A few months ago, I started working on my first series of case studies. I came into it a bit daunted by the idea, but I learned so much about what works—and what doesn't. My last case study series boosted our sales, made our CEO cry happy tears, and reconnected us with some old clients.
I've created two series so far and have another ticking away in the background, but I'm still new at it. So for anyone else who's also new to writing case studies, here are a few things I learned that can make the process a lot easier.
Lean into the social proof
Even the most trusted marketers will tell you how much case studies have boosted their business—Neil Patel says three case studies increased his sales by 185%. That's because reading a case study is like reading a review. When you see a five-star detailed review, you're a little relieved, right?
We had a call last week from one of our uncertain clients. They told us they decided to give us a shot after reading our case studies to "find out if we were real." Turns out we are real, and we're now working with them.
But remember: what sets a case study apart from a testimonial or a sales one-pager is that it relies on storytelling. Sure, a case study might not play on your mind for years the way a novel or movie would, but it needs to be memorable in order to push uncertain leads to book that first call, send an email, or sign up.
Think in terms of client and topic
What comes first, the client or the topic?
It depends. Most people would say start with the client—that's where the story is. But there are some cases where starting with the topic will actually yield the best results:
Milestones. If you have a milestone coming up—ours was placing 100 grads into jobs—you can absolutely lead with that and then highlight some clients within the milestone celebration.
New products. Maybe you just launched a new product or service and you want to highlight it. You only have a couple customers to choose from, but that's ok—as long as those customers are happy and willing to participate, you're golden.
Specific use cases. If there's a use case that you serve but that doesn't seem to be resonating with your audience, you can write a case study about it and find clients who fit the bill to highlight.
Of course, if you don't have anything specific in mind, then default to the client. In order to pick who to spotlight, we asked ourselves:
Who are our most well-known clients? If people recognize the name of your customer (assuming it's a trusted brand), they're more likely to trust their opinion.
Who are our repeat customers? Someone who's purchased from you or used your services multiple times (or, in the case of a subscription model, has been a long-time customer) is more likely to have lots to contribute to the conversation.
Who have we worked with recently? Clients will be more likely to give you a quote or accept an interview invitation immediately after you've closed on a deal or sale.
Who has a topical or particularly relatable story? If you helped someone with an issue that a lot of people are struggling with, that's going to draw people in. For example, our upcoming case study series is focused on how we helped women land jobs in exciting roles at tech companies.
Get multiple points of view
It's pretty common for case studies to include quotes from just one person. And it makes sense—getting an interview booked can be a hassle, so talking to more than one person isn't a simple task. Remember, though, that you can always send a form in place of a live interview or just exchange a few emails.
Talking to multiple people will give you more perspectives, of course, which gives you more options for how to tell the story in the way that works best for your brand. You're not tied to one person's interpretation of the relationship, and you might get more—or different—nuance from different people. Plus, outputs from different contacts will vary massively. Some people love a one-word answer while others love to chat. If the one person you speak to doesn't give you much to work with, you're stuck.
So who do you talk to? At DigitalGrads, we help place juniors in jobs, so we have two clients (candidate and employer)—that gives us an easy way to get multiple inputs. If that's not the case for you, you have a few options:
If your client used your product or service for a business purpose, talk to more than one employee. Even if only one person at the company used your product or service, you might get insights about the business from someone else that could help you form an engaging narrative.
Get quotes from your own colleagues. Did anyone work directly with the customer? If so, talk to that person to get more insight. If not, find someone who knows the aspect of the product or service you're highlighting and ask them to speak to it.
Do the heavy lifting yourself. Gather as much information as possible before you start. That way, even if you don't get anything incredible from anyone else, you know you have something to work with. (Just always be sure you send the case study to the client to review before you publish it.)
Tag everyone when promoting
Of course you'll promote your case studies across your marketing channels. When you promote them on social, be sure to tag everyone involved. Anyone who you quoted and anyone who offered you their time or resources to contribute to the article should get a shout-out. For starters, it's polite! But it'll also help with engagement since people will be excited to see their story in the limelight.
Also be sure to engage when they reshare. Comment on their post to help maintain that relationship and show other potential customers that you're engaged with your audience and truly want to promote the success of your clients.
We were initially worried that our 100 Hires case study series would reveal that we're actually a small, young company—only 100 hires so far. But it's been a huge success.
You want to be sure you're accurately representing your product or service, your brand, and the customer you're profiling. The goal isn't to win over every single person who reads your case study—it's to win over the people who will be successful with your business.
After you've put in the blood, sweat, and tears (from yourself or, in my case, your boss), make your case studies work for you. Promote them, reuse them in different formats, and even use them to remind your team of the great work you've done.
This was a guest post from Daisy Hanson, a content marketing executive at DigitalGrads, the graduate training and recruitment platform. DigitalGrads is on a mission to match talented university graduates with innovative employers. Search for your ideal junior hire today! Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.