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Case studies don’t sound like the sexiest facet of content marketing, but they can be invaluable when it comes to social proof. Think of a case study as the before and after photographs an interior designer uses to showcase her past work. It illustrates one client’s positive experience with your company in an engaging way.
At one time, case studies consisted primarily of lengthy, boring copy that few consumers read. Today, however, you can create a case study that includes interactive media, photographs, visual effects, and other engaging content that encourages clicks.
Image via Flickr by ViewPix69
Case studies offer several benefits to businesses of all sizes. They influence your audience because readers see themselves in the story you craft. Because you’re targeting potential customers in a specific demographic and market, your case study will resonate.
They’re also carefully crafted stories that always result in happily ever after moments. The customer achieves his or her goals because of your products or services and rides off into the sunset. Reading a case study can make the prospect feel comforted, excited, and motivated.
You don’t need to turn every customer into a case study. Instead, choose customers based on the results your product or service created for them. Additionally, you want to choose a customer who remains excited about those results and wants to serve as your brand advocate. Otherwise, the case study will prove lackluster and won’t inspire much response from readers.
Ideally, you’ll find a case that involves big numbers. For instance, if a marketing company can increase a customer’s total sales by more than 1,000 percent, that’s a powerful incentive for other customers. Data-driven case studies often become more effective than those without impressive numbers to back up the content.
The best case studies incorporate two different types of media: the written word and design. Typically, you’ll write the case study first so the designer can create custom graphics and other details that complement the story. If you do it backward, the content and design might seem incompatible.
If you don’t include the design element, you’ll present your prospects with pure text. The case study will look more like a technical manual than a marketing tool. Furthermore, pieces of content that include imagery enjoy 13 percent higher click-through rates than text-only content, according to Marketing Land columnist Jim Yu. People find themselves drawn to visual media because it engages more of their senses.
However, case studies often work best when writers and designers collaborate. If they share a vision for the project, the finished product will seem more cohesive and purposeful.
A case study should read like a story. At the beginning, there’s a problem. Your company jumps in to fix the problem, creates a strategy, implements the strategy, tracks the results, and shares the climactic moment. It might not seem as enthralling as the latest blockbuster movie, but it should inspire emotion in the reader.
Let’s say you own a web design company, for instance. The written case study could involve several sections:
You’ll write each section to draw out the suspense and to engage the reader in every step of the process. You’re demonstrating how your product or service made an incredible difference in your customer’s life or business through compelling written content.
When you’ve finalized the copy, your designer can begin putting together the content so it appeals to the customer visually. Interactive content and infographics have become increasingly popular mediums for publishing case studies, but you can also design a webpage or a PDF download.
Writing for Kissmetrics, blog marketing expert Kristi Hines recommends making the content as easy to read as possible through clean design. Separate each section into large headers, for instance, and use bulleted and numbered lists to make data more digestible. She also suggests using applicable imagery to enhance the text and create visual cues. Looking for examples of great designed case studies? DocSend has a collection of 150+ well designed B2B case studies to provide some visual inspiration.
You don’t want the design to overshadow the content. The two should complement one another and help keep consumers’ eyes on the page. Above all, make sure the text remains legible. Light-colored text on a white background, for instance, will strain your readers’ eyes and convince them to move on.
Once you complete the case study, it’s time to release it into the wild. You can offer it as an incentive for potential customers to sign up for your email list, for instance, or publish it in a blog post and link to it via social media. Case studies can also work remarkably well when you link to them from your emails if you have an email marketing campaign.
To get readers to click through to the case study, use a compelling call-to-action. It should highlight the reader’s benefit, such as learning something new about his or her business or discovering the solution to a pertinent problem.
Case studies have long served as elegant, effective ways to convince prospects to become customers. Whether you create one in-house or hire a full-service agency, you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to write and design one for your business.