Case Studies: The Best (and Easiest) Secret To Higher Conversions

Kevin Mullins

Everyone knows a stellar reputation is fundamental to online marketing success. But did you know that case studies are digital marketing best kept secret to higher conversions?

Forget what you’ve read about shady brands raking in the dough flogging worthless products with lavish paid social media strategies. Genuine business driven by a solid reputation will continue to win both online and off.

Just like bad restaurant critique, few people in your target audience will buy from a brand that doesn’t have positive reviews. In fact, one study showed that 91% of people read online reviews or seek out social proof before making a purchase. A full 84% of prospective buyers trust online reviews as much as a face-to-face recommendation.

graph showing the power of case studies in digital marketing
Courtesy of G2 Consumer Review

Let’s say you provide a wonderful service which garners positive reviews on Facebook, Yelp or Google My Business. That’s an important and impressive start, but positive reviews aren’t the only way to show the trustworthiness of your brand.

They’re not even the most effective. Something more powerful and effective exists to drive lead generation and website conversions. Turns out, it’s one of B2B inbound marketing‘s best (and easiest) factors of higher conversions. What is it?

The answer is published case studies. That’s right; case studies!

What Are Case Studies?

In business-to-business lead generation and conversions, the story-driven case study reigns supreme. Case studies are documented use cases of your product or service. Think of them as a beautiful story of how a customer enjoyed their interaction with you and experienced a positive change. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Perhaps you consider case studies an unnecessary burden to an overworked staff. They aren’t. If they’re well written, that is. Case studies present future customers with real, compelling evidence that you have something worthwhile to offer them.

They are one of the few marketing assets that move potential customers from the consideration stage to the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. What is the buyer’s journey? The buyer’s journey is the decision-making pathway customers take when looking for a product or service to solve a problem.

graph showing case studies are most effective during the consideration stage of the buyer's journey
Courtesy of G2 Consumer Review

Case studies, especially written with the buyer’s journey in mind, offer compelling examples for why customers should consider you. These are perfect for converting wavering customers stuck between the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.

Yet, so many brands overlook case studies. Why?

They’re busy issuing press releases — a holdover from the glory days of advertising. Any vendor can issue a press release and proclaim the greatness of their product or service. Most do. But that’s all it is, a proclamation. A biased, paid-for proclamation at that.

Yes, paid PR is a booming business, but paid media puff pieces rarely change hearts and minds like case studies.

Case studies show your company in action. They offer tangible proof to your claims. And because they’re written from the perspective of a previous client, they can connect on a deeper level. Far better than likes, star ratings, or media press releases.

If past customers enjoyed what you offer, there’s no reason not to (and many reasons to) tell the world by publishing case studies.

Why Offer Case Studies?

First, case studies offer potential customers a peek at someone else’s results. It’s a point-of-view journey through the eyes of another customer who travelled that road and found success. Like an executive summary of success.

graph showing buyers are more likely to buy after reading a trusted review or case study
Courtesy of G2 Consumer Review

Convincing case studies can mean the difference between someone working with you or choosing another provider. Say, a competitor who did a better job at showcasing customer delight. Customers on the buyer’s journey are hunting for reasons to do business with you — or your competitor. Case studies give them a compelling reason.

Second, you know the concept of addressing a customer’s “pain points.” Case studies place your prospective customer into the shoes of a peer. Someone you helped or a problem you resolved. Instead of claiming you solve problem x or y (or paying a PR firm to say it), case studies show you know how to deal with problem x or y.

A third factor favoring case studies is that buyers like sincere brands. Study after study prove that you can influence a customer’s decision-making process by appearing genuine and trustworthy. What better way to show people that you are a transparent brand than with social proof in the form of a case study?

A case study gives a previous customer the opportunity to share their honest, unfiltered testimonial about your product or service to a future customer. It’s their opportunity to share the heart of their story. How they expanded into new markets, saved time and money, or increased productivity without increasing staff. Whatever it is, make sure their perspective, not yours, drives the case study.

Should I Write My Case Study? Or Film It?

The quick answer is: it depends. The better answer is you should put your case studies into as many forms as possible. These can vary from written content, e.g., blog posts or downloadable PDF’s, to video reviews, interviews, or guest appearances on a podcast. Ultimately, your target audience’s circumstances, their stage in the buyer’s journey, and your buyer personas should determine your chosen case study format.

Written Case Studies

Written case studies are wonderful for the people who research a product before buying it. For example, if you’re a B2B company, offer thoroughly written case studies on your website. Businesses executives will research your company and past results before choosing to engage with you.

If you have many success stories from a certain sector, group them into a downloadable e-book, one that includes footnotes and infographics. (If you make infographics, be sure to include them in videos and social media posts). Written case studies should be concise but also include the meatier details a potential purchaser is looking for.

Make sure it’s well-formatted and easy to read. Do your best to avoid complicated words and industry jargon. You want a powerful introduction, a detailed, interesting story (the individual case study), and a compelling call to action at the bottom. 

Another potential benefit of written case studies is that you can generate leads by placing them behind an opt-in form or content gate. (Although HubSpot stirred up some controversy at Inbound). If people are serious about your product or service, they should be willing to exchange their contact details to get the goods.

