Introduction to Marketing Case Studies
Case studies are often used in sales and marketing to help convert leads into clients or customers. A case study highlights a current client and how they used your product or service to get results. In today’s business landscape there are hundreds if not thousands of options for just about any service or product. Case studies set businesses apart and help them stand out from the competition.
Understanding the Purpose of a Marketing Case Study
While a case study is meant to highlight a success story of an individual or company your business worked with, it’s really an opportunity to build trust and credibility for your brand. Case studies, especially video case studies, show a real person, using their own words, to talk about their experience with your company.
People trust people, not brands. When a prospective customer reads or watches one of your customers discuss their experience and results from working with you, or using your product or service, this is tangible evidence that can help move them from prospect to customer.
Now, case studies aren’t magic, but Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) 2023 Demand Generation Survey found that content marketing is a huge driver of demand generation and 90% of the marketers surveyed used case studies for demand gen purposes. More specifically, CMI found case studies to be some of the most effective content marketing types for the middle and late stage of the buyer journey when consumers are considering and then evaluating/purchasing.
If you don’t have case studies, there are competitors who do, and chances are, you’re losing out on some business by not having case studies readily available.
PS- don’t gate your case studies. If someone is interested in learning more about your company, make it easy for them. You don’t want to turn off a prospective buyer because they have to give you an email address or can’t view the information right now.
We know that gathering emails can be important (and maybe required by others in the org). One option is to have the case study available on the website and if they’d like a downloadable, designed PDF, share their email. Another is to give access to the case study and then gate a more detailed “how to” for how they achieved these results.
Benefits of a Marketing Case Study
Aside from building trust and adding credibility to your brand or business (which is probably enough reason to create case studies), there are a number of other benefits. These can be helpful to share with stakeholders if you have anyone resistant to using resources for case studies.
- Case studies position your company as an industry leader. With the numerous choices consumers have, businesses need to find ways to stand out. Content marketing allows you to do that and case studies show the unique aspects of your business or service and the customer satisfaction that comes with it.
- You have a persuasive tool for sales and marketing. As CMI found, case studies can be highly effective in the consideration and purchasing phase. Your marketing team can use case studies and related assets to create awareness and interest and your sales team can use them to help close business. Your sales team will be thrilled to have other ways to show the impact and effectiveness of your tool or business aside from just telling it themselves. Customer stories in the form of case studies can go a long way to securing business.
- Strengthening relationships with the clients you showcase in your case studies. Asking someone to participate in a case study should feel like a win all-around. Some companies will offer participants a thank you in the form of a discount or perk, but ideally the completed case study also feels like a win for your customer. When all companies are concerned about churn, maintaining and enhancing relationships with existing customers can’t be overlooked.
Types of Marketing Case Studies
At Audience Ops, we create two main types of case studies: Written and video case studies. From there, we repurpose into a number of assets.
Written case studies
Case studies are written about the client’s experience with your business or service with direct quotes woven in and/or highlighted to support the written content. You may see case studies written in a narrative style, creating an engaging story, or with a more business-like format (Background, challenges, strategy, results and metrics/quotes to support).
Want to create a case study for your business? Read how to write a case study for marketing and sales.
From a written case study, you can create 1 or 2 page designed content (great for sales reps), quote or data images for social media, and incorporate the information into marketing material and sales decks.
Video Case Studies
Video case studies are a favorite for us because people can question a written case study: “did they really say that?”. In a video case study, you hear and see the person sharing their story which makes it an ultimate builder of trust. We go for well-produced, authentic stories because overproduced videos can also leave people questioning if the participant really feels that way.
Once a video case study is complete, you have many options and opportunities for repurposing: add the video to the homepage, the case study page, to your YouTube channel; create shorter posts for social media and emails; create audiograms of soundbites that mention your company by name and a succinct value prop. All of these assets can be made available for your sales and marketing teams to help move business forward.
No matter what format you use (we cover formatting a case study in this article), share the assets with the participant. Chances are, they’ll want to share with their network too, especially if you have an affiliate program or referral partnership.
Case Study Examples
We created an entire article on case study examples, so be sure to check that out.
Challenges in Developing Marketing Case Studies
Before you jump into creating case studies, it’s important to understand the potential challenges and pitfalls so that ideally you can avoid them.
- Getting stakeholder buy-in. Ideally this one isn’t an issue because you can share the above information and then, why wouldn’t your company not want case studies? Oftentimes the resistance comes down to resources. If there’s money but not time, consider outsourcing to a company like Audience Ops. If there’s time but not money, great– do this internally as an MVP. If it goes well and helps business, then maybe you can get additional resources and level up your case studies.
- Protecting sensitive client or business information. Before you start, make it clear on both sides if there is anything off the table in terms of what you can talk about. And, if something comes up in the interview that the client doesn’t want you to include, respect that. We once were conducting a call and the participant said something and then realized he shouldn’t have shared that level of specificity. We said no problem- we’ll strike it out from the recording and won’t use it.
- Timing. Case studies can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months (or longer) to complete. The process usually slows down in these areas:
- Getting your client to schedule. Even if they said yes, getting that appointment booked can take time
- Getting your client to record. This is a priority to you but not always to them; we’ve had week before, day-before and day-of cancellations and even no-shows. Tracking people down for rescheduling takes time (which is part of why people like to hand this process of to another company)
- Internal reviews and approval. Once the recording is completed, for an individual or team who is comfortable creating the content, this can move at a decent pace– usually one to two weeks for a written draft and a few days to a week for each round of the video process. However, this can slow down when your team is slow to respond or there are multiple stakeholders involved. Ideally when you’re getting stakeholder buy-in you can proactively address this point: timely feedback will help move this forward to completion.
- The website. If your website doesn’t yet have a case study page with the formatting you’d like, start working on this once you move forward with the case study. That way, you don’t get to the final result but can’t put it on the site because you can’t update the page or don’t have the correct template.
- Pacing of the final case study. You want to find a balance between detail and conciseness, no matter what the format. You don’t want someone clicking away from your case study because there was too much narrative or generalities without details. The more case studies you create and the more you pay attention to data (click-throughs, views, etc.) you’ll learn more about what resonates for your potential customers.
What do case studies cost?
Like many things in business, it depends. If you want to do this internally, then you’ll need to consider which team members will be involved and how much time it will take. Even if you outsource, your team will need to take some time to communicate with the team you work with and time for internal reviews and feedback.
You can check out our case study pricing here.
Final Thoughts About Marketing Case Studies
Case studies, especially ones that include video, should be leveraged by marketers and your sales team for enhanced credibility and building trust. When consumers have so many options, positively stand out with case studies of your strongest client stories.