The Formula for Perfect Case Studies

by Jess Glynn on July 6, 2013

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The Formula for Perfect Case StudiesMovie trailers can really mislead us. You go to see a new comedy the night it comes out because the commercials are funny. You pay the high cost of the movie ticket, add a popcorn and a giant soda. Your experience is made worse by the person sitting behind you on their cell phone. The worst part is you've already heard all the jokes because they were all played in the commercial.


Unfortunately, you leave feeling ripped off and disappointed.


After a few of these experiences you stop going to see movies on opening weekend. You ask around if anyone has seen a movie you're interested in, or you read reviews in magazines and online. You're a smarter consumer for your bad experience. Your customers have had bad experiences too.  They are following the same methodology when deciding who to do business with. Prepare for them to approach you with caution.


According to a recent Nielsen report the second most trusted form of advertising is opinions from strangers posted online. The only form of advertising people trust more are the opinions of people they know. You can encourage your customers to post positive reviews of you or you can take control of the content with case studies.


Case studies are a great way to show prospects your value. Instead of just explaining your product or services, case studies enable you to demonstrate their real life application. They let others speak for you. Creating case studies can be a time consuming process, but if you execute them correctly they can add credibility and context to your inbound strategy, leading prospects further down the sales funnel.


1. The Cast


The first thing you need to do when you want to create case studies is decide which customers to approach. Consider all the different industries you serve. Think about which clients within each industry have seen the best results. If you aren't sure ask your sales team or anyone who works directly with clients. Find out who the best contact person is and get an introduction. Find out their preferred method of follow up; setting up a meeting for a traditional interview or answering questions via email.


2. The Script


No matter what format you choose for your case studies (text vs. video, bullet points vs. narrative) there are a few key sections you must include.


The Set-Up


Customers don't just appear out of thin air, ready to do business with you. Your inbound strategy led them to you. They had a problem or needed more information. The challenges your customers were facing before finding you are the same ones other businesses face. Presenting challenges shows the big picture and helps you tell a story that people can relate to. Prepare interview questions ahead of time. This will help you gather all the information you need.


The Plot


Every challenge you outline needs to have a solution. Don't leave your audience hanging. Now they care about your characters and need to know what happens next. Your solutions are the most important part of the case study.


Ask yourself: How did I address my clients needs and save the day?


Get permission from your client to put their headshot with their case study. The face of real customers helps make the subject real for the reader.  You could also add a video of your interview. If you sell a product include pictures or a video of the product in action. If you don't have a visual product, take a strong quote from the interview and turn it into an eye-catching graphic.


testimonials


For inspiration, check out the way Hubspot  includes their clients face next to a quote or testimonial. Photos are a great way to add depth, allowing your readers to draw a connection to your customers.


The Happy Ending


How did your solutions work for your client?


Include real data to illustrate your success. Statistics like "Increased sales by 50% in the first month" emphasize the results you achieved. Include quotes from the client on why they are happy with their results or what differences they are noticing in their business since working with you.


3. Publicity


Before publishing a new case study, send the finished product to the client for their approval. Then publish to your website and on social media. Make the case study section of your website easy to find and to navigate by creating categories.


P.S ... don't forget to send new case studies out to your team.


4. Closing Credits


Link back to your subject within the case study, they just did you a favor and they deserve recognition!


Case studies are an opportunity for you to share the success stories you have been a part of.  Make high quality case studies a priority and watch them turn into a useful sales tool.

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