much text into one case study. As you write, make sure that every sentence supports the message you’re trying to convey and that it’s concise. Use clear headers and keep it skim-friendly. Make them visually easy to follow — your readers shouldn’t need a microscope to find the answers they’re looking for!

The Do’s of Case Studies

Ask for Permission: With a few exceptions, you must ask your client for permission before you publish a case study. Having your clients onboard from the beginning not only prevents unpleasant conversations down the line, but can also add more to the case study itself in the form of testimonials or internal statistics. If you don’t yet have a clause in your contracts that allows you to adopt client work as a case study, consider adding it now. Some clients will negotiate it out — and that’s perfectly fine — but start from a place of “yes.”

Be Smart About the Case Studies You Choose: The point of the case study is to reflect a variety of clients’ needs as closely as possible. When you’re choosing a case study to write, think about how many prospective clients it could appeal to. You will need to tailor each study to fit the profile of the specific clients you’re attempting to recruit, but that’s better than having to create brand new case studies for each prospect.

In general, try to make sure you can speak to companies of different sizes, challenges, and industries. It’s even better if the client in the case study is willing to be a reference. They can champion your company and services to prospects and explain your value from a client’s perspective.

Tell a Story: Before you begin writing your case study, figure out exactly what you want to say. You should identify a pain point that you were able to address and clearly tell the story of how you did it. Try to ensure that your clients can see themselves and their challenges in the narratives within your case studies — be it targeting a new demographic, successfully executing a rebrand, or scaling their sales efforts. This way, they leave the case study thinking, “If this firm can help this company solve this problem, they can help me solve my problem too.”

Brag about Your Achievements: Results are the most important thing you can include in a case study. Make sure they show up loudly and legibly and that they demonstrate the success of your specific strategies. Case studies aren’t the place for generalities; the more specific you can be, the better — and don’t forget, numbers speak louder than words. Use real numbers wherever possible, and if you can’t use the real stats, use approximations or estimates to quantify your results.

Prioritize Great Design: Far too often, case studies neglect design — but this is a mistake. Aesthetics matters when buyers are making their decision. Not only is this an opportunity to communicate your brand, it can also help make your case study more legible, appealing, and in turn, memorable.

Case studies are your opportunity to showcase your company’s skills. Make the most of the chance you’re given by appealing directly to your audience, offering clear results, and making your content easily accessible. Remember: a great case study can be the difference between a lasting client relationship and a deal that falls through the cracks.

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