“Do you have examples of similar work you’ve done?”
This sentence echoes across our lives and work experiences.
- A bride wants to see similar looks a makeup artist has done.
- A homeowner wants to see similar remodel work from a contractor.
- A supply chain manager wants to see a logistics company’s track record with similar contracts.
- A distributor wants to see how a software company’s product helped other distributors in measurable ways.
It’s easier to put our trust – and dollars – in something when there’s clear proof in the pudding. That’s why referrals are still a number one driver of leads in B2B.
And it’s why case studies on customer successes are number one drivers of conversions.
Case studies shift the point of view: They let your customers tell your story. They’re essentially in-depth testimonials that show how customers benefited from your products or services, and provide an inside look at the way you work.
The power of a single B2B case study to turn prospects into customers is too great to ignore. Every B2B content strategy should involve creating case studies for sales and marketing.
Why Should Case Studies be Part of Your B2B Marketing Strategy?
First and foremost, follow the data: Semrush research shows that case studies and success stories (which they categorize separately) are top-performing content types for critical stages of the buyer journey: consideration and conversion.
Additionally, The Content Marketing Institute reports that case studies are one of the top three content types content marketers produce.
But why? What is the purpose of a case study in marketing, and what are the benefits?
Build credibility with prospects.
Case studies provide a third-party view of your company and its products or services, which makes your company feel more trustworthy to prospects. They’re centered on actual customer experiences and show how you’ve helped in ways that matter most to those customers.
For instance, you could read our article about ghostwriting and our materials around how we work with clients to write guest posts (or contributed articles, as we describe on our content creation service page). But we’re sure our case study telling ACTvantage’s story will be most compelling and substantiate the caliber of work we produce. We not only reveal that we’ve helped them craft over 60 guest articles, but we also share meaningful insights from the ACTvantage team about their experience and the benefits they’ve realized.
Resonate with prospects’ pain points.
Today’s happy customers were yesterday’s prospects. They were experiencing a pain or challenge, and you helped them overcome it. As prospects read your case study, they may identify with your customer’s struggles and relate more strongly with your solution. This is why it’s important to have a variety of case studies that demonstrate your ability to help with different, specific issues. A case study by a respected industry peer lends strength and truth to the quality of your products or services.
For example, when we developed a case study around our work with the marketing team at Enavate, we learned that one of their major pain points was having limited resources. Many marketers can connect with this pain point, and it’s one of the most common reasons prospects reach out to us. So, we were sure to pull relevant quotes forward and use this pain point in our “challenge” header.
Engage prospects with storytelling.
Case studies tell interesting, relevant stories. Storytelling is a proven method for conveying information in an engaging way that people can relate to. Rather than read a block of product copy, prospects learn how a customer was struggling and how you helped. It’s as if your customers are characters, and their challenges or mistakes are part of the conflict and plot.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to use a little journalistic license to make the case study an engaging read. Set the scene, describe the drama and use quotes from the customer to drive the story forward and add “characters” to the content.
Reveal invaluable customer insight.
The interviews you conduct for case studies are literal gold for your business. Don’t let them sink into obscurity once you’ve squeezed a case study out of them. Those interviews contain some of the most direct, honest and focused feedback you’ll ever receive – especially if you allow a third party to conduct the interview on your behalf, as this allows the customer to be more forthcoming. When you mine these interviews, you’ll find:
- Primary benefits that are most important to customers, which may surprise you.
- Issues customers had with your process, product or service.
- What you could’ve done better, even compared to other options your customers had.
- Why customers chose you over the competition.
- Who or what made the biggest difference on the project.
For example, when we interviewed the team at Supply Tigers to learn more about their experience working with us, we discovered more about how they’ve used the content we created since engaging with us – and we also learned that it helped them retain an important media relationship.
You can use these insights to:
- Inform sales conversations, marketing materials and company messaging.
- Make improvements to your processes, products or services.
- Add new service or features that customers commonly desire.
- Identify star performers or processes to model future projects on.
- Add more specificity and authenticity to your B2B audience personas.
