Case studies have a lot to offer – sharing stories of your happiest customers with the world is one way you can generate interest in your products and services. When readers see you have previous experience in their industry and know you’ve had really great results, it’s reassuring. It does some of the heavy lifting of sales for you. That’s why identifying customers who are great for case studies is so important.

Writing a case study means crafting a story, but it can also mean following a formula of sorts. There are essential ingredients to great case studies. Let’s take a look at what that looks like in context.

Quick Case Study Facts and Their Impact

First and foremost, you might be wondering what even is a ‘case study’ in the context of marketing and sales. The term carries the weight of scholarly activities in the same vein as ‘clinical trial’ or ‘case-control study.’ Not entirely unlike its academic sense, a case study in the business world involves a thorough evaluation of results from an action. But in a marketing case study, the results are how a customer’s needs are met from the action of using your company’s products or services.

Given that 92% of B2B respondents surveyed said that they give high value to peer reviews of products/services, a case study showing how customers were able to achieve their goals with your goods or services can reduce the sense of unknown that customers feel when selecting a company that will provide solutions to their problems.

Imagine that you are trying to choose between two vehicles to add to your company’s rental car fleet but are having difficulty deciding which would be better for long-term wear and tear. If vehicle A’s manufacturer did not invest in a case study that asked about long-term reliability, satisfaction, and suitability to customers specifically purchasing cars for vehicle rentals, but the manufacturer of vehicle B did, you would feel more comfortable about buying vehicle B because you saw how someone else in a similar situation was able to use vehicle B successfully in the same way that you plan to. Although case studies are often likened to storytelling, in a way they are also roadmaps. Case studies show your customers the route to take to reach their goals using your products or services.

Planning a Marketing Case Study

It’s important to keep in mind that marketing case studies aren’t just a regurgitation of a customer product review—and that’s what gives case studies their weight.

Remember that analogy about the car rental company from earlier? They were selecting a vehicle specifically based on its durability for the long haul. If the manufacturer of vehicle B had a case study that was focused on how the powerful engine in vehicle B helped increase the number of wins in stock-car racing, the customer would be just as lost in their decision-making as. The case study is only valuable if it’s relevant to the reader. So, it’s vital to have the type of customer to be featured chosen carefully, because that’s what will guide who will find your case study meaningful.

When you assemble your case study plan, make sure that you identify the right person to write it. Find someone who knows how to do effective copywriting and formatting that really carries the featured customers’ stories. Making appropriate use of bullets, bold text, and copywriting techniques can cause key details to pop out of the page and stick around in customers’ minds. The impact of the case study text is reinforced even more by adding images and infographics, which tie together written and visual information.

Keep in mind that putting all of this together for an effective case study will require input not just from your marketing and writing staff, but also your customers. On the surface, it might seem like a one-sided process for them, where your customers’ involvement in the case study will require them to sacrifice their time to share their stories. However, this makes a misunderstanding of the case study process–customer engagement is a key aspect of putting together a useful case study. Customers can be drawn into the case study process by conveying the benefit of their involvement in the form of social media, website, and email newsletter callouts. Giving customers who participate in the case study the opportunity to build their brands through the case study materials can be a great incentive for customer involvement. As long as you don’t make it all about you, you can get customers on board.

Selecting Customers to Feature in Case Study

Now that you’re set on doing a marketing case study, how do you decide on the customers to feature? First, take an inventory of the case study content that you already have on hand. Where do you have gaps? Specific markets? New applications for an existing product that are unexplored? Try to invest in new areas that can draw in as-of-yet unreached customers. For pursuing a new case study, consider what industries your company can reach, and try to expand to a variety of industries.

Now, when trying to decide which customer’s story to feature, this is the time to stack the deck in your favor by sticking with positive outcomes. This may seem obvious, but it’s still important to remember to feature customers who would be comfortable speaking well of their experience with your company. That sense of ease from interactions with the customer will come across in the case study materials and convey to potential clients that working with you won’t be a chore.

Incentivizing Case Study Participation

With the case study plan finalized and feature customer selected, how do you convince them to join in the process? Simply put, this is a time to entice them and make it clear that the time the customer spends involved in the study will be mutually beneficial. As mentioned earlier in this blog post, marketing publicity is the principal way that your customer will gain from being featured in the study. Are they particularly interested in their social media presence on a certain platform? Would they be more interested if there were a video component or summary in the case study report? Multichannel is big and a great way to get them involved.

Take the time to evaluate how your customer crafts their public image. If your relationship with the customer is more formal and distant, a safe option would be to show how the case study materials might be interwoven with their current marketing approach. For the customers where your interaction is more relaxed and they would be open to taking ideas from you, there may even be value in suggesting how the format of your case study could be applied to new marketing avenues.

How to Write Case Study Questions

At this point, you’ll start interacting with the customers involved in your case study. This kick-off call with your customer is when you share your goals for the whole process. What are your primary objectives for this? How should your customer convey how your products or services were instrumental in achieving their goals? This is a time to clarify what specifically you are expecting to get and what you hope to convey through the end product.

Be certain to check if the customers might have any stipulations, as well. From the exposure that the case study will bring your customers, they probably have a concept in mind of how the end product of your case study should look. Perhaps most importantly, ask your customer what they feel comfortable discussing and sharing in what will eventually be in the final case study materials. There may be a particular image that your customer will want to show in their marketing or topics that they would prefer to not discuss. Regardless, this is the time to have a meeting of the minds with the featured customer.

During these interactions with your customer, don’t forget to have your case study writer constantly in the loop. The best way to improve your results is to make sure that the writer has as much information as possible–what you don’t want to do is give the collected content to your case study writer almost as though they’re an afterthought. Brief the writer not only on the general scope of the case study but also on the featured customer’s background. Because the writer likely will be able to pick up on subtle details that can grab the attention of potential customers who read the study materials, your case study writer needs to be present for interactions with the featured customer. In fact, the writer may know the best approach for crafting interview questions and may even be the best person to conduct the interview!

Writing a Case Study

You’ve done all the planning and legwork, so now you’re ready to write! As the case study draft is assembled, keep your customer involved.. They need to be on board with any interview quotes and informational highlights; prospective clients may contact the customer regarding their experiences and you want them to continue having a positive outlook on their experience with your company. Once the text draft is largely finalized, let the customer review the materials and give their “all clear” that it’s ready for publishing.

Publishing Your Case Study

The finish line is in sight and you’ve almost completed your case study! As with any publication, make an effort to polish the final product before delivering it to the final audience. Thorough copyediting to remove any kinds of typos, grammar glitches, and other errors will be vital to maintain a professional image for your product. Additionally, take the time to work in graphics as appropriate for telling the customer’s story; images can help to ensure a strong impact that captures readers’ attention and improves their recall of the case study materials and your marketing pitch.

Once these are done, you’re good to go. It’s time to hit “publish” and share it to your social media channels and website.