The latest rage in content marketing is storytelling, but this is old news for B2Bs, who have been using case studies since the beginning of time to establish credibility and directly influence purchasing decisions. Most case studies naturally fit into a story format:
- A business problem or opportunity is described
- A solution (product or service) is implemented
- A problem is solved or an opportunity is realized
Case studies are persuasive for two reasons. First, the story format is much more interesting than a recitation of cold facts. Second, case studies take the focus of the seller, which is boring, and turn the spotlight on the customer. Nevertheless, poor execution can dilute or destroy a case study's effectiveness.
5 Tips for Writing a Case Study
- Consider your audience. Engineers are interested in technical details and thorough explanations. Executives are more receptive to summaries that make hard hitting, high level points. Trying to appeal to both audiences? Start with an executive summary and then present all of the details.
- Facts sell. We helped a company dramatically increase sales sounds dubious -- it's an unsupported claim. We helped a company increase sales 127% in five key markets within 12 months sounds like something a business professional would want to sign up for.
- Make the problem relevant. In some ways, every business is unique; in other ways, all businesses are the same. When setting up the story -- stating the problem or opportunity -- emphasize those aspects that have the broadest appeal. If you get too much into the details of a company's specific issues, you may lose readers before they make the connection between what is happening in the case study and what is happening in their company.
- Use jargon judiciously. Conventional copywriting wisdom says never use technical jargon. Case studies can be an exception, though -- it all goes back to knowing your audience. If your study is going to appear on an industry-specific website read predominantly by people in your industry, jargon can actually be a plus. On the other hand, if the study will appear on a general interest site, jargon will confuse and turn off readers. If the study will appear in both types of sites (or print publications), it may be worth creating two versions.
- Images clarify complex and/or new ideas. If you are struggling to describe a business problem or solution in a reasonable number of words, consider replacing text with a pie chart, graph, before/after photo, or some other visual approach that conveys the idea(s). Infographics, while overused by Internet marketers, are actually a perfect format for case studies with a lot of complexity, or for new products or services the readers may not be familiar with.
Over to You
Do you have case study composition tips? Please share!