50: Taking Prospects Behind the Scenes With Case Studies

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Consumers are researching and getting much closer to a purchase decision before they ever reach out to a business. This means we may never have the opportunity to personally share the results we get for our clients. Case studies are a powerful testament to the way you work and—when used properly—will help your audience put themselves in your clients’ shoes.

On this episode, I share:

  • How consumer behavior is changing,

  • The difference between testimonials and case studies,

  • Various formats you can use to develop compelling case studies,

  • An easy to follow case study structure, and

  • How to obtain permission and results from your clients.

WHAT ARE CASE STUDIES?

Today we’re here to talk about case studies—what they are, how effective they are, and how you can use them to attract more of the type of clients you want to be working with.

I thought I’d start this one off with some facts because they’re too fascinating to leave out.

Brightlocal conducts a local consumer review study every year focused on reviews. in their 2019 edition, they reported this:

82% of consumers read online reviews last year. Consumers, ages 35-54 — 93% of them read online reviews in 2019.

Interesting statistics. What do they tell us?

People care about and trust what others have to say about your business. And while case studies are not testimonials — we’ll get to that in a minute — they are perceived differently than other marketing content. They provide social proof.

At its core, a case study is an analysis that tells a story about a customer and your company.

They’re powerful testaments to the way you work and help your audience imagine what it would be like for them to work with you—they contextualize what you offer and help prospective customers see the similarities between your clients’ situations and their own.

When I’m reading a case study, I go into it thinking, “How could this apply to my situation? What results are possible if I worked with this person?”

In other words: they help you sell. And sell better than 99% of your marketing content.

Here’s why: people are already skeptical when it comes to marketing. We’re so bombarded that we don’t accept anything as fact.

CONSUMERS ARE RESEARCHING WELL BEFORE THEY CONTACT YOU

There’s also some really interesting work coming out about the point at which consumers will reach out to businesses. Spoiler alert: it’s after getting to know the business quite a bit already.

The concept is called “zero moment of truth.”

Salesforce put out some great content about the zero moment of truth. It’s the point in the buying cycle when the consumer researches a product, often before the seller even knows they exist.

Consumers are researching a lot more and getting much closer to their decision before they buy or reach out for a call.

That means we can’t rely on sales calls to convince prospects. We have to share and show results up front. Information about your product or service has to be readily available. And that includes results.

CASE STUDIES VS. TESTIMONIALS VS. PORTFOLIO

Earlier I mentioned that case studies are different than testimonials.

In a simple sense, they’re longer than testimonials. Testimonials, while necessary, are often viewed with a grain of salt. No one is going to put a quote up that reflects badly on their business.

But what case studies do are validate the claims you make in your marketing by backing them up with context and results.

They’re also extremely under leveraged.

You might be wondering, what’s the difference between case studies and a portfolio? Some portfolios I see are a nice blend. They show the work as well as the presenting challenge, approach, and outcomes.

I would say something is constituted as strictly a portfolio when it’s just showing your work without any further explanation. This is common with visual industries like graphic and web designers, photographers, videographers, animators, event planners, interior designers. etc.

ELEMENTS OF A CASE STUDY

Again, your case studies are going to be focused on how you’re solving problems. They’re connecting what you do and the results you get. And they’re showing your audience how you approach a problem.

Let’s talk about what does into a case study, typically you:

  • Identify a situation,

  • Recommended solutions,

  • Implemented actions, and share

  • Success measures.

 

One thing that I should bring up now—because it’s important and I do not want to leave it until the end—is who you should be basing your case studies on.

Remember: you attract what you share.

So any client you’re featuring in a case study should represent the type of client AND work that you want to be getting more of.

Name recognition helps. If you had a big client, it provides extra points in the social proof category.

CASE STUDY STRUCTURE

Now that you know how to use a case study, it’s time to develop yours.

There’s a basic structure you can follow that includes these ingredients:

  1. TITLE: catchy title focused on results. (i.e., Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Grows Its Audience by 81% By Using Hubspot)

  2. CUSTOMER INTRODUCTION: who are they and what do they do?

  3. NEEDS: what they said / were experiencing when they first approached you.

  4. DIAGNOSIS — what you recommended and took action on to solve their problem or fulfill desire.

  5. RESULTS — tangible, quantitative is always best.

  6. CLIENT QUOTE.

 

The question of: How many should I share?

Not a great answer. One is better than none. It also depends on where you’re sharing them.

Unlike testimonials—which I do not recommend having a website menu item for—Case Studies or Our Work makes for a great website page.

You can also use snippets of or entire case studies in social posts, your services guide or media kit, a partnership pitch, and in sales conversations.

The format can also vary. Of course you could have them listed static on your website. You could develop them as a downloadable PDF. You could make a video on them. Valerie from Sapphire Events who will be on next week, episode 51, shares how she did this brilliantly (tune in!). You can also create podcast content with them.

ASKING CLIENTS TO FEATURE THEM IN A CASE STUDY

NEED HELP?

There’s one additional benefit to creating case studies that I haven’t mentioned yet, but is definitely a benefit.

Producing a case study is a great way to engage past customers and share the pride you took in the work you accomplished together. I’m not saying this will result in new business, but extending gratitude and pride in your clients NEVER hurts.

Now, how to get this info?

You’ve probably already got a client in mind that you want to highlight.

After identifying this company or person, the first place I want you to start is with your client feedback survey. PLEASE have a client survey. If you don’t, you need to pause here and go listen to episode 18 with Dara Murray.

This will help you see how they view the transformation that happened. Starting here—with information they’ve already provided—prepares you to reach out to them and request a follow up conversation with your request to feature them in a case study (hint: no one likes being surprised).

And the follow up conversation is what comes next. Follow the advice I gave in episode 43 for advice on how to do this well.

In your interview you’re going to ask your client pointed questions just like I cover in episode 43 as well up follow up on results they’ve seen since working together.

With all of this information, you’re going to categorize it in three buckets: the challenge, the approach, the outcome.

Remember, when you’re writing your case study, length is not as important as relevance.

You want to be relatable, show results and tell a story.

Stories sell.

I will preach this to my death bed.

If you want some great case study examples, check out AMP Agency’s website. They’re a full service digital marketing agency working with brands like Puma, Xbox, and Patagonia. In fact, when you google them, Case Studies is one of the pages indexed on their company website search result.

If you are now a believer in the power of case studies but don’t have the desire or bandwidth to create them yourself, we should chat. Case studies are something I create for my clients and have the power to infuse proof and results in your marketing content.

Shoot me a message. I’d love to help you share the results your business is getting for customers.