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How to write a case study and why you need them
When was the last time you bought anything before researching online reviews? If you’re like most, the answer is never. According to research, 91 percent of people read online reviews and 84 percent trust reviews as much as friends.
And these impressive stats don’t just apply to consumers. B2B buyers and customers pay close attention to reviews—online or word-of-mouth.
B2B buyers read case studies
B2B buyers are just as diligent as consumers when researching options. But in the B2B world, reviews can come in the form of comprehensive case studies or success stories.
Yes, the venerable case study—a tactic that’s been part of integrated marketing campaigns since David Ogilvy was writing copy—is still relevant in the age of digital marketing.
The typical B2B buyer traverses a journey that takes them through three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision (See Figure 1 below). Research by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs in 2018 showed that 42 percent of surveyed marketers found the case study to be the most effective content during the consideration stage and 40 percent during the decision stage (Figure 2).
Why case studies are so effective
- Case studies are compelling because they’re highly credible and trustworthy. And why not; it’s not your company spouting glowing self-platitudes, it’s your customers honestly sharing the experiences they’ve had with your products and services.
- Buyers and prospects love to read stories and experiences about other companies and competitors. It’s human nature to want to compare your company—or yourself—to others. For instance, in a series of online case studies (member stories) I wrote for Vistage International, web users spend an average of three-four minutes reading these stories.
- Customers are usually enthusiastic about helping the sponsoring company out with a case study. That’s because your customer’s name—and a link to their website—will appear in the article, and search results.
- Case studies are cost-efficient, particularly for small to midsize companies. Tip: If you hire a professional writer, plan to pay $800–$1,500 for a case study of 1,000–2,000 words or more. Costs will vary by geographical area. Keep in mind; you’ll pay more for writers in Silicon Valley than Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
How to write a case study
- Many case studies are written from a rigid construct—perfect for companies that want to build an extensive portfolio of case studies. I like to write these using a three-point story arc: situation, solution, and results. Besides publishing the case study on your website, create a PDF version your customers and sales team can download and share (Read this example).
- Some case studies do not lend themselves to a structured narrative. Try writing these using a feature article approach. Read this example from Vistage International.
- Videos are useful if done well, and web users love video content. These (2–4 minutes) case studies provide less detail than their written counterpart but make up for it with “punch” and a more visceral connection with your prospects. View this example from EOS Worldwide.
Case study development best practices
Finally, here are a few best practices to follow that will help you create compelling and effective case studies:
- Make your customer the hero of the case study; spend more time talking about your customer and less time talking about your company.
- Interview your customer in person (if possible). People are less guarded when you’re sitting across the table.
- Record the interview and use a reliable transcription service. I recommend Rev for speed, quality, and best price.
- Use plenty of customer quotes in your piece for added color and credibility.
- Illustrate your case studies with photographs, diagrams, and charts to help tell the story.
Editor’s note: This post, originally published in 2015, has been updated with current research and statistics on February 22, 2019.