Guide to a great case study

Why Should I care about case studies?

Case studies serve many important roles in B2B marketing and sales.

They generate high quality leads when placed behind marketing formsThey can help close sales (especially when you're not there to do the talking)They build your reputation

They are one of the most versatile and effective sales and marketing tools.

Despite this, many clients have out of date or missing case studies. In this article, we share some simple steps that will help you build new case studies or refresh your existing library.

Step 1. Pick the right clients

First, it's important to make each case study specific to one client. The story and emotional impact will be stronger if you can show how a client was transformed by your solution.

When picking the client, find one whom:

  • Loves what you do
  • Have a story that will resonate with your target user
  • (ideally) Are known and respected by your target user

If most of your clients are in the healthcare industry, write about a prescription drugs company you helped. If your audience is mostly advertisers, highlight a marketing agency you’ve worked with. Your goals are to make your reader feel that you are an expert in their industry, understand their needs, and that your product or service makes their job easier.

Step 2. Structure the case study

Before going into long form text, structure the case study. The "dot-dash" approach is good here (article on this coming soon!).

Here's a great structure to start with:

1) Essentials
  • Company
  • Client role
  • Industry
  • Time you've been working together
2) Context
  • Who is the company?
  • What do they do?
  • What is the context that you were helping with (e.g. they have a sales team of 100 people, etc.)?
3) Problem
  • What was the problem they were facing?
  • How were they solving this before you?
  • What was the impact of this problem (ideally financial)?
  • Insert a quote from the client
4) How you helped
  • How did you work with the client?
  • What was the solution?
5) Impact
  • What was the qualitative impact?
  • What was the quantitative impact?
  • Insert a quote from the client
6) Call to action
  • What do you want the client to do after reading the case study? e.g. "Call the sales team".

Fill out this structure (or your own structure) with sub-points. Voice over the story to a colleague for their feedback, and revise as needed.

TipThe case study should be succinct - no more than 6 major points - and it should flow as a compelling story. Remember that clients make emotional judgments on what they read, which can be more significant in decision making than rational arguments.

Step 3. Create the content

Now fill out the structure with long form text. This is an area you can outsource to a good copywriter. Sketch out images and diagrams wherever they will get the story across more clearly.

Share the case study with the client at this stage to get their buy in and feedback. I usually find clients are more receptive to being the topic of a case study once they've read a draft.

TipSketchDeck are in beta with a copywriting service - get in touch if you want to try it out!

Step 4. Design

Marketing collateral is judged before the first word is read by its look and feel. A word doc just isn't going to cut it!

You should create a professional looking, branded template for your case studies. Use an in-house designer or try SketchDeck out for this. As well as creating the template, you should include imagery, logos, charts and diagrams to bring the case study to life. Use formatting to highlight quotes and important parts of the story.

Most of your clients will consume the case study on their laptop, phone or iPad. You should embed links in the PDFs to your website, for example a link to a "book a call".

TipYou can give SketchDeck your content, and they will do all of the design for you!

Step 5. Final proof

Now you have a well structured, great looking case study. Before you share it with the world, get feedback from your colleagues and get final approval from the client.

Step 6. Distribute

Case studies are only valuable when clients read them! Here are the places your case studies should live and grow:

1) On your website

Case studies are great for generating high quality leads. Place them behind a marketing form on prominent pages of your website. Follow up with clients after they download them.

2) In the hands of your sales team

These are incredibly valuable to your sales team. They can send them out to clients who they're talking to, take them to meetings, etc. Case studies play a valuable role of selling you deep inside a company where your team will struggle to penetrate.

3) Print and bring them to conferences and events

A physical document, printed well is irresistible to read. Take these along to conferences and events and give out alongside your other materials.

Step 7. Repeat for every successful client

You will want more than one case study. Case studies are more powerful if the client can relate to the situation described.

You should have at least one case study for every market vertical and product/service combination that you offer.

TipOne company we spoke to drafted a case study for every new client. As well as generating lots of valuable content, the exercise forced the company to learn the impact they were having with each client, and fix if anything was going off track.

Step 8. Analyze, revise and update

Now you have a great library of case studies in the places your clients can reach them. But don't stop there!

Much like you track your website performance, track your case study performance. Which case studies are getting the most downloads? What are the conversion rates to qualified leads and to closed clients? What are the click rates inside the pdf? Revise the case studies based on what you learn.

There are many great tools out there to help with this, but we'll save that for another time.

Finally, case studies should be kept up to date. At a minimum, review them at least once per year and replace those that are stale.

Wrap up

There you have it!

We hope you see how valuable case studies are for your business, and how easy it is to create or update your existing library.

If you have any feedback or comments, please contact the team using the form below.

Other useful resources

We're not the only one's writing guides to case studies! Here are some others that we found helpful:

And finally, you can place a case study project with sketchdeck here.

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