3 Ways to Market Effectively Using Case Studies

by Michelle Hunter

How to use case studies as a strategic marketing tool.

Two women at a business meeting over coffee

Case studies are basically client success stories which are created as marketing tools by service and product based businesses. Case studies can be formal and detailed – such as technology or product problem/solution type case studies. They can also be simple, conversational, and engaging – such as simple client stories shared as a part of a website or portfolio.

Effective case studies follow a similar structure. The length and tone of the case study varies depending on the industry, business, and purpose of the study itself, but the flow of the story is basically the same.

  • Client Introduction – This section introduces the client and shares enough demographic and emotional information for the reader to make a connection. The reader should be able to identify with the client.
  • Client Problem – This section describes the problem the client faced prior to the work and shares key factors, such as what the problem felt like to the client, how it affected the client’s business, and why it was important to solve the problem at this time.
  • Evaluating solutions – Once the problem is defined, the case study shifts to share how the client considered solving the problem. Included are factors the client considered before moving forward with this work and the risks associated with the available solutions.
  • Working together – Think of this section as the “what worked/what didn’t work” section of the case study. This is a narrative of the collaborative work, including any significant problems, issues, or shifts in scope or focus. The goal here is to present an engaging story of working together toward a shared goal.
  • The Solution – This section showcases the solution to the problem. It can include visuals to support creative work, statistics, and other representations of results.
  • Testimonial – While client quotes are ideally woven into the body of the entire case study, at this point in the story a client testimonial is crucial. The testimonial should include both tangible and emotional results such as how it felt to work together and what the client can do or achieve now that the work is completed.
  • What’s Next? – Now that the work is completed, what is next for this client? This section shares a look into the future – both in terms of results and future collaborations.
  • Call to Action – The case study ends with a simple invitation to engage deeper. Ideally, the goal is to invite potential clients to begin their own client success story by learning more about collaborating together.

Are you overwhelmed? Don’t be. While this is the flow that most effective case studies follow, the length of the story itself and the way it’s told vary greatly depending on the industry, audience, and purpose of the story itself.

Service providers often use simple, engaging case studies to simply demonstrate results. These can be as simple as a bit of text as a part of a creative portfolio or a blog post sharing the journey taken when working with a client or on a project.

Extensive, formal case studies are more often used when selling a complex product or piece of technology, or when discussing a multifaceted service project with several phases. This type of case study is more than most creative entrepreneurs and established service providers need to market their business.

Case studies are part of an overall marketing strategy.

While some form of case study is helpful for nearly every online business, it’s important to consider your marketing strategy before investing a lot of time and energy into creating case studies. You’ll want to understand how case studies can best be positioned to help you move forward with your marketing goals.

Interested in lead generation?

Sharing a powerfully written, compelling case study in the form of a blog post, guest article, or downloadable PDF you promote on a social platform such as LinkedIn or Facebook can be an effective strategy for drawing new potential clients to your business.

Create a rich, engaging story. Draw the reader in by making the subject of the case study likable and relatable. You want the reader to see himself in the story and connect with the problems the subject faced before working with you.

Keep the reader interested. Use decision points, obstacles, and challenges during the project as natural drama points to keep the reader engaged. Help the reader understand how the subject felt, the challenges you faced together, and the momentum you created as you moved forward.

Share both emotive and tangible results. Statistics are important, but great stories are about more than percentage points and dollar figures. Wrap up the story with resolution of the conflict. Share how the subject feels now that the work is done and what the solution provided means for them personally and professionally.

Using case studies to showcase your work and create credibility?

Creative entrepreneurs often create some type of portfolio to give prospective clients an understanding of their style and ability. The goal is to inspire prospects and demonstrate what is possible when working together. Adding case study content to portfolio pieces provides context to the work and increases the effectiveness.

Balance clear, concise text with high quality images. Use the images you share as the foundation of the story and keep text concise and impactful. Select images carefully and present them as a type of visual storyboard. Use text to add context and help the reader understand the images presented.

Let the story guide you. Avoid overly technical language and images that present technical minutiae that won’t be meaningful to someone without your level of expertise. Focus on telling the story from the perspective of your client. How did it feel to work with you? What did the client see and experience as the work progressed?

Make the story personal. Along with images of the completed work, share photos of people. Show yourself doing the work. Share a warm image of your clients collaborating with you or enjoying the end result of the project. Make the technical aspects warmer by including the human elements that give emotional meaning.

Hoping to create conversions on your website?

Conversion-type case studies are all about results and are shared intentionally to help a potential client move from considering a proposal or project to signing an agreement and getting started. Using case studies inside a proposal or as a shared reference is a great strategy for helping indecisive clients understand the value of investing in your services.

Position the case study to overcome common objections. Identify the common objections you face within your sales process and intentionally develop a case study to address each of them. If prospects often struggle with the size of the investment, for example, share the story of a former client who sacrificed to make a big investment but experienced significant results by going forward.

Highlight the decision making process. Intentionally share hesitations the subject experienced, concerns he expressed, and how she ultimately came to her decision. Include factors that were relevant and the other options considered before ultimately deciding to move forward.

Highlight the results of your work together. Get as clear and detailed as you can about the results achieved by the subject of the study. You want to help the reader see what is possible after moving forward. Balance statistics with a story of what the subject can do or how the subject feels now that the work is completed.

When used strategically, case studies are an incredibly valuable marketing tool for creative entrepreneurs and service providers.

Where is your marketing system struggling? Do you need more qualified leads? Are you struggling to handle objections or convert prospects into paying clients? Take a look at your current situation and think about how to use client success stories to improve your results.

Wondering if case studies are right for your business? Curious how a case study strategy could help you reach your marketing goals? Let’s talk.

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