How to Create an Effective B2B Case Study
Today’s B2B buyers, like most of us, spend a lot of time online. In fact, data shows that “89% of B2B researchers use the internet in their research process and they conduct 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site.”
As a result, most B2B buyers are the majority of the way through the buying process before they even interact with a sales representative, making it more important than ever for B2B organizations to have valuable content on their websites.
While blog posts, online guides, and white papers are great “top of the funnel” content assets, you must nurture the lead all the way through to the purchase.
Enter: case studies.
Case studies can help push your brand to the top of the list of candidates when the buyer has hit the decision-making stage thanks to their ability to show the value of your organization’s products or services.
But, how do you create a B2B case study that supports your content marketing strategy? Here are a few key steps to consider:
Step 1: Research Buyer Needs
A well-put-together case study can turn into a prime asset for inbound marketing purposes, coming across a prospective buyer’s screen during the decision-making stage of the funnel. However, without an understanding of what it is exactly that your prospects are struggling with and the solutions they’re craving, it will be next to impossible to provide a case study that offers any real value.
When deciding on an angle, be sure to first take the time to research the market and truly understand your target audience’s needs. This could come in the form of interviews with existing customers to see what brought them through the door and also gathering data from buyers in your target industry. With a common pain point on your side that your product or services can help address, you will be ready to move on to the next stage of the process.
Step 2: Identify a Customer Success Story
When deciding on a customer success story to showcase as the focal point of your case study, be sure to choose one that is complete (a work in progress is not a success story) and made a real difference for your client. If you work for a large B2B organization, you may be thinking to yourself, “but how do I select one that encompasses all of our offerings?”
The cliché answer is, slow and steady wins the race. If this is going to be your first case study posted on the website, you don’t need to find a success story that showcases everything your organization has to offer. Start from the core and work your way out. For example, if your organization offers cybersecurity solutions with a strength in cloud security, think about choosing a success story that focuses on the cloud, then work your way outwards to the other solutions in future case studies.
The key at the onset is to choose a customer that represents your ideal buyer. If a potential buyer comes across a case study they can relate to, you have a great chance of landing yourself a hot lead.
Step 3: Format the Case Study
As a writer growing up, I always learned that a good story includes the following:
- Theme: This is what the story is trying to tell the reader. The author should not have to say what the theme is, it should come naturally.
- Plot: The plot of a story typically speaks to a struggle or conflict the main character is going through. In a good story, the character works their way through the problem, ultimately winning or losing at the end. What the character learns throughout the story becomes the theme.
- Structure: A good story will hook the audience in right away. The best way to do this is to start out with an action and wrap it all up at the end with a succinct conclusion.
These three core elements of a good story can be directly related to producing a quality B2B case study as well. Your prospective buyer should be the main character, as they have a problem or challenge they are working through. Your business solution should be what helps the main character (buyer) through their journey, and at the end, it should be clear how you helped them through the process.
Some of my favorite films are based on true stories, and at the end, they almost always tell you what happened to the main characters next. Your case study should be the same way. Be sure to showcase the results and how you helped them overcome their challenge and work toward success.
Step 4: Create the Content
Now that you have the storyline in place, it’s time to create the content. Case studies should always be written with a purpose, and “fluff” should be completely removed. Remember, you are creating the case study to help the reader through a problem, not to entertain them. Use real data to illustrates key points and be sure to talk directly to the reader, after all, they landed on your page for a reason.
In terms of the design of the case study, think about the utilization of white space, adding colorful images throughout the copy, and bold subheaders to break up the key points. If the asset is visually unappealing and filled with words, it will be difficult for your reader to make it from start to finish in one pass.
Step 5: Promote the Case Study
After you’ve completed the case study, it’s time for internal reviews and approvals before promotion. Since developing a case study often times involves a number of stakeholders, you will have some time to plan the promotion of the asset before it’s live.
As mentioned earlier, case studies can be invaluable assets for inbound marketing purposes, as they help to validate the credentials and expertise of the organization. With this in mind, simply pushing “publish” is not enough – you must promote the asset.
Here are a few ways you can promote a case study to maximize its value.
- Optimize for Search and UX: Be sure to mark up the case study with proper HTML and meta tags. You should also add crosslinks to the most relevant products or service offerings on your site as well as a call to action (CTA). The CTA typically sends the reader to a contact form.
- Social Sharing: The case study should be able to be shared easily. With this in mind, be sure to add social media buttons to your organization’s accounts somewhere on the page.
- Create a Blog Post: When the case study is published, consider adding a post to your blog that speaks to the theme and provides a crosslink back to the case study. The case study and blog post should work in tandem, meaning the blog post should not be a direct copy of the case study itself.
- Internal and External Distribution: Be sure to send the case study to industry peers for an initial review and also distribute within your own organization. This will lay the foundation for social sharing success and help to get the word out from the moment the asset is published. Additionally, the case study could be used as a sales asset, so it’s important that all relevant parties know it is on the site.
B2B Case Study Examples
Now that we’ve outlined the steps that should be considered when creating a case study for your B2B content marketing strategy, here are some industry examples that are worth a look as you embark on case study development.
- Dell Customer Stories
- Salesforce Customer Stories
- Accenture Client Case Studies
- UPS Small Business Case Studies
- Cisco Customer Stories
Has your organization experienced success using case studies for inbound marketing purposes?
Feel free to drop a comment below or connect with me on Twitter to keep this conversation going!