What Is a Case Study in Marketing and How to Build One (Examples)

by Steve Hogan

Last updated on October 15th, 2018

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A marketing case study allows you to illustrate and explain how you achieved enormous success in a specific situation.

For instance, last year, Jacob McMillen wrote about how Pronto used Crazy Egg to increase leads by 24 percent.

That’s a big number.

It’s not a full case study, but it demonstrates the goal of a marketing case study. You want to shock your audience, then explain exactly how you achieved your results — preferably with proof.

You might have read lots of case studies over the years without realizing your business could benefit from them. Lots of entrepreneurs are put off by the hard work and long hours required to build a marketing case study.

However, think about how many leads you might convert by proving your track record, establishing trust, and attracting traffic through SEO.

Let’s look at how marketing case studies can impact your business, discuss how to write one, and check out a few examples.

What Is a Case Study in Marketing?

A case study in marketing is a document or web page that includes several basic parts:

  • Description of the subject: Explain your customer’s or client’s history and pain points.
  • Subject’s goal: Identify your customer’s or client’s goal for the project so readers understand what to expect.
  • Hypothesis for strategy: Tell your audience what you expected to happen after you implemented your strategy for the customer or client.
  • Implementation of strategy: Take the reader through the step-by-step process you used to help your customer or client.
  • Results of strategy: Deliver the results in as much detail as possible, preferably with a quote from the client or customer.
  • Concluding findings: Explain what this case study has taught your specifically and how it can help other people.

You don’t have to include every category, but the more detail you add, the more effective your marketing case study becomes.

Most of the time, you’re conducting a case study for your own business. You want to show the world how your product or service has helped a customer in a huge way.

For that reason, it helps to know you’ll perform a case study from the beginning. In other words, try not to reverse-engineer a case study from a great result. Instead, track your arrangement with your customer throughout the process.

The Importance of Creating Case Studies to Convert Leads into Customers

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Think of a marketing case study as a lure. It’s a way to dangle amazing results in front of your leads so they’ll decide to convert.

Imagine that you’re a customer who’s trying to decide between two businesses, each of which offers time management software. One company has a marketing case study that illustrates how it helped a customer save four hours per week. The other company has no case study.

Which company would you trust most?

You can use that consumer logic to inform your business decisions. Thinking like a customer can help you achieve new insights into marketing.

Creating a marketing case study gives you an edge that your competitors might have. It can also help your leads make more informed decisions.

Too many businesses copy their competitors or other businesses. Instead, you should spend time being more creative and innovative. Below is a video by Neil Patel that illustrates why you need to quit copying digital marketing strategies.

If you’re bold enough to be different, you can convert more leads. A marketing case study gives you that opportunity because nobody else can duplicate it.

Why is it so important to build trust?

Anybody can throw testimonials on their site by Ron R. and Jennifer K. Anyone can also make them up.

Trust is tenuous in the digital marketing world. If you can’t create it, you likely won’t convert leads into customers.

Think about all the companies that have experienced data hacks. Their stocks plummeted, consumer sentiment turned ugly, and profits dwindled. That’s because consumers lost trust.

Similarly, any company can make bold claims about its products or services. Consumers have become numb to superlative-littered copy and hyped-up videos. They want to see evidence.

If you can prove that your product or service delivers powerful results, you’ll gain your leads’ trust.

Marketing case studies show how you tackled a problem and overcame it on behalf of your customer or client. It’s that simple. The more detail you give, the more authority you create for your company — and the more your leads will trust your expertise.

4 Case Study Examples

Before we tell you how to build a case study, let’s look at a few examples to get you warmed up. Each of these marketing case studies illustrates the power behind the medium.

They’ll also show you how different case studies can look depending on design, detail, results, and goals.

1. HubSpot

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The Shopify case study by HubSpot demonstrates how a narrative can be woven from a company’s journey. When Loren Padelford became head of sales, he immediately identified weak spots in Shopify’s sales cycle, so he decided to adopt HubSpot.

This case study highlights the ways in which Shopify used HubSpot’s email plugin to save time and improve communication flow. There’s a quote from Padelford in the case study, which can add even more impact in terms of building trust among leads.

Here, we have a fairly vague result. The company — specifically Padelford — claims to have achieved great success with HubSpot’s tools, but there aren’t any concrete numbers to back that up.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, though, as long as your customer or client can offer a raving quote.

2. Bit.ly

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Ecommerce marketing case studies can become extremely valuable. In this case, Bit.ly used a more traditional template for a marketing case study. The PDF document includes several sections that take you through the process of how Vissla improved its omnichannel marketing with Bit.ly.