How to Write a B2B Case Study
How do you write a good B2B case study? Here’s how we get it done at 3 Aspens Media:
1. Define Your Goals and How You’ll Use Your Case Studies
First, establish what your goals are with creating case studies. Examples of goals include:
- Sales team uses case studies to win leads when asked, “Do you have any examples?” Knowing this helps you prioritize which case study types to develop according to sales goals, what customer types they’re currently dealing with and which products or services they want to highlight.
- Reps use case studies for lead generation and brand awareness at conferences. Knowing this, you can prioritize case studies relevant to that conference and specific challenges and trends on the conference agenda.
- Your company uses case studies on digital channels to highlight products or services, or to target specific industries. You can plan ahead knowing these are priorities. You might lean into search engine data to learn what conversations are happening around your customers’ challenges and the solutions they need. Your goals might be to gain more brand awareness, become a trustworthy resource amidst those digital conversations and drive leads, which you can measure by clicks and downloads.
For instance, when we set out to develop our own case studies at 3 Aspens Media, our goal was to highlight different services and industries we work with. As a result, we have case studies that represent our range of industries, all of which operate in and/or target the industrial sector. These include:
- Distributors (See how we work with LINC and Superior)
- Associations (Read NetPlus Alliance’s story)
- Technology partners
- Software companies
- Educational institutions (We’re pretty proud of our work with Texas A&M)
Our case studies also reflect the variety of content efforts we drive and support, including the development and management of:
- Blogs/Resource libraries
- Guest posts (including) getting them published
- Newsletter campaigns
- Case studies
- Industry outlooks
- Content updates
- And more
2. Select Customer Success Stories to Tell
Tap into the knowledge of your sales reps, customer service reps and account managers to identify the best candidates for case studies. They will be most in touch with your customers’ experiences, and they will already have a rapport with those customers. Involve these individuals in the communication process when you reach out to request case study participation. For instance, you might have an account manager make an email introduction between the client and your marketing team.
3. Know What You’ll Include in Each Case Study
Outline the B2B case study format and the information you expect to include before you craft questions and talk to the customer. Otherwise, you might miss key aspects of the story. Generally, case studies have the following sections:
It’s also helpful to include a section that outlines your process if relevant. How you name and title these sections is up to you. Dare to be creative and to use the voice of your business.
Another element of this is researching the customer and their experience. Discuss the account with the point of contact so you know “the story” ahead of time.
Tip: Be prepared – and eager – to learn that the story looks a little different when you speak to the customer. Often, customers’ favorite features, benefits and outcomes are different from what a business expects. This information is very telling, both for content and the business overall.
4. Prep Your B2B Case Study Questions
Once you know what you’re looking for, craft questions that speak to the customer’s specific story and that help you achieve your goals with the case study. Common questions include:
- Can you provide a summary of your company and history?
- What pain points were you trying to solve when you contacted our company?
- Do you have any statistics that support the benefits of our work?
- Why did you choose us over the competition or an alternative?
- What is the most compelling thing we offer customers?
- What key problems have we solved for your company?
- What benefits/successes have you seen from working with us?
- What have we done well that you appreciate and that helps your business?
- How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague? Why?
- What advice do you have for others looking to work with us?
- Is there anything else we didn’t cover you’d like to share?
5. Conduct Customer and Stakeholder Interview(s)
Case study interviews could involve a handful of people, including the customer’s account manager or customer service rep, folks from your marketing team and stakeholders on the marketing team. They could involve just two people: one marketer and one representative of the featured customer.
When you conduct the interview, don’t be afraid to go off-script. Let the interviewee guide you toward information that will enhance the case study and connect with the audience. Ask questions that allow them to talk freely and enthusiastically about their experience.
If you want the most honest feedback from your customers, we recommend selecting an interviewer who isn’t involved in their account. For instance, we at 3 Aspens Media frequently obtain candid interviews for clients because we are a neutral third party.
Tip: Remember to ask permission to record – and to press record!
