Inbound marketing is all about demonstrating your expertise by creating and sharing valuable information to your prospects. And one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate that expertise, especially for companies in the B2B space, is using real-life, relevant case studies your target audience will relate to.
Case studies show what you’re capable of under the same types of conditions and expectations your target experiences; in that way they serve as compelling peer reviews of your capabilities, approach, product, service and people.
Even though a case study is essentially just the telling of a story, it can be a little tricky to put together – what details do you include? Which details aren’t important? What kinds of metrics should you provide? What’s too much info and what’s not enough?
How To Create A Compelling Case Study
When creating your own case studies (your library should include at least 3), they should all present the same types of information:
- Background that helps the reader understand the challenge you were asked to help solve
- Reasons why you were selected for the project
- How you approached the challenge (methods, types of equipment used, modifications you made, etc.)
- And the results!
Your view of the situation, the development of the solution and the process of reaching it are as important as results because they demonstrate how you think and respond – critical in most every vendor’s selection process.
Below are some questions to ask yourself as you outline information for each of the four categories. You may find yourself coming up with additional relevant questions and answers – as long as they help demonstrate your expertise, include them!
This section gives you the opportunity to outline the situation your customer was in and the challenge they faced; it also allows you to talk about the related challenges you faced as a result.
- What was the customer’s goal for this project? What prompted the goal – a need to save money, improve performance, reduce downtime?
- What, if any, alternatives did the customer explore before turning to you? Did other vendors attempt a solution but fail?
- Were there market factors that influenced how you approached the assignment – was there a competitive product the customer was attempting to match or improve upon? Was the market demanding a specific product feature or capability?
This section gives you the chance to highlight the reasons you were chosen for the project.
- Was the assignment unique in a way that made it a perfect fit for your company? Did it align with specific capabilities features/benefits you provide?
- What benchmarks did your customer use to evaluate you in the selection process?
- Was this your first project with this customer or is this repeat business?
Avoid talking about price if that’s the primary reason you were chosen. Focus instead on what you can do better than anyone – and anyone can lower their price if they really want a project.
Approach & Solution
Here’s where you’ll identify how you evaluated and solved the customer’s challenge. What’s important here is demonstrating that you weren’t selected based on price alone or because you were able to deliver on the required date; this is a chance to show the power of how you think and act.
- Did you discuss or attempt other options before arriving at the eventual solution?
- Did this project push any envelopes for your team in terms of capabilities or functionality?
- Was anything out-of-the-ordinary required during this project in terms of time, sourcing, equipment used, personnel brought in on the project or something?
- Was there collaboration with your customer at any points in the process?
This is The Big Payoff: what impact your solution had on your customer’s business. You’ll enhance your credibility if you present results in a goal-to-outcome comparison that connects what the customer needed and how you addressed it spot-on.
- Were the initial goals reached? Did you also solve challenges you didn’t anticipate solving?
- What impact did your solution have on the customer's business? Reference any relevant measures, like sales, volume, reduced downtime, improved profit margin, improved shelf life – whatever is important to your prospect
Putting It All To Work
Simply answering the questions in these four categories will give you 90% of what you need to construct a compelling case study. What you need to do at this point is write the story. This is simply a matter of taking all of your answers and adding detail where you’d like to go into more depth (as long as it’s relevant to the prospect), rewording to ensure that each sentence leads into the next, and adding appropriate lead-ins where necessary.
Next, make your case study really powerful by adding a quote from the customer. Having that added stamp of approval and confirmation that you performed as you claim makes the piece more interesting and believable. Some of your customers may be leery about (or prohibited from) providing their name or even the name of the company. You can easily get around this by using their title only, and identifying the company in general terms, such as “a large food manufacturer” or "industry-leading financial software company".
Some additional tips:
- Your content library should be stocked with a number of case studies, each highlighting a slightly different type of challenge you solved or situation your target could expect to encounter
- While extreme cases (unbearably tight budgets or timelines, a requirement to use a rare material, a request for an exceptionally unusual product feature) demonstrate that you can step up to the plate when needed, your best case studies will be reasonably typical of what you’re asked to do
- Each should include images that help tell the story
Want some more help creating great case studies? We’ve got a template for that!