Google “marketing case study.” Go ahead, I’ll wait here for you.
I’m willing to bet you just found a whole slew of templates, tips, and examples designed to help you craft the “perfect” case study. But you probably didn’t see a single link that actually explains what a modern marketing case study is.
We all think we know what a case study is. And the more of them I see, the more bored I become. They’re usually dry, short, and more like a sales pitch in a sloppy disguise than a great expository piece. But it shouldn’t be this way. Case studies should be valuable educational tools that draw in prospective sales through the power of information and reliable proof.
So… what is a case study?
Let’s go back to the basics together and figure out what a case study really is, so that we can create great ones that actually help our prospects.
Case studies can be a process or a written account that highlights the development of something worth tracking. In marketing, effective case studies are often stories of failure or success in achieving a marketing goal. But a case study can be something you set out to write or it can be an example you play out in real time: a process in which detailed consideration is given to the development of a particular person, group, or situation over a period of time.
That means that you can make case studies without writing boring, repetitive accounts of your client’s experiences. You can make case studies out of anything. Have you had a great experience using a piece of software? Make it a case study! Did you recently change brands of coffee in the break room? Case study! Are you trying to revolutionize the way you do business? Then you are a case study!
Drop the Structure
Most companies use one template and create cookie cutter case studies. Have some fun! The only things a case study really requires are:
A problem - give a little history; tell us why we care.
A solution - what are you aiming to do?
Results - give us some data!
A quote or testimonial - proof that your solution worked or didn’t work
A call to action - what should we do if we want your help solving our problem?
Most especially, don’t be afraid to fail. Just as we learn from our mistakes, we can help others by sharing what didn’t work for us. Keep track of your successes, failures, and everything in between. If you make a tweak, take a note. This information is all a vital part of your case study.
The Right Medium
Get creative with this. Make a video. Take some pictures. Heck, give us a meme. Show us that you really live this case study, and that you’re not just churning out unmemorable marketing collateral.
Your audience is hungry for content, not showmanship. Case studies prove the point instead of making promises. They’re something a confident source creates that displays strength or weakness, and tells the story of the way a situation played out. A great case study is your opportunity to tell part of your company’s story, explain a new process, or describe how to not solve a particular problem.
Case studies are one of the most effective pieces of content you can put out into the market, and their popularity is continually rising. According to DemandGen, 78% of buyers in 2017 used case studies to research purchases (up from 72% in 2016). They are the most accessible, digestible, and effective ways to turn potential purchases into closed sales.
Over at Advantage Business Marketing, we take the case study business very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that our corporate vision is to be a case study. Our aim is to live what we preach and walk what we talk in order to prove that our services really work. Check back with us as we move towards a brand new Advantage!