6. Develop the B2B Case Study
Work with your B2B case study writer, editorial team and designers to:
- Review the transcripts of your calls with customers and identify the strongest, most relatable points that also help you achieve your goals.
- Identify great quotes to pull forward and highlight in your case study.
- Identify any quantifiable results you can call attention to. These stats draw readers in and show them what’s possible with our product or service.
- Slot those customer insights into the framework you anticipated.
- Move the case study through the internal editing process.
- Send the internally edited case study to the client for edits and approvals.
- Finalize the case study copy and send it to design.
- Design the case study. It’s best to have a consistent branded template for all case studies.
- If desired, run the design by the customer for final approval.
From there, it’s time to distribute and market your case study, and to make it available to your team members for use in their prospect interactions.
B2B Case Study Best Practices
Put the voice of the customer front and center.
Let the customer speak for themselves. Just like a photo is worth 1,000 words, a quote from your customer is worth far more than a block of generic case study copy. People like hearing from people.
Consider how effective a quote like this would be in a case study:
Avoid vague jargon.
Jargon is often full of hot air, saying nothing and even confusing the reader. Examples of common case study jargon include:
“Solutions”: Every business offers “solutions.” Be specific about which “solutions” you offer and which your customer has benefitted from.
“Improved processes”: Which processes? Improved by how much? And how did you measure the improvement? Why do those processes matter to your customer?
“Better customer service”: What does this mean? Have you cut order time for the customer? Improved response time? Improved communication? How? And again, why does this matter to your customer?
Instead, write as if you were speaking with a friend and be specific about your claims. The more specific you can be, the better. And be sure to cite any actual numbers available as evidence for your claims. The goal is for prospects to relate to the case study content.
Use your headline to communicate value.
In today’s world of information overload, you need to grab your customers’ attention. You must integrate specific benefits into your headline to connect with the reader. For example, if you saved a customer 20% by managing its inventory last year, saying so in your headline will grab attention.
Keep in mind what matters most to prospects. In this case, cost savings are most important. However, your product or service has multiple benefits – many of which you’ll mention in your case study. When drafting a headline, focus on the benefit that speaks to customers’ top pain point.
Bad Headline: Case Study: ABC Company
Better Headline: ABC Company Saves 20% in 2014 with Top Solution’s Inventory Management Services
The second headline incentivizes prospects to click and learn how Top Solution was able to drum up those 20% in savings. Even if they don’t click to read, the message enforces the benefits you provide. Don’t forget your audience personas – if you’re targeting the CFO, money savings speaks volumes.
Tip: Make sure your case studies are 100% truthful. Don’t tailor them to make your company appear flawless, and don’t sugarcoat any shortcomings or challenges. Instead, be honest about how your company solved the client’s problem. This will help your credibility with prospects.
Don’t limit your case studies to just one platform.
At 3 Aspens Media, we’re huge proponents of repurposing content. And using a case study in just one place is a sure way of limiting your exposure. A case study can live in many places and take multiple forms.
- Design a PDF of your case study prospects can download for research and present to stakeholders. See the PDF of our case study featuring Supply Tigers for example.
- Encourage sales and customer service reps to use the PDF in their calls and emails.
- Share a link and screenshot of your case study on social media and via email. See our LinkedIn post for the Supply Tigers case study for example.
- Turn the case study into a blog on your site, from which readers can download the PDF. See how we did this for our portfolio.
- Pull content out of the case study to highlight on your website, in blogs, in newsletters and on your social media.
- Print copies of the case study to hand out at trade shows and other events.
- If your interviews were recorded and you have permission, use clips from them on your website, blogs, social media, etc. Just make sure to get final approval from customers before you share.
Who Writes Customer Case Studies for Businesses?
It takes practice to develop case studies that are both trustworthy and compelling. At 3 Aspens Media, we frequently help businesses craft effective case studies to demonstrate their value, generate leads and encourage conversion. Those case studies have become some of our clients’ best-performing content assets. We also edit existing ones.
Reach out to the interviewing and case study experts at [email protected] to learn more about our services and discuss your goals. We can help at any stage of case study creation, including interviewing, writing and design.