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How to Create a Case Study to Wow Your Visitors

by Sharon Hurley Hall

If you’re looking for a great lead magnet that will wow your visitors, consider creating a case study.

Why?

Case studies work. Stories that Sell describes how one company used a booklet containing five case studies aimed at different buyer personas to gain a 40% conversion rate.

And that’s from a printed booklet!

And of course, we can take a cue from the marketing masters on how to create a great video case study:

We’ll discuss more on how Apple approached that case study later.

If you want to use case studies to improve leads and conversions, here’s what you need to think about.

Preparation: Know Your Audience, Know Your Product

Every piece of conversion-oriented content has to start with understanding your audience. That means figuring out your key customer personas are based on analytics, social analytics and other information you have about your market.

It’s also important to identify their key problems. You can learn a lot from pre-sales questions, post-sales questions and questions on your social media profiles, and can also find information by surveying visitors. If there are recurring issues, consider using these as a starting point for creating your case study.

Finally, be aware of the main benefits of your products and services. How these benefits help solve your customers’ problems will be an important part of your case study.

Preparation: Identify Customers to Feature

The next step is to find some customers to feature in your case study. Ideally, these should:

  • Be representative of one of your core customer personas
  • Love the products and service you provide
  • Be willing to be interviewed and named

Zapier uses a single question about results to identify potential candidates for case studies. You can also find case study candidates by looking among customers who have given you testimonials or reviews (and you can use quotes from those in the case study too).

Potential case study subjects must also allow you to share data, even if you have to talk in terms of percentages rather than actual numbers.

Do Inbound advises that you get customers’ permission to use them in a case study in writing, either as part of your initial contract or later.

Telling Stories with Case Studies

A great case study tells a story of change and transformation, with both you and your customers as the heroes. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. More on those later.

It is important to use data as part of the case study. If relevant, this can support your reasons for choosing a particular solution. More importantly, data can illustrate beyond a doubt that the solution works and has measurable results.

Asking the Right Questions

One way to get an excellent case study is to ask the right questions. In creating case studies for clients, I’ve found it helpful to have a framework to interview customers which gets them to describe the benefits they enjoy in their own words. Here are some of the questions I ask:

  • What challenge/problem/issue were you experiencing before working with the company?
  • Who was affected by this challenge and what impact did it have?
  • How did the company address this challenge? (What solution did they come up with?)
  • How did it work?
  • What has changed positively since implementing this solution?

This bare bones structure can be adapted for practically any business. Note that the questions are open-ended to encourage free-flowing responses.

Hubspot also has a useful list of questions you can use for creating case studies.

Writing Your Case Study

When you have collected the answers to your questions and collated your data, it’s time to put the case study together, with a beginning, middle and end as described earlier. The beginning is the situation that your customer was facing before using your solution; the middle is the implementation of that solution; and the end is the result of the change you made.

Other tips for writing a great case study include:

  • Write a title that grabs readers’ attention. You will use this in promoting the case study.
  • Focus on the people at the heart of the story, as people are primed to respond to people’s stories.
  • Use sensory and emotional words where appropriate to get people engaged with your case study.
  • Stick to the facts while avoiding marketing hype.
  • If there are setbacks or surprises you encountered while implementing the solution, include these. It will make the case study more credible.
  • Make sure readers can skim the content by including sub-headings.
  • Create a summary that you can use both as part of the case study and for promoting it.

Marketing Profs suggests that to get more from a case study, once you have highlighted a specific solution, you can also show how it could solve related challenges.

To make your case study more visually interesting, illustrate it with charts and graphs as well as quotes pulled from the interview. Pay attention to how these look: the more shareable they are, the better they will work for promoting your case study.

While many case studies are written, they don’t have to be. As Kissmetrics points out, having case studies in multiple formats caters for visitors who like to consume content in different ways. You can also wow your customers with:

  • Video case studies
  • Slideshows
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts

Whichever format you choose, you must still use storytelling techniques to make your case study compelling.

How to Promote Your Case Study

Once your case study is ready, it’s time to think about promotion. At this point, the case study becomes part of your marketing workflow. It is important to:

  • Create a landing page for your case study (or a page that’s a home for all your case studies).
  • Use the summary you created earlier as a teaser for the case study.
  • Extract key statistics, charts and quotes to use as part of a social media marketing campaign.
  • Write a blog post outlining some interesting aspects of the case study.
  • If you have done an interview, use some of the information you weren’t able to include as a teaser.
  • Highlight case studies on relevant pages of your website or within other resources.
  • Include them in your newsletter.
  • Re-purpose them from the original format into another type of content.
  • Take copies of case studies to business networking events.

5 Case Study Examples

Here are a few examples of how different companies have approached case studies.

1. Optimizely

Optimizely has a case studies landing page, with a short headline and a summary outlining the key achievement for the customer.

screenshot optimizely

The short case studies give an overview of the customer, then show the issue and how Optimizely helped. It also includes next steps. Some case studies include a banner highlighting the main statistics.

screenshot-www.optimizely.com 2016-04-26 13-23-45

2. Apple

Apple combines a video and text to show how a real teacher is integrating Apple technology into her classroom. This case study makes great use of sub-headings and quotes to tell a compelling story.

screenshot-www.apple.com 2016-04-26 13-29-20

But the real take away from this video case study is that it teaches teachers how to educate better! Apple cleverly introduces the concept of creating music to reinforce lessons in literature. When your case studies not only show off, but also provide actual value to the viewer – you’ve just stepped into another marketing dimension!

3. Groove

Unlike many case studies, Groove’s case study on A/B testing talks about what didn’t work for them, with an appealing headline. Because this approach is unusual, it’s likely to attract attention (49 comments and multiple shares show that it worked). That aside, the case study includes the issues they were trying to solve, data to illustrate the tests and graphics.

screenshot groovehq.com

4. Work&Co

Work&Co’s Virgin America case study starts with a compelling quote and an image, before highlighting the company profile, key issue, solutions and data. The case study includes quotes from external sources who commented on the website redesign and links to external articles, providing more social proof for customers. Illustrations include colorful icons and GIFs.

screenshot work.co

5. Marketing Sherpa

Marketing Sherpa uses a standard format for its case studies, with a short summary at the top, followed by the customer profile, the challenge, the campaign and the results. The company includes creative samples specific to each case study.

screenshot marketingsherpa

Conclusion

Done well, case studies help potential customers understand how your products and services can help them, and eliminate their pre-purchase fears.  The fact that they are free is an added attraction. Case studies help you get people involved in your sales process and attract the right kind of customers to whom you can then send focused offers.

Have you used case studies to increase leads and conversions? How have they worked for you?

Read other Crazy Egg posts by Sharon Hurley Hall.

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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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  1. Stephen Mutuku says:
    December 31, 2016 at 12:48 am

    This is really an amazing post.I think designing an effective case study is a challenging task but the way you have presented your ideas is really helpful.Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Pauline says:
    May 24, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    This is an excellent post, and certainly the most comprehensive I’ve read dealing with case studies. It has certainly given me ideas for creating case studies as a service more creatively. Thank you.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      June 30, 2016 at 7:23 am

      Thanks, Pauline. Glad you found it useful.

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