[Case studies are basically complex, high-stakes online dating profiles. Bonus: you’re not a jerk if you don’t split the check]
A case study is more than just a (digital) piece of paper: when done right, case studies are an effective marketing tactic to establish you as a thought leader in your industry — they can reveal exactly what makes your brand remarkable from the perspective of happy customers.
This post originally appeared on Cleriti.com as “4 Best Practices for Developing a Captivating Case Study.” Cleriti is a full-service digital marketing agency headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, and I worked there as an Inbound Marketing Manager prior to moving to Emmi.
Case studies are an integral part of your inbound marketing strategy because they give consumers a reason to trust your brand — they showcase a success story that you’ve strategically chosen and, beyond that, case studies highlight your people skills. The right case study will prove to prospects that you can fulfill their expectations and provide them the leads they need. But you can’t just write up a success story and expect people to buy into it. You have to captivate your potential customers — and you have to do it without knowing who they are.
Case studies are basically complex, high-stakes online dating profiles.
And case studies need to be a part of your marketing planning process, because they push you to set your brand apart from the rest and demonstrate why it’s remarkable.
It’s like wearing your favorite shirt in your profile pic: make sure you look good! Here are 4 best practices you should follow to create a compelling case study, establish your brand as a thought leader and prove to consumers why your company is awesome:
1. Choose the Right Case Study Candidate
Start developing your case study by choosing a home-run customer success story. To select the most qualified candidate, you need to look for a customer who has a deep knowledge of your products or services, a high degree of brand loyalty and who has had an amazing experience working with you. Remember: your case study is more than just a (digital) piece of paper. If you’re wooing clients in the same geographic location or industry, your prospects may reach out to the company you name in the case study. Make sure your relationship is rock solid.
2. Communicate Clearly with Your Case Study Participant
Great case studies go beyond a list of what your company did. You need real feedback to make it work, and real feedback can sometimes cause a two day case study project to turn into a two month project — complete with opportunities to improve your current relationship. To speed the process up, establish what you want to accomplish upfront and create a detailed timeline before you begin working. Start by creating a success story letter outlining the steps of the entire process. And make sure you leave time to receive approval on the final piece. A good rule of thumb? Never use someone’s words without giving them control over the copy — your clients will thank you for it, and your case study will be more authentic.
3. Set Yourself Up for Success with the Right Questions
It’s up to you create engaging content for your case study — after all, showcasing your brand voice is an opportunity to shape it. So, what valuable information can you pull from your participant in the questionnaire and interview to craft a captivating, distinct story? And what can you learn from it? Ask your participant to provide thoughtful, unique answers that focus on how your brand did something they can’t experience anywhere else, and you’re on your way to garnering a remarkable reputation.
Simply put: find out what pain you solved.
The golden rule for getting juicy, valuable interview answers is to ask open-ended questions that invite elaboration, such as “Tell me about X” or “Can you describe Y.” Begin by asking about your customer’s business. Then you can focus on what problems they were facing, what kind of solution they needed and how they made the decision to choose your brand. Finally, inquire about the quality of your product or service, what aspects of it worked best for them and what sort of results they experienced by purchasing from you.
4. Structure the Content Appropriately
Captivating your audience goes beyond having great content — you need to have an organized structure of information, too. If it’s not easy to digest, you can count on losing readers before they finish the document. And boredom isn’t a great way to start any relationship. Another good rule of thumb: you don’t need to include every detail. The goal is to build credibility and, depending on your needs, getting a prospect to reach out and ask what you can do for them.
Become a Thought Leadership Marketing Front-Runner
When done right, case studies are an effective marketing tactic to establish you as a thought leader in your industry — they can reveal exactly what makes your brand remarkable from the perspective of happy customers. So, if you choose the right candidate, set up a defined timeline, ask the right questions and use an organized format, you can create a captivating case study that helps set you apart from competitors and showcases exactly what your organization can accomplish for any other interested leads.
And it doesn’t hurt if you show up to that first date with chocolates, either.