Case studies play an important role in the B2B buying ecosystem. B2B buyers need to understand how a specific product or service can help solve a problem for their organization. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) 2020 Content Marketing Benchmark Report, case studies rank among the top content types that B2B marketers used in the past 12 months, with 69% of B2B content marketers surveyed listing case studies at the top of the list for content creation and distribution.
Source: 2020 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs
The CMI reported that case studies tended to come into play further along in the sales cycle than other forms of content like social media and blog posts. Case studies were associated with bottom-of-funnel sales activities and were listed as one the best content types for nurturing leads and driving conversions.
When done well, B2B case studies can shorten the sales cycle, convince skeptical or wary prospects of the benefits of a given solution, and enhance your organization’s credibility with prospects and existing clients—but not all case studies are created equal. Below, we’ve listed some tips on creating effective B2B case studies based on the work we do with and for our B2B clients.
Tip 1: Present the Problem From the Buyer’s Perspective
By the time a buyer gets to the case study review phase of the buying process, they will (ideally) know who you are and what your solution does. They will probably also have a good understanding of how your product or service can address whatever challenges they’re facing, but they won’t necessarily have confidence that your solution can fix their specific problem. The case study’s job is to answer the question: How can this company’s solution help solve my problem?
The best way to answer this question is to address the problem, the company (if it’s well known) or the industry (if it isn’t), and the solution in the headline or subhead. Here are some case study headline examples that encapsulate the problem, company or industry, and the solution:
- Learn how Coca Cola streamlined brand messaging across 13 countries using an AI-driven asset management platform
- How this $30M office furniture manufacturer pivoted to a work-from-home business model with the help of our DAM platform
- How conversational analytics-enabled this 100-year-old CPG brand to grow sales by 20% during the pandemic
These headlines address the problem by naming the solution (e.g., streamlined brand messaging, a forced business model pivot, improvement of stagnating sales for an established CPG brand). In each case, the headline is meant to resonate with the prospect, enabling them to see how a company (or competitor) in their industry used a product or service to help overcome a problem. The goal here is to improve buyer confidence by using a concrete example that makes it easy for buying groups to make the case for your product or service.
Gartner notes that the key to accelerating growth for B2B organizations lies in helping buyers become more confident in their decisions. That’s why including company or industry names is so important when creating a case study—it helps buyers visualize exactly what your product or service can do for them.
Tip 2: Keep it Short
The most impactful case studies tell a short yet persuasive story that gets right to the point. Focus on creating a succinct layout that’s easy to read regardless of screen size (e.g., it should be mobile-friendly) and incorporates a combination of visual and text elements.
Airship, a customer engagement platform that works with companies like SXSW, AMC and Alaska Airlines, has dozens of case studies on their website, most of which fall below 500 words. Despite their brevity, they are effective.
Each case study opens with how Airship solved a problem for the customer:
- GameStop Uses Airship’s Customer Engagement Platform to Create Unified Customer Experiences Across Channels
- SXSW Revamps the Guest Pass Experience Using Mobile Wallet
- Alaska Airlines Exceeds Customer Expectations with a Friction-Free Day-of-Travel Experience
A simple, straightforward layout makes the information easy to scan from a mobile device. Each case study starts with the headline, which is accompanied by a header or “hero image” followed by relevant information about the company (e.g., company size, industry, the scale of the event in the case of SXSW, etc.). The challenge is then laid out in roughly 100-150 words, and the solution is presented with a bulleted layout that includes any applicable illustrations or graphics, as demonstrated by the following image showing what the SXSW mobile pass looks like.
Airship embeds a customer testimonial within each case study that illustrates how the technology helped the customer solve a problem. This is a great way to add visual interest while incorporating a trust element to the page.
Tip 3: Share Your Process
Case studies present a great opportunity to showcase your process to prospective customers. It’s important to outline your company’s approach to the project talked about in your case study, as it easily lets prospects imagine how your process could work for them. For example, at Elevation, we share our phased approach in all of our case studies. It usually looks something like this:
- Phase 1: Discovery & Research
- Phase 2: Evaluation & Validation
- Phase 3: Strategy
- Phase 4: Execution
Tip 4: Use Tangible Performance Metrics
It’s one thing to say your solution helped a customer solve a problem. It’s quite another to prove it. Always try to include tangible statistics in your case study. Positive performance statistics are compelling, and they can be turned into graphics that are easy to scan and share. Airship summarizes SXSW’s performance in one easy-to-scan image that boils the results down to one six-word headline followed by two compelling stats:
Performance statistics can also be featured in the headline or presented at the top of the case study as an infographic or charts that set the stage for the rest of the content.
Bonus Tip: Make it Easy
The B2B buying process is complex and often frustrating for buyers. Gartner reports that today’s digitally-focused B2B customers only spend about 17% of their time meeting with suppliers when considering a new solution. The rest of their time is spent researching independently, meeting with the buying group and performing other non-buying-related tasks.
This places considerable importance on an organization’s content and how it’s leveraged across the entire B2B buying ecosystem. As with most other B2B content, case studies have taken on much of the heavy lifting that was previously done by sales reps. They’re powerful sales tools that selling teams can leverage when connecting with buyers. They’re also important resources that can help buyers have confidence that your solution is the right one for their organization.