People way up many factors when deciding to buy a particular product or service, but usually the biggest question floating around their head is “Will this product/service help me solve the problem I’m facing?”.
Sometimes, the answer to this question is simple – for example if someone is looking for a new food processor with a specific function, they can quickly check the product specifications and see if it does what they need.
But that’s not always true, particularly when someone is contemplating the purchase of an expensive, complex product/service.
Someone looking at signing up to a £1,000 a month contract for marketing services, for example, will likely have more questions and concerns than someone buying a £65 food processor.
This is where case studies can really help to promote your business, and seal extra sales that you might have otherwise missed out on.
What is a case study?
In marketing, a case study is a document explaining how a client (either a business or an individual) used your business’s product or service to solve a problem they were facing.
The idea is that if you can demonstrate how you’ve already solved a particular problem for one customer, than other customers will feel confident that you can solve the same problem for them.
A case study will usually feature:
- A description of the customer/client – Including the problem they were facing and any solutions they’d tried in the past that hadn’t work.
- The reason they chose your product/service – This should include any specific goals the customer/client had, and why they thought you could help them achieve these goals.
- How you expected your product/service to meet their needs – In the case of a product, this is likely to involve explaining how its features matched the client’s goals. (For example, if selling an email marketing product, you might talk about how the segmentation feature could help them send focused emails.) If you’re selling a service, you’d use this section to set out the strategy you’d created for your client.
- How the strategy was implemented – You can skip this section if you’re selling a product. However, if you created a strategy you should explain how you carried out that strategy.
- Results and conclusion – Explain how the goals you detailed earlier were met, and the positive results this had for the customer/client. You should also include a call to action so the reader knows what they should do if the case study has convinced them you’re the right business for them.
What a case study isn’t
Although a case study is promotional material, it isn’t an advert or a press release. Although your business will feature in any case study, it’s important to remember that the main focus should be the client/customer.
A good case study should be closer to word of mouth marketing, rather than any other form of promotional activity.
How to write a case study
Now you know what should be featured in a case study, it’s time to create one. Here’s what you need to do:
Identify a suitable customer/client
Clearly you need to identify a very happy customer/client to be the basis for your case study. If you’re selling a product/service which is ongoing (eg a subscription-based product, or a service such as marketing) then you’ll need to ensure the case study candidate is still a customer, and is likely to remain one.
Identifying a suitable customer/client will be easier if you have a strong customer service programme in place.
Contact the prospective case study subject
The next step is to get in touch with the prospective case study subject and ask them if they’d be interested in participating.
Now, not everyone will say yes so rather than pinning your hopes on just one potential subject, you may want to draw up a list of three or four.
When asking someone to be involved with a case study you should:
- Be clear what the process entails – This will likely include at least one interview, and the sharing of business-related data.
- Be clear what the information will be used for – This will probably involve the case study being shared via your website and social media channels.
- Let them know they’ll be asked to sign a formal release document – It’s a good idea to ask anyone providing a case study to sign a release document agreeing that their interview, stats and any photos taken can be used by your for promotional purposes. It will avoid any potential problems further down the line. You can find a release template here.
- Be clear that the process won’t inconvenience them in anyway – Let them know that any interviews will be conducted via video chat at a time that suits them, or that you’ll travel to them to carry out any interview.
- Be clear that they’ll be able to sign off on the case study before it’s released – Although the release form means that technically you don’t have to do this, you won’t want to create an unhappy customer/client by issuing a case study they’re not happy with. So let them look over the final case study before you start to use it.
Conduct the interview
Once you’ve got a case study candidate lined up, the next step is to interview them.
If you’re planning on doing a written case study, all that matters is you can record the conversation with audio quality sufficient that you (or someone else) can transcribe what has been said. (A smartphone should do the trick, provided you’re in a quiet location.)
If you plan to do a video case study, then you’ll need to make sure that you are able to record high quality video and audio. If your phone has an HD camera, then combined with a tripod, it will provide quality visuals. However, it’s likely you’ll need to buy a microphone to record sound at high enough quality. (If you have your heart set on video case studies, you may want to hire a professional videographer to avoid problems.)
You should also remember to keep the focus of the interview on the customer/client.
Questions to ask include:
- What issues were they facing when they started looking for a business like yours?
- What methods had they tried to solve those issues in the past?
- Why had those attempts failed?
- Why did they decide to use your business?
- What benefits did using your product/service bring them (make sure you get permission to share any stats that back up this answer.)
- What was the experience of working with your business like?
- The answers to these questions will provide a solid basis for a case study that highlights the benefits of picking your business over your competitors.
Write and design your case study
If you’re a confident writer, you may wish to turn the interview into a case study yourself. If not, you might want to contemplate using a freelance. You can find freelance copywriters using a service such as UpWork.
You should also think about how you want the final case study to look – a well-designed case study is much more effective. Again, you may want to hire a freelancer to help with this.
Some questions to think about before writing up and designing your case study are:
- Where are you planning to use the case study? A case study that is used on a sales page to increase conversions will be longer than one used in emails, or social media. (Remember, you can use the same interview to produce more than one kind of case study.)
- What are the key points of the case study? This is likely to be the positive results your business created for the customer/client. Make sure the design of the case study emphasises these points.
- What should readers of the case study do next? Although the main focus of the case study is on the customer/client, it’s still a promotional tool. So decide on a call to action and make sure it’s prominently featured in the conclusion of the case study. (You can learn more about case studies in this guide.)
Implement and promote your case study
Once you’re happy with your case study, it’s time to put it to work.
Exactly what you do with it and how you promote it will depend on the kind of case study you’ve created.
If you’re using your case study on a sales page, then it’s likely you’ll continue to promote that page in the same way (via pay-per-click advertising, for example.)
If you’re using the case study to generate leads, then you’re likely to start promoting the link to your case study across social media, and you’ll probably want to use paid advertising to boost that.
If the case study has been designed especially for social media, then again you’re highly likely to use paid social advertising to spread the word.
Don’t forget to monitor the results that promoting your case study brings – focus on important metrics such as new leads, sales, and new clients.
Case studies can be an exceedingly powerful way to promote your business, especially if you’re selling a complex product or service.
Make sure you keep the focus of your case study on the people you’ve helped, not your business, and be sure to bring on board pros to help you if required.