The results were that Vissla was able to visualize and centralize data in one place. They gained greater control over their social media marketing, which resulted in faster and better improvements in the content they shared.

There’s also a quote from Vissla’s media marketing manager, Keegan Fong: “Bitly Campaigns offers us a whole new way to look at our marketing channels. By giving us an easy-to-use dashboard that instantly displays the results of our multichannel promotions, we can see what kinds of content work on what channel, which channels we should be investing in the most, and what we need to do to optimize our content.” [For Social: @vissla]

3. Viperchill

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There’s a great marketing case study from Viperchill that you’ll want to check out. It’s a quick, fun read that explains how the author created a squeeze page that generated more than 700 leads and results in a conversion rate of 64 percent.

Notice that he used hard numbers. Sometimes, it’s impossible to boil results down to a figure or percentage, but if you can, do so. People comprehend real numbers faster than lengthy text explanations.

4. MarketingSherpa

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This MarketingSherpa case study is super detailed and describes the process by which MarketingSherpa helped a natural foods company boost revenue by 18 percent with a site redesign. You see the entire project from start to finish.

You’ll notice that there are lots of visuals. Since this marketing case study focused on design, visuals were imperative. Let your business and its niche guide the way in which you construct your case study.

How to Create a Case Study Marketing Strategy That Converts

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Now that you’ve looked through a few case studies, how do you create a marketing case study of your own?

It starts with a case study marketing strategy that’s designed to convert leads. You don’t want to choose just any project. It should be geared toward other businesses or customers who might benefit from your business.

Let’s take it step by step.

1. Choose a success story that is closely related to your potential customer

You might notice that many companies publish numerous marketing case studies. There’s a reason for that.

Each case study targets a different segment of the company’s target audience. Let’s say that you sell shoes, purses, and hats. A case study about shoes won’t interest someone who’s shopping for hats.

You can either choose a project that has already concluded or one that is starting or underway. It’s always best to start at the beginning, but if you’re anxious, you can take the reverse-engineering route.

Decide which segment of your target audience you want to appeal to first. Next, select a case study subject closely related to that segment. You want your marketing case study to resonate with the leads you most want to convert.

2. Identify the key points of the case study and use storytelling

Decide what parts of the case study you want to highlight. These details will likely appear in the marketing case study’s headline as well as throughout the rest of the text.

For instance, if you helped a customer boost revenue by 200 percent, that’s a highly relevant detail. You’ll want to spotlight it in the headline and several times in the content so you keep it fresh in readers’ minds.

You might have several key points. Think about the struggles your customer was facing before you stepped in, how you approached the solution, and why alternatives weren’t working. When you can provide numbers, do so.

Once you’ve identified those key points, start weaving them into a narrative. Make it exciting! Add sensory details, frustration points, and colorful anecdotes.

A marketing case study shouldn’t sound dry. It needs to engage the reader so he or she keeps going until the end.

If possible, intersperse the copy with images. Make them relevant and easy to see on the screen. Let the images help supplement the story you’ve woven.

3. Highlight the great results

As mentioned above, results are paramount. If you can express them in numeric form, so much the better.

Consider creating a custom graphic to serve as the featured image on your post. That way, people can share the image on social. Add the amazing result to the text on the image to entice people to click.

The point here is to capture attention. If people are willing to pay attention to you, then you’ve won the first part of the battle. As long as you maintain that attention, you have a good chance of converting the lead.

4. Explore different types of design

Design can prove fundamental to a marketing case study’s success. If you’re publishing it as a blog post, break it up with H2s, H3s, and H4s to guide the reader through the story. Add images and leading lines to keep the visitor engaged.

Remember that color matters. Consider using colors for text and images that correlate with your customers’ color scheme or with your own site’s palette.

5. Ask for feedback! What does your potential customer want to learn?

Don’t let the conversation stop at the end of your marketing case study. Open up the forum for more insights.

Invite readers to ask you direct questions about your business, products, services, or methods. Not only that, but respond to those comments. Take each one as a gift.

These comments might tell you what type of case study you should create next or allow you to cement a conversion by answering objections or questions.

Conclusion

Marketing case studies can improve your conversion rate, but you have to put in the time and effort. Yes, a polished case study requires work, but if you can secure sales from its publication, why wouldn’t you give it your full attention?

Remember that trust matters when it comes to converting leads into customers. If you don’t have trust, you’ll lose your leads to your competitors.

A great marketing case study demonstrates your track record. It builds a case for leads to use your products or services over someone else’s.

What are you waiting for? Start creating your first marketing case study now.

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Steve Hogan

As a former English major, Steve is a firm believer in clear, educational and entertaining content. He's a big fan of Gary V, Seth Godin and Jay Acunzo.

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