Video Case Studies

As we tell all our clients, if you can make a video case study, you definitely should. Why? Videos are a powerful method for online marketing. One study showed that 87% of marketers saw increased traffic simply by creating videos.

Second, videos trend better than written content on social media networks. Think about it: when scrolling through Facebook at the end of a long day, do you really want to read a long post?

Likewise, videos work a lot better when targeting mobile users. They may just be casually browsing and won’t read a detailed case study, but they will watch a video. Keep your video under 5 minutes – somewhere around 3-4 minutes is an ideal length.

Podcasts

Podcasts are all the rage these days. People like listening to podcasts while on their daily commute or working on something else. We’ve already underscored the importance of a genuine appearance in digital marketing. Few things give off a more true “vibe” than podcasts!

Why do we like them so much? Probably because they’re informal. Just two people speaking casually, without a script, about a captivating topic. Like they would if no one else were around.

Listening to a podcast is like getting a backseat to a personal conversation. Couple that with an interview of a satisfied customer who benefited from your company…you’ve got lead conversion dynamite. Hosting (or being hosted) on a podcast will make the customer seem more like a “real person,” not some kind of actor.

Running a podcast has a lot of other benefits, too. It’s one of the quickest ways to become an industry leader and cultivate consumer trust. We wove podcasting into Zartis’ inbound marketing strategy and saw tremendous success.

interviewing case study

How To Make a Case Study

An excellent case study is all about the story — the customer’s story, not yours. You need a case study champion, a client insider who’s willing to go on record to discuss using your product or service.

Case study should tell a transformational narrative, one that compels a person to keep reading or listening. Don’t treat your case study like a press release. Prospective customers don’t want to hear you. They want to hear the experience of their peers. How they started with a problem, found you, and the problem went away. Simply tell the story of how your product came to the rescue and helped that previous customer win the day.

To do that well, you need to think about the most common problem a person or business might have. What would lead them to your business? What search terms would they use to find potential solutions?

Your case study should center on the person or business who had that problem and, after working with you, had it resolved. If you use the most common problem, your case study will be more relevant to a larger percentage of your target audience. A larger group of people will find it easy to relate which will make it more efficient in driving conversions.

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to get right to the point! Draw the customer in to the story, so they’re compelled to continue reading, watching, or listening. 

4 Key Elements to A Good Case Study

  1. Your text or video should offer a natural peek at the person or business. You need not give their life story: mention what kind of work they were and how they ended up talking to you.
  2. Whether you’re creating B2B case study, state the problem you encountered. The case study should read genuine. No fibbing! If you’re making a video, ask the person to speak as openly about the problem as possible and frankly about their experience.
  3. Ask the right questions! If you’re interviewing someone, ask open-ended questions that invite discussion. If you’re writing from your perspective, think of the conversation from the buyer’s eyes. The more open your questions and detailed your answers, the better your information, as it helps other potential customers resolve to work with you.
  4. Give statistics whenever you can. What were the results? How many customers, leads, inquiries, contacts, buyers, NPS increase, conversions did your solution deliver? If you helped your customer save money, how much? Did they If they can provide details such as definitive ROI, even better.
two women talking smiling

Whom Should I Choose For My Case Study?

We already mentioned that the person you choose should match others looking for your product experience, and it should have been resolved.

Ideally, this person should know a lot about your niche. They should be able to articulate why your product helped them, and what made it stand out from competing offers.

You also want to find someone whose problem wasn’t just solved, but whose expectations you exceeded.

Maybe this means they experienced a large ROI, or that having their problem resolved helped them out in an unexpected area of their business. Be sure to emphasize these points in the case study. 

Choose The Right Person To Reach Out To

Now that you have someone in mind, it’s time to reach out. You’ll need cooperation from the person in question.

Unfortunately, they might not be willing to sit down and do an interview with you out of the kindness of their heart. Be prepared to explain how their cooperation can benefit them.

Cooperating in a case study can help your former customer in a few ways. First, a case study will help that business increase their own brand awareness, which can only be a good thing for them. Providing backlinks to their website can also increase their ranking and domain authority in Google’s search results, meaning they get more business.

If all else fails, you can offer them a future discount for playing nice. Since your product helped them out, they’ll probably be happy to take more of it!

Once they’ve accepted, you’ll send them a case study release form that details all the information you want to disclose. Here you address things like names or trade-marked details.

Conduct the Interview and Build Your Study

A 30 to 60-minute interview should be sufficient. Work hard to get into the nitty-gritty. How did your product or service help them? What were the specific facts and figures that made the difference? Did they make more money or save money? Gain time or efficiency? Increase productivity or reduce waste? Whatever it was, make sure you get the details of why other products let them down and yours made all the difference.

Wrapping Up

Any business serious about driving online conversions on their website can’t afford to go without case studies. They’re too important.

Your ideal customers are becoming more and more discerning. If you’re serious about driving higher conversions through your website, you need to offer solid reasons why customers should part with their money.

Solid case studies are one of digital marketing’s most compelling motivators you have at your disposal. Do them right and watch the leads roll in.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out our Work page to see some of our client’s success stories.

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