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The ins, outs and upside downs of case studies for your marketing – pt1

case study

Case studies

Case studies are a ubiquitous marketing tactic for very good reason.

They not only show that your business is effective and established. They also show that your products or your services are successfully in use by customers.

Even more importantly, they let your customers do the hardest part of your marketing for you – building trust. It can be challenging to do that alone, simply because every audience you speak to knows that you have a vested interest.

But not everybody knows how or where to start with case studies.

We will explain not just what they are, but how to go about them and then get value from case studies in your marketing.

What is a case study?

In its most basic form, a case study tells your audiences how you have added value for one of your key customers by helping them meet a need or overcome a challenge they faced.  

Whether this is presented in text or through a video, it is one of the most powerful forms of social proof around.

Social proof is a general term, which can mean anything from Google Reviews to LinkedIn endorsements, press coverage, industry awards, case studies, testimonials, and social engagement – in other words, things about you that come from someone else.

 Social proof has value because it means someone else is conveying your value, instead of you doing it yourself. Because of that, it carries more weight, and can engender more trust.

Case studies are not the same as testimonials and reviews. They are all different forms of social proof – and they often get mixed up.  

  • Testimonials tend only to be short quotes or video snippets from customers – they can endorse and recommend you but do little more.
  • Reviews are about customers giving their own assessment of whether you delivered value – often with a measurement attached, in the form of a star rating.

These are both brilliant to have – and I encourage you to gain as much social proof as you can!

Yet, for most businesses, especially business-to-business brands, they aren’t enough on their own. 

Why? Because they only really scratch the surface of what you need the market to understand about your brand and the value you offer – plus they are simply too short to convey much depth.  Beyond popping them on your website, you are rather limited in how much you can put them to work!

Case studies are a very different story – because that is what they are: real stories.

When is a case study not a case study?

I see a lot of different types of content called case studies on business websites.  Most often, these take the form of a short text that tells you all about the marvellous things you did for customer X.

Each one will talk a lot about your product or service, which is the star of the story. 

Sometimes these are gathered up together on a page, other times that basic story is given a whole page of its own. However, there isn’t much to work with, so text tends to be padded out with lots of product and service information – or zillions of pictures, if you have a visually appealing output.  

Occasionally, people ask their customer for a quote or two, to add to the story.  It’s jolly useful to prove the customer was real, after all.

This is a guest blog from Sue Rizzello

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