How to build Great Case Studies for your Business & Attract more Dream customers
Case studies are the big daddy of social proof.
They are sometimes the difference between a potential customer who decides to click off your sales page, and a new brand advocate who nearly pokes a hole through their tablet hitting the “buy now” button.
Now I don’t do case studies, but Amanda Perris from Case Study Queen does.
Today I’m chatting with her about how to build awesome case studies that sky rocket your authority, why having case studies is crucial for your business, how to conduct case study interviews and so much more.
You can either watch our full interview below or read the associated blog post which also covers some aspects we didn’t go into (like is SEO applicable to case studies?)
- What is a case study?
- Why are Case Studies Important?
- How to Build An Awesome Case Study in 3 steps
- What type of Businesses should Publish Case Studies?
- Case Study FAQs
- Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Using Case Studies for your Marketing
- Speaking of Social Proof….You see those share icons down below? Want to tap one and share this article? 😎
What is a case study?
A case study is an in-depth exploration of a customer’s transformational journey. It follows a story-like format (usually a version of the Hero’s Journey) starting with what problem they were trying to overcome, what struggles they had before accepting the ‘call to action’ (AKA your product/service) and how they achieved their transformation (with your help).
Amanda makes a brilliant point by highlighting that “case studies are a very authentic way of marketing,” because you’re essentially allowing your customers to ‘sell’ for you.
Why are Case Studies Important?
How many times have you bought a product because someone you trusted, someone who is very similar to you, recommended it?
My guess? Quite a lot.
We are social animals and naturally we look to our peers to help us make purchasing decisions. After all, if it worked for them then it’ll probably work for us too.
In fact, according to research from Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer and 70% trust recommendations even if they’re from somebody they don’t know.
This phenomenon is known as ‘social proof’.
There are other ways to leverage social proof to show how your services deliver on their promises such as testimonials, star reviews and referral programs, but case studies’ use of a story-like method make them the most powerful form of social proof.
Top Reasons why case studies are so important for your business, according to Amanda Perris.
- “They create this point of genuine connection [as your potential customers] can see themselves in your past customers. They can understand the process and the outcome and they can see the whole process of your offer.”
- “You’re showing and not just telling and we have a culture of learning things through story.”
- “It helps differentiate you from your competitors as everyone has similar promises, but when you have case studies you’re showing that you deliver on those promises. You stand out because the abstract is made much more concrete with real-world examples.”
- “It aids your prospects in their decision-making process so you’re no longer having to worry about simply overcoming objections to purchase, but rather they see themselves in your customer’s stories and find the answer themselves as to whether or not the product is right for them. And if it’s not the right choice for them, it reveals that too.”
Case studies are a great way to sell without being salesy because you want [your prospects] to make a decision that they’re invested in.
So, if that’s got you all fired up about getting your own case studies published then keep reading, cause we’re taking a deep dive into how to showcase your customer wins with authority boosting case studies.
How to Build An Awesome Case Study in 3 steps
Before you think about writing your case study, you need to have a solid strategy in place. Amanda offers nugget after nugget of wisdom on how to do this and I’ve compiled it all into this handy list.
Step #1: Choose the Right Customers for your Case Study
You need to make sure that you’re publishing the transformational journey of those customers who really fit into your IDEAL customer box (so you’ll attract more of those ideal clients).
It’s not enough to just say, “This course is perfect for early-stage entrepreneurs looking to bag dream clients” you’ve got to show people that you’ve served this particular audience for them to truly believe in you.
Here are Amanda’s top-tips about choosing the BEST customers for your case study
- “Make sure they’re wiling to talk about their “before” stage. We don’t want to just focus on the great transformation, we need to show prospects that your customers have also struggled with similar problems.”
- “You need to think about what messages you want to put out there, what qualities about your program etc that you want to highlight the most, then choose customers who are most aligned with that.”
- “While you should focus on showcasing the case studies of dream-fit clients, also keep in mind that your audience isn’t just an avatar, they are very diverse and you can choose some customers who may not be exactly alike.”
