Content marketing is one of our agency’s favorite topics. Yet, it’s interesting to consider that it was actually Bill Gates who coined the phrase “Content is king” back in 1996. How that phrase resonates now, however, is quite different from what it meant back then.
Today, content marketing is best leveraged as a strategic approach — focused on creating and distributing engaging, relevant storytelling — designed to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. Ultimately… converting prospects into customers.
When done right, content marketing conveys a brand’s expertise and makes it clear that the brand understands — and values – each of its target audiences.
Blog posts, trend articles, case studies, project profiles, e-newsletters, white papers, social media posts and videos are all common examples of content marketing.
Case studies, in particular, are a highly valuable way for building product brands to share real-world solutions that address their target audiences’ challenges — showcasing the merits of products and their valued, solution-outcomes — while guiding prospects through the customer journey.
Making the case
Simply put, a case study describes a specific challenge — or set of challenges — that a customer has faced. The solution, that they leveraged to overcome their problem. And of course, the measurable end results.
Notably, in a recent B2B Buyer Behavior Study, case studies were ranked “very important” by 52% of B2B buyers when they were evaluating vendors.
Case studies are a particularly good fit for building product brands… who can spotlight how customers have solved real-world problems using the brand’s products and solutions. Potential customers are invited to experience — and share — a specific “product-in-action” within a case study… which makes that solution much more relatable.
A prospect is likely to believe, “since this product clearly solved a similar company’s challenges so effectively, perhaps the outcome will be similar for me.” This type of third-party endorsement lends much more power to a case study when compared to an ad or promotional claim.
Ultimately, case studies give potential customers what they really want: proof that a brand delivers results.
Just the facts, please
So, what exactly makes a good case study?
- It comes from a customer’s perspective. Case studies should demonstrate how a product or service solved a problem… with customer testimonials provided as compelling “evidence.” The point is to demonstrate from a customer’s unique perspective — rather than a brand’s own claims — how that product or service helped to make their job easier.
- It contains a complete story arc. Ideally, each case study should convey a full story… from-start-to-finish. When developing a compelling narrative, consider in which phase of the customer journey a prospect will consume the content. For example, in the “awareness“ phase of that journey, case studies serve as an orientation. They provide an actionable insight into a product… from a foundational point-of-view. And demonstrate how a customer is actually using the product. In the subsequent “decision-making” and “purchase” phases, case studies can be used to validate how a product or service ultimately performed.
- It’s relatable. While highlighting the specific benefits of a product — keep the customer, as well as the problem and the storytelling broad-based — so that as many people as possible can relate to the claims made. This strategy, which helps the audience experience for themselves how the solution delivered… is particularly well-suited for demonstrating exactly how particular challenges were solved.
- It moves people through the sales funnel. An aligned sales team must rely on marketing content that specifically addresses every stage in the buyer’s process. Specific calls-to-action should be leveraged to help inspire prospects to move from “consideration” to “intent.” And from “evaluation” to “purchase.” This navigation path is where case studies can be especially fruitful.
- It shows, rather than tells. A case study should illustrate products or services in action. And demonstrate how a loyal customer was able to address and resolve a challenge… in a meaningful and measurable way. Consider video case studies and infographics — as powerful media vehicles — for demonstrating the value of a brand’s offerings.
- It backs up your claims with real data. Claiming that “revenue increased by 11 percent” is much more meaningful than simply stating that “revenue improved.” The more data and validation that’s included, the more compelling a case study will be. Consider the tried-and-true “Before/After” scenario. Use quotes from the customer about the situation and the challenge. Then describe the approach and celebrate the results… backed up by metrics.
- It’s easy to read. You’ve got to maintain an audience’s attention… so ensure that narratives are compelling. Clearly define any potentially confusing terms. And avoid using too much industry lingo and jargon. Think about each audience member… as a unique individual. And relate specifically, to them.
- It’s promoted. A case study can’t do its job if nobody experiences it. Whether it’s a written or video case study, make it convenient to locate and access. Invite prospects to check out the case study via an email. Post it on your website. Create a downloadable PDF on campaign landing pages. And, of course, share case studies on social media platforms – to help ensure that target audiences recognize the value.
Show and tell
Customers — and potential customers — are more informed than ever. And this reality makes the sales process that much more complicated. Years of exposure to overly promotional content… has made audiences less inclined to respond to direct promotions.
Most prospects conduct their own research before making a purchase. So, content must address every stage of the buyer’s process. And case studies help building product brands get past audience members’ skepticism and bias against claims.
Each target audience segment has different needs. And, as such, uses different language to describe those needs. To maintain relevancy, ensure that case studies are tailored to each buyer persona… with clear calls-to-action.
Case studies become even more powerful for transforming prospects into customers — during the right moments of the buyer’s journey — when audiences are actively comparing providers.
Want to see how case studies can help grow your business? Send an e-mail to Steve Kleber at email@example.com to start the conversation.