That’s right, case studies have actual magic powers.
And if you’re not using them for your business, you’re really missing a trick!
What is a case study?
A case study is an in-depth look at a real-life situation in which a customer has either:
- Bought your product
- Used your service
- Implemented your system
- Followed your advice.
They’re usually told in the form of a story and, like all good stories, have a beginning, a middle and an end.
The beginning sets the scene, describing your customer and the problem or need they had. The middle deals with what you did for them, and the end talks about the results.
What makes the best case study?
The best case studies feature happy customers who’ve really benefitted from what you’ve done for them. But that should be obvious.
More than that, they tell an interesting story that will keep your audience engaged.
For example, maybe:
- The problem wasn’t straightforward
- There were specific challenges to overcome
- Things went wrong and you had to turn them around
- You used a rare, new or special technique to get the results
- Something unexpected or surprising happened
- The result was better than anyone expected.
The case study can be your account of what happened, but it’s much more effective if it involves your customer and is told from their point of view, in their own words.
Case study vs testimonial
Case studies and testimonials are both recommendations from satisfied customers, but there are some key differences.
Testimonials tend to focus on the results and improvements rather than the full process.
Case studies are in-depth stories that describe the customer journey in detail. From the outlining the problem and describing the solution to the results achieved and conclusions reached.
Testimonials are driven by the customer. You might push your customer for a testimonial — you might even provide a format or give them a few generic questions to answer. But the actual piece will be voluntarily written and submitted by your customer, in their own words.
Case studies are instigated by you, the provider. It’s you who creates the narrative, devising specific questions for your customer that will get you the valuable soundbites to support it.
Benefits of case studies in marketing
Now you understand what a case study is and what makes a good one, we can look at how they work their magic and what they can achieve for you.
Create engagement through storytelling
Businesses are constantly looking for ways to engage their audiences. And people enjoy stories — especially if they’re interesting. Case studies satisfy both sides.
A good story makes your customer the hero and details their journey as they negotiate their way from their problem to your solution.
Get a professional result
Testimonials can only do so much. Even if you give some guidance or provide a framework, ultimately, it’s your customer’s remit to write the testimonial and submit it.
But there’s no guarantee your customer will be good with words. They might not express themselves clearly enough, they might miss important points, or they might make mistakes.
With a case study, you can use a professional case study writer. Someone who can create a compelling story and integrate your customer’s experience.
Control the narrative
With a case study, you have control of the story.
Most case studies start life as a set of questions. These will be used to lead an audio or video conversation between an interviewer and the customer. The interviewer will have specific points they want to get from the conversation and can adapt their line of questioning to make sure those points are covered.
The interviewer could be your case study writer or another representative from your organisation.
Your case study writer will then take the interview and extract the choice information and soundbites to create a case study that sells you and your product or service.
Showcase your product or service
A case study is an opportunity to show what you offer as a real-world example and in a setting where it has been successful. It’s a chance to talk about the elements that have had the biggest impact on your customer and which have been most transformative.
Demonstrate social proof
Social proof is the evaluation of your product or service by people who’ve used it or experienced it first hand.
It could be in the form of a testimonial, review or — you’ve guessed it — a case study!
Demonstrating social proof is important to your prospects — 93% of potential buyers read online reviews before deciding to purchase a product or not.
Case studies are fantastic for demonstrating social proof, because they go much deeper than testimonials or reviews. And they spend more time setting the scene and describing the problem in detail.
This allows prospects to align their experience with the experience of your customers and imagine themselves in your customers’ shoes.
Build trust and credibility
It’s a well-known fact that people will trust what others say about your business more than they trust what you say about it yourself.
Nielsen’s latest study on trust in advertising shows that 66% of people trust consumer opinions posted online.
So it stands to reason that the experiences of your previous customers will be key to establishing and building trust and credibility among your prospects.
Case studies can do this more effectively than a standard review or testimonial, because they see the situation from both sides. This means they can take into account things you did behind the scenes that your customers might not have been aware of at the time.
This can be helpful if you had a particular challenge to work through and want to show how you went above and beyond what you would normally have to do.
Convert more prospects into customers
The storytelling used in case studies can help to increase your conversions. This is because storytelling is designed to trigger an emotional response and 95% of purchasing decisions are emotionally driven.
When prospects can relate to the problems described in the case study and can see how your solution has worked for someone else, they’re more likely to believe it could work for them, too — and they’re more likely to buy.
Inform future copy and campaigns
Conducting a case study can teach you a lot about your customers.
For example, you get to see:
- What they focus on and what’s important to them
- How they feel about your product/service in their own words
- How they describe things and the language they use
- The difference you’ve made to their lives first hand.
The insight you get from hearing customers talk about their experience is priceless.
This can be used to inform and strengthen the copy and campaigns you create in future, making them more customer-centric and more compelling for your readers.
Need a case study writer?
If you like what you’ve read here and think case studies could be a valuable marketing tool for your business, you may be wondering what to do next.
One course of action would be to get in touch with an experienced case study writer who understands how case studies work and can help guide you through the next stages.
I’m Jenny, a creative UK copywriter. I’ve been writing case studies for my clients for several years now and have seen the potential they have to inform prospects and create new business.