Step #2: Conduct Interviews
Sending out a survey won’t really be enough to truly capture all the nuances of someone’s transformational experience, that type of info requires 1:1 human connection.
However, Amanda says she doesn’t tend to offer incentives.
This is partly because she works with coaches and course creators who tend to have a closer relationship to their customers than say, SaaS companies. However, she also points out that most people are just honoured to be considered a dream customer and are only too happy to share their story of transformation.
“I don’t tend to offer incentives it might be a product of the market I work in because they already have a good relationship with their clients. And people are honoured to be asked and honoured to be told that they are an ideal client. If they have had a transformational experience then they’re happy to share.”Amanda Perris
Here’s a step-by-step for preparing & conducting customer interviews:
- First, identify the best-fit customers & what key features of the program you’d like to highlight in a case study
- Send them an email and let them know you’d love to showcase their transformation, especially as they are dream clients
- Amanda uses a Calendly link for interviewees to book a call at a time and day that suits them
- Create a questionnaire but make sure the questions highlight specific areas that you want to talk about. For example, if you want to highlight how great your Facebook community is, make sure to add a question about how they used the Facebook group as part of their journey and transformation
- Remember to follow a story-like format: start by asking them about their struggles before finding you, what steps they took to overcome them and how their life changed as a result of your program
- Let them know what you’ll be broadly speaking about, but don’t send them the questions beforehand. Amanda mentions that this is to make sure that the interview stays conversational and she can remain reactive
- Make sure to record the interview using Zoom or Google Meet and use otter.ai to transcribe the video into text so you can better sift through all the information later
Once you’ve got all your amazing information you need to showcase it somewhere. So, how should you present your case studies?
Step #3: Format your Case Study
One thing Amanda just loves about case studies is how much content you can squeeze out of them (for a multitude of marketing platforms).
Here are all the ways you can publish and repurpose your case studies
- Written case studies
- You can have a dedicated page on your website for “customer success stories”
- Publish your case study as a blog post under the category “customer wins/stories” or something similar
- They also make great downloadable PDFs and white papers
- You can tie in parts of your case studies in your sales page
- Video case study
- With your participant’s permission you can upload your interview on your YouTube channel or repurpose into short sound bites for social media
- Social Media
- Amanda recommends taking quotes from your case studies and publishing them on platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram
- Facebook ads: case studies can be used to great effect on paid social ads, especially for retargeted ads to people who have already visited your sales page but didn’t convert
- Email Marketing
- Case studies can be condensed down into great sales emails, especially towards the end of a sales sequence
- Podcast Case Studies & Speaking Opportunities
- Amanda mentions that you as the business owner can also “speak” your case studies and tie them into mediums like podcasting which will help show how deeply you care about your customer’s stories.
A case study offers endless repurposing opportunities and it’s also a highly valuable piece of content to have. Approximately 31% of respondents questioned in Eccolo Media’s 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report said they found case studies to be the third-most influential content format, just behind white papers (33%) and data sheets (39%).
What type of Businesses should Publish Case Studies?
Coaches, SaaS, course creators, service providers, B2B… essentially every business benefits from having detailed case studies. However, we shouldn’t think just think of it in terms of industry, instead we should think of what types of decisions we’re asking customers to make and whether or not these are best served with case studies. So instead of thinking “who” benefits the most from having case studies, it’s better to frame it as “when” it’s best to use case studies.
When to use a case study for your marketing
- “If there’s a decision to be made that’s high cost, high risk or high complexity, then you’ll benefit from having case studies.”
- “If an offer is hard to understand, like some B2B products and services, then case studies can help your prospects better understand what benefits are being offered and how the service actually works.”
- “If your offer is a stretch financially for your audience, you really need to show them how it’ll impact their life and what’s the risk of not taking action. Case studies are a great way to do this authentically.”
- “If your market is highly saturated you should have case studies. On the surface it seems like everyone is all going after the same audience, but really there are a lot of nuances. Case studies help draw out those nuances. Those who aren’t the best fit will self-selected and see themselves out. And those who are a good fit will gravitate towards what you’re offering.”
