Case studies – content you can trust

In this day and age of content marketing, it’s important to have fresh insights and new content available to read on your digital platforms and social media handles and feeds.

There are many types of content and all are important, however, case studies have proved throughout time to be incredibly powerful in capturing the hearts and minds of audiences.

Case studies provide real life and relatable stories to future consumers or business-to-business clients. Essentially an expansion of a testimonial, with mush more information and a story about how a problem can be avoided or solved, they provide an excellent way to show how your business solved a problem by providing a service or product solution. Because of this story telling aspect and real life orientation, case studies are viewed as being authentic, non-biased and trustworthy allowing the teller to deliver a clear and well packaged message or theory based on a real experience.

To be valuable, they must be well researched, well delivered and not too sale-sy. Considerable time and quality insight and information must be on display for the case study to resonate with its audience in an impactful way.

In this blog we provide an explanation of:

  • what exactly is a case study
  • why they are powerful
  • how to write one
  • what you should be looking to achieve with this content
  • and the benefits of talking about this experience for your audience.

What is a case study?

Case studies can be long, short and any where in between. They can be in a written format, a video diary, photographs and images, the use of graphics or incorporate all of the above.

Essentially they are an analysis of a situation used to demonstrate a point, lesson or outcome. They are often used to showcase a service, deliver a message, or demonstrate an effect after an action, or series of actions is undertaken.

Case studies are often used to promote services or products, however, many companies use case studies highlighting a cause and effect outside of their own offering which is perceived as being more neutral and trustworthy, but is less beneficial in therefore promoting specific products or services.

How do Case Studies compare to other types of content?

We all enjoy receiving information in a story telling type format to which we can directly relate to, rather than a hard sell throughout which we can get defensive.

Case studies are tailored to this style of information delivery and are a subtle and authentic way of delivering a sales message. Case studies are clever in the way they combine storytelling with providing information relevant to your business. The consumer or audience is less aware that they are being sold to and more in the mind of being informed.

The question is, does this make them more valuable than other types of content? The reality of it probably is no, and with all the variables involved it’s also too hard to measure, however a well delivered case study does tend to be able to capture and hold the attention of interested consumers, providing more detailed and specific information. As a result they are often better remembered and referred to in the future. The other benefits are that case studies stay relevant longer and so the content has a longer life span.

They also are able to directly address common client or consumer concerns and can feature a strong and clear call to action. Therefore, if done well and in honest and believable language, case studies can garner better return on investment than just your average blog post.

However, the downside is that they require more time to research and write and the participation of a willing participant or event as the subject. They also can be viewed by sceptics as failing to provide the full-unedited story and being a biased account of the actual reality.

Why case studies are beneficial

Targeting your market. Because your case study will likely involve describing the cause and solution to a problem faced by potential customers, case studies are interesting and appealing to your target market. The people who end up reading your case studies will be the people most likely to buy from you.

SEO friendly. A case study will likely feature all the right language, keywords and buzzwords, including problem descriptions, product names and other phrases that your potential clients will be searching for. This means that it is a great piece in terms of your SEO and search-ability – to point potential clients in your direction.

Valuable and in-depth information. Case studies are often filled with detailed and relevant information, usually spanning several pages, and that is well researched, well written and interesting. Length isn’t a direct indicator of quality is very valuable to your target market. Because case studies are real life situations and speaking of first hand experiences, this makes them exceptionally valuable to your audience.

Subtle self-promotion. Most case studies will detail a client that you have done business with and that has had a positive outcome to a problem as a result. If you have helped them, provided a good job and can prove it then case studies are a fantastic and authentic way to promote your products and services through a non-biased third party.

Call for action. At the conclusion of your case study, it is the perfect opportunity to ask your reader to act. In the case study you have passively provided the readers with an opportunity to relate their own problems or situation to that of the case study subject and posed questions about how they too could benefit form your product or service. The end of a case study is the perfect place to get them to act by calling you for more information on how they too can solve their own issues with your help.

Tips and tricks for success

To make sure your case study resonates with the reader and generates the response you want, make sure you take the below steps.

Do your research. Before you write the case study, undertake your own research and read other, similar case studies that are appealing to the same audience. Make sure you get educated and informed on the topic, and most importantly what is important to consumers. In a case study it is important the reader perceives you to be an expert, only in depth knowledge, observations and understanding will allow you to achieve this standing.

Stay true to your colours. Even though a case study is a piece of research and should be told in an unbiased and honest way, it is still relevant to show your brand personality. Make sure you tell the story in a way that is consistent with your company brand and products.

Make sure it’s measurable. A nice fuzzy story is great, but people want proof. There is no better way to back your claims than using stats, facts and numerical information. As they say, numbers don’t lie. So if the stats are in your favour, make sure you use them.

Get the right permissions. It’s very important to ensure that you get the permission of any referenced client or subject before you use them in a case study. To ensure that the case study rings true, it is also an excellent idea to ensure that this same client provides you with a testimonial and even a Google review. This adds credibility to their case study for any interested reader that does their research.

Use a number of formats for the same case study. If possible, it is a good idea to use the same case study and information in a number of formats. This includes text on website, video interviews on YouTube, links to social media, downloadable PDF documents and even in hard copy brochure formats. The more opportunities people have to read your content the better.

Don’t make it sales pitch. It’s important that a case study remains authentic and not too salesy to remain believable for the audience. Case studies are a great way of putting forward your best points and casting a good light on your products and services, but there is a fine line between doing this well and badly. If the case study is essentially an advertisement, you have well and truly crossed this line and it will seem tacky and not trustworthy.

In conclusion

A case study is storytelling with a moral at its best. To be valuable, they must be well researched and well delivered. Considerable time and information must be provided for the case study to resonate with its audience in a meaningful way. A potential client must relate to the problem at hand and understand the solution provided, potentially wishing to create this same scenario in their own business or situation.

Image credit: Redtie

Blogs, articles, website and journals that have been referenced when researching and writing this blog:

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Lynda Schenk

An energetic and strategic marketing professional with over twenty years’ experience in industries ranging from wine, not for profit, transport, logistics and manufacturing. Lynda founded Purple Giraffe Marketing Consultancy in 2014 offering an end to end marketing service that draws on her proven ability to formulate brand strategies and marketing communications plans that build brand equity, growth and profitability.

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