In my last post, I discussed why your top funnel content shouldn’t be all about your brand. Today I’m making a 180-degree turn and covering the value of content at the opposite end of the spectrum: content that’s directly about your business and offers proof of your effectiveness.
Specifically, I’m talking about case studies.
I’m a big believer in investing in case studies because I’ve seen firsthand what happened once we started doing so at Fractl. Case studies were a huge game changer for our B2B marketing efforts. For one, our case studies portfolio page brings in a lot of traffic – it’s the second most-visited page on our site, aside from our home page. It also brings in a significant volume of organic traffic, being our fourth most-visited page from organic searches. Most importantly, our case studies are highly effective at converting visitors to leads – about half of our leads view at least one of our case studies before contacting us.
Assuming anyone who reads the Moz Blog is performing some type of marketing function, I’m zeroing in on how to write a compelling marketing case study that differentiates your service offering and pulls prospects down the sales funnel. However, what I’m sharing can be used as a framework for creating case studies in any industry.
Get your client on board with a case study
Marketers shy away from creating case studies for a few reasons:
- They’re too busy “in the weeds” with deliverables.
- They don’t think their results are impressive enough.
- They don’t have clients’ permission to create case studies.
While I can’t help you with #1 and #2 (it’s up to you to make the time and to get the results deserving of a case study!), I do have some advice on #3.
In a perfect world, clients would encourage you to share every little detail of your time working together. In reality, most clients expect you to remain tight-lipped about the work you’ve done for them.
Understandably, this might discourage you from creating any case studies. But it shouldn’t.
With some compromising, chances are your client will be game for a case study. We’ve noticed the following two objections are common regarding case studies.
Client objection 1: “We don’t want to share specific numbers.”
At first it you may think, “Why bother?” if a client tells you this, but don’t let it hold you back. (Truth is, the majority of your clients will probably feel this way).
In this instance, you’ll want your case study to focus on highlighting the strategy and describing projects, while steering away from showing specific numbers regarding short and long-term results. Believe it or not, the solution part of the case study can be just as, or more, compelling than the results. (I’ll get to that shortly.)
And don’t worry, you don’t have to completely leave out the results. One way to get around not sharing actual numbers but still showing results is to use growth percentages.
Specific numbers: “Grew organic traffic from 5,000 to 7,500 visitors per month”
Growth percentage: “Increased organic traffic by 150%”
We do this for most of our case studies at Fractl, and our clients are totally fine with it.
Client objection 2: “We don’t want to reveal our marketing strategy to competitors.”
A fear of giving away too much intel to competitors is especially common in highly competitive niches.
So how do you get around this?
Keep it anonymous. Don’t reveal who the client is and keep it vague about what niche they’re in. This can be as ambiguous as referring to the client as “Client A” or slightly more specific (“our client in the auto industry”). Instead, the case study will focus on the process and results – this is what your prospects care about, anyway.
Gather different perspectives
Unless you were directly working with the client who you are writing the case study about, you will need to conduct a few interviews to get a full picture of the who, what, how, and why of the engagement. At Fractl, our marketing team puts together case studies based on interviews with clients and the internal team who worked on the client’s account.
Arrange an interview with the client, either on a call or via email. If you have multiple contacts within the client’s team, interview the main point of contact who has been the most involved in the engagement.
What to ask:
- What challenge were you facing that you hired us to help with?
- Had you previously tried to solve this challenge (working with another vendor, using internal resources, etc.)?
- What were your goals for the engagement?
- How did you benefit from the engagement (short-term and long-term results, unexpected wins, etc.)?
You’ll also want to run the case study draft by the client before publishing it, which offers another chance for their feedback.
The project team
Who was responsible for this client’s account? Speak with the team behind the strategy and execution.
What to ask:
- How was the strategy formed? Were strategic decisions made based on your experience and expertise, competitive research, etc.?
- What project(s) were launched as part of the strategy? What was the most successful project?
- Were there any unexpected issues that you overcame?
- Did you refine the strategy to improve results?
- How did you and the client work together? Was there a lot of collaboration or was the client more hands-off? (Many prospective clients are curious about what their level of involvement in your process would look like.)
- What did you learn during the engagement? Any takeaways?
Include the three crucial elements of a case study
There’s more than one way to package case studies, but the most convincing ones all have something in common: great storytelling. To ensure you’re telling a proper narrative, your case study should include the conflict, the resolution, and the happy ending (but not necessarily in this order).
We find a case study is most compelling when you get straight to the point, rather than making someone read the entire case study before seeing the results. To grab readers’ attention, we begin with a quick overview of conflict-resolution-happy ending right in the introduction.
For example, in our Fanatics case study, we summarized the most pertinent details in the first three paragraphs. The rest of the case study focused on the resolution and examples of specific projects.
Let’s take a look at what the conflict, resolution, and happy ending of your case study should include.
The Conflict: What goal did the client want to accomplish?
Typically serving as the introduction of the case study, “the conflict” should briefly describe the client’s business, the problem they hired you to work on, and what was keeping them from fixing this problem (ex. lack of internal resources or internal expertise). This helps readers identify with the problem the client faced and empathize with them – which can help them envision coming to you for help with this problem, too.
Here are a few examples of “conflicts” from our case studies:
- “Movoto engaged Fractl to showcase its authority on local markets by increasing brand recognition, driving traffic to its website, and earning links back to on-site content.”
- “Alexa came to us looking to increase awareness – not just around the Alexa name but also its resources. Many people had known Alexa as the site-ranking destination; however, Alexa also provides SEO tools that are invaluable to marketers.”
- “While they already had strong brand recognition within the…