82% of B2B marketers [pdf] use case studies as a marketing tactic – that’s a higher percentage than those who blog! In fact, case studies are the second most popular component of B2B content marketing strategies – second only to social media content.
The same report marks case studies highly on the effectiveness scale, too – marketers rate them as the third most productive B2B tactic after only in-person events and webinars. Two-thirds of marketers have found case studies to be effective.
If you aren’t yet convinced to spend some of your limited marketing resources on drawing up case studies, read on.
Case studies have the potential to be the most useful tool available to B2B marketers. Here’s why.
Social Proof, or ‘If It Worked for Them…’
Social proof is a phenomenon that basically tells us that humans look to the actions of their peers when making a decision about what to do in a certain situation.
Here are a few examples of social proof in action:
1. You’re visiting a new city and looking for a bar or club. You see a long line of revelers waiting to get into one club. You assume that entry to this club must be in high demand, so you join the line to see what all the fuss is about.
2. You’re on a busy street and witness a couple fighting. No-one stops to intervene, so you assume you don’t need to either.
3. You’re looking to buy some new tech for the office. You head to your favorite e-commerce site, type in a search term and then check to see that the results are sorted by customer rating. You take a look at the top few results in more detail before making a decision.
Club and restaurant managers use the first example to their advantage. Restaurants will seat visitors near the front window and club managers will create unnecessary lines at the doors to make the venues seem popular.
The second example is also known as the bystander effect. It’s social proof at its most damaging.
The final example shows how social proof works in the digital sphere. We value the opinions of complete strangers based on their own experiences with products and services you’re thinking of buying.
Social Proof and Case Studies
Let’s go back to case studies. The social proof provided by case studies is clear. You’re recounting the experience that others have had with your product or service so that readers will see how it has benefited your current clients.
Case studies are a particularly valuable source of social proof for a number of reasons:
- They show real outcomes – they’re not just sales speak.
- They tell the stories of clients that potential customers can relate to.
- They talk about specific situations where the product solved a problem.
Overall, case studies tell a story.
There’s the chance to set the scene with some background information about the client’s situation.
Next, you introduce the problem. Explain the business processes which were holding your client back. Talk about how this was impacting their growth, customer retention or profits.
Then, you move onto the resolution. Here’s where you get to talk about your product. Explain how it helped with the customer’s specific situation.
We all love a good story – and case studies always have happy endings!
Of course, although you need to tell stories through case studies, you don’t want them to read like fairy tales.
To capitalise on social proof, your case studies need to be credible.
Improve credibility by adding the following features to your case studies. We’ve ordered them from those features which take the least effort, to those which require the most investment.
1. Quotes from clients. E.g. “Product XYZ was integral to our company’s rapid growth over the past 12 months.”
2. Client names and head shots.
3. Statistics. E.g. “Our average response time has decreased from 20 minutes to 12 minutes since we started using Product XYZ for a certain task.”
4. Photos of the product or service in action inside the client’s offices.
5. Media such as infographics or videos.
Of course, video case studies tend to be hugely effective – but it’s up to you and your marketing budget to determine if it’s worth the extra investment.
Promoting Your Case Studies
Like any form of content, case studies don’t get noticed on merit alone.
That means sharing them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or your social network of choice. Don’t forget to mention the subject of the case study in your social posts – chances are you’ll get a retweet or share of them.
Case studies generally fulfill a different role to general blog content – case study readers are likely already in the ‘conversion’ part of the marketing funnel, whereas your blog readers tend to be higher up the funnel.
Therefore, place case study links or snippets in prominent places on your website – particularly on pages that customers who are close to converting are looking at, such as your pricing page.
Finally, if your state or country has data protection laws that prevent you from sharing information about your clients with others, case studies are valuable in yet another way. When obtaining case studies, you can gain the client’s permission to share their identity (and certain business information) with the outside world.
During the sales process, you’re then able to talk about these case study clients. For instance, if a potential customer wants an example of another cafe which uses the software you provide, you can pass along a link to the case study – instead of having to say that you can’t reveal specifics because of data protection laws.
Case studies are powerful tools that can be highly effective, particularly given their low cost. Readers trust them because they aren’t direct sales pitches – they’re stories told from a customer’s perspective.
The social proof generated from a credible case study is significant. If you haven’t published a range of case studies on your website (or elsewhere), you could be losing valuable trade.
Simply put: case studies show potential clients how your product has helped others just like them.
That’s why they’re so important.