Case Study FAQs
How many Case Studies Should I Publish?
Start off with around 2-3 detailed case studies. More case studies doesn’t necessarily mean better, so don’t just add more for the sake of it. Be strategic with your case studies and choose only those best customer stories from those you consider dream customers. You can have different case studies that represent different types of ‘customer avatars’ if you serve more than one audience.
How Can I Use Case studies Across My Marketing Funnel?
Case studies can be used at the top of your funnel in the form of free PDF guides and white papers right through to the bottom of your funnel like in sales emails. Case studies can also be repurposed across social media channels, usually in the form of catchy quotes, that highlight different stages in the buyer’s journey.
How Can I Make Sure my Case Studies Aren’t Too Similar?
Too much similarity across case studies isn’t too much of a problem because each individual has a different experience with your service or product. However, case studies can seem similar if you don’t take a solid strategic approach and only focus on surface-level benefits and struggles. Make sure you take the time to properly dive into each customer’s experience, ask lots of open ended questions and choose the right customers for your case study.
How Long Should a Case Study Be?
A case study is usually around 600 words, but it longer form case studies can be up to 1,500 words. Over 2000 words would be considered more of a white paper.
What are some Common Case Study Mistakes?
1. Not understanding the purpose of the case study as a demonstration of a transformation
2. Being too superficial with case studies and not digging deeper into the impact the service or product has had on the customer’s life
3. Not choosing the right customers for your case study who align with your business goals and the message you want to spread
4. Choosing customers who don’t want to talk about their struggles before the transformation
I’m B2B, Won’t my Competitors Poach my Clients if I Publish Case Studies?
If you’re the best solution to your customers then you won’t have to worry about them being poached. Furthermore, as Joel Klettke said over Twitter, imagine if your competitor has a library of demonstrable proof that they deliver on their promise and you don’t? If anything, having case studies will give you a competitive advantage over your competitors. Amanda also adds that differentiating yourself from your competitors is a sure-fire way to retain customer loyalty.
What’s a Social Proof Strategy?
A social proof strategy is consciously showcasing how your service or product has improved the lives of your customers. When writing this type of copy, you are being extra conscious of highlighting the transformation of your past customers to show prospects that you deliver on your promises.
can I use a Case STudy for SEO Purposes?
If you’re publishing a case study as a blog or webpage then you absolutely can get some SEO juice out of it. People may be searching for ‘your brand/product + review’ and that can be a good keyword to potentially target. However, you’ll probably only benefit from that if you have a well established brand or product and actually get branded searches. Alternatively, you can format it as a how-to article or something similar. For instance, “How to Get your First 1,000 email subscribers” and infuse a customer/client’s case study as part of the article.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Using Case Studies for your Marketing
One of the biggest barriers you’ll have to overcome as a business owner is the scepticism of the common consumer.
Everyone out there and their granny are making huge (largely unsubstantiated) claims about how their product or service is going to completely change their prospects lives. It’s easy to get lost in all that noise and be another voice clambering above the ruckus saying, “Buy this IT’S REALLY GOOD I PROMISE!”
Case studies let you take a backseat, shut up and let your living, breathing customers do the selling for you, without even trying. Simply by sharing their story and how your company helped them undergo some type of transformation is worth its weight in gold when it comes to your marketing efforts.
It also lets you be an advocate for your customers and give them a voice, instead of always resorting to a unidirectional mode of communication (aka you talking to your customers/prospects).
For those reasons, just about every business should be investing in the power of social proof that case studies have to offer, and Amanda is the best that I know.
Massive thank you for sharing your wisdom with us Amanda. I learnt so much and I know others will too make sure to check her out over at https://casestudyqueen.com
Speaking of Social Proof….You see those share icons down below? Want to tap one and share this article? 😎
SEO Copywriter & Content Marketer
Kerry Campion is a content marketer and copywriter for SaaS brands who are fuelling the creator economy. Her gig is creating customer-centric content marketing plans and writing SEO copy that sounds nothing like SEO copy 😎. Get in touch if you’re interested in working together!