In my experience as a content marketer, writing dozens of case studies, I can tell you that case studies have a way of drawing in readers and driving conversion unlike few other pieces of content.
Case studies consistently rank as the most-read elements in content marketing programs. And I know why because a case study can act as a mirror. It reflects what a customer can experience when they use your product or engage in your service. That’s right: a case study helps reveal the possibilities. And that is a powerful tool.
Even if you have just one, use it to your advantage.
A well-written case study can be the most convincing piece in your content marketing arsenal. So plan on having at least one. A savvy case study creates a relevant and meaningful story for your audience — you know — those personas you’ve built around your ideal customers. Don’t use personas? Give it a go: they can help bring focus to your content marketing.
But for case studies to be genuinely compelling, they need to be authentic. After all, a case study is about real-life storytelling, And that level of authenticity may be the most valuable tool you have in your content marketing. No hyped-up advertising, no over-the-top promotion or discount can deliver readership and results like a well-crafted case study.
“Storytelling is about two things; it’s about character and plot.”
— George Lucas
The Star Wars franchise-creator makes it sound amazingly simple. Put a great character into a fantastic plot. We all know there’s much more to making epic movies, but working off this basic understanding certainly helps. It’s amazing how many films books and other stories fall short.
And it’s good to know that case studies also have a surprisingly simple framework. I find by following a simple storytelling arc; case studies get presented in a meaningful way. It’s all about touching on the essential elements that bring a case study to life.
The four critical elements you must use.
For case study storytelling success, stick to what works. And I suggest you use this framework:
1) Situation – this is the background. Here, we set the tone by establishing what’s happening in an industry or niche.This also helps build relevance and meaning to the story. The goal here is to bring your readers into areas they can relate. So have a clear intention of what your audience will find useful.
2) Conflict – now the challenge is faced. Get ready for the pain. Someone once mentioned to me that people are more often seeking pain-killers long before vitamins. The conflict explores that business conflict. Be clear about you conflict; this is the sizzle of the story. So make it shine with some emotion. Make your readers take notice of your conflict.
3) Resolve – here’s how we overcome the challenge. Here’s the heroic moment where the problems get fixed. It’s that vital turning point in the plot.This is where your reader gains confidence that you are the solution, the only solution that works. It should feel good.
4) Results – be sure got to have tangible results that prove a payoff. While this can be a hurdle when researching your case study, it’s so valuable. People like specific numbers and percentages — especially when they are highly relevant to them. So get those results, they may be the only thing some readers look at!
Without these four elements, you just don’t have a case study. You can’t take people through the journey without each of these mile markers. In short, you can’t tell a meaningful story without them. So follow the precise route to create winning case studies.
How to do more with case studies– Recycle, Reuse & Repurpose.
The power of a well-structured case study carries through into all sorts of formats. Sure you think of a case study as that 1-3 page PDF document that gets downloaded from your website or shared by your sales staff. But don’t stop there. Convert case studies into other productive content formats. Here are some suggested ways to do that.
Transfer a case study into an article or blog post to share socially or use as a lead magnet for your content marketing efforts. The natural storytelling arc of a case study makes for essential articles.
Another way to distribute your case study story is to create a press release. Publications love simple to understand stories that share success. Consider using an online tool like Pitch Engine to connect with media outlets. And if you’re not using Twitter, at least use it for finding press contacts and sharing your stories.
Make a video – either with simple screen grabs and voice-over. Or try Animoto (an excellent and intuitive video production tool) or create an entirely produced video. Case studies make an ideal script outline.
Another option is to turn your case study into a SlideShare, Slide Rocket or other presentation. Check out Prezi as an excellent alternative. It creates a new way to convey your ideas.
The thing to remember is, once you have a substantial case study created, it is a tool which is well-researched, clearly defined and mapped out to use in various formats. So leverage your case studies for sharing your success.
As you can see, case studies can be hugely successful elements for your content marketing efforts. And that’s something to think about; Because content marketing has been shown to cost 62% less than traditional advertising, case studies are merely a savvy marketing investment.
Yes – case studies are challenging to create. They take effort and some strategy to bring to life. But case studies are so worth it because they provide so many upsides for your content marketing campaigns.
What’s more, per dollar spent, content marketing generates three times as many leads.* So what are you waiting for? Get your case studies going now and make it an ongoing part of your content marketing regimen from now on. It pays off. And with a solid, proven format like I just presented, you can be seeing results soon.