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4 Steps to Laying the Groundwork for Case Studies
Posted on May 22nd 2014
Dozens of different types of case studies exist which serve a range of purposes – from academic research to corporate proof and thought leadership. The focus here will be on business case studies – which show how a brand helps its clients achieve their goals via particular products or services. Case studies are an excellent way to demonstrate the value of your offering, and illustrate how a client uniquely benefited from them. Recent B2B research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs found that 73% of marketers use case studies, and 65% feel they are an effective tactic.
As buyers increasingly conduct research independently using social media and vast online sources, case studies have become crucial to content marketing efforts. They offer solid data on customer success, provide real-life examples that prospects can relate to, and offer credible “social proof.” A 2013 survey published by B2B Technology Marketing Community, a LinkedIn Group Partner cited that case studies (88%) are considered the second most effective content marketing tactics, with lead generation being the primary objective.
Choose the Right Client
The first step is to choose a client who you feel best represents the advantages and benefits that your product offers. It should be a company you’ve been in contact with in the past, and has had a least a few months to familiarize themselves with your offering. Most importantly, the company must be able to provide you with real data you can use to strengthen your claims. The best clients to approach are ones that you consider “power users” or “ambassadors” of your brand, who know the ins and outs of the product and love using it.
Select the Most Relevant Participant to Interview
A successful case study is largely dependent on selecting a relevant and knowledgeable expert to answer your questions. Writing a successful client case study without sufficient quotes, data or detailed information is extremely difficult, and will fail to provide readers with tangible value. Pinpoint someone who has hands-on experience using the service, has been at the company for a substantial amount of time, and is an expert in his/her particular field.
Write a List of Detailed Questions
The questions will entirely be based on the type of client, your service offering and the length of your case study. The list should be written in advance, and can either be sent via e-mail, asked in person or by phone. Keep in mind, the questions should not limit the interviewee to “yes” or “no” answers; but should be open-ended to extract as much information as possible. Also, ask the interviewee for any data or resources on their end that can add credibility to your case study, such as statistics about usage of your product.
Here are a few examples of basic questions (note: [X] = name of your company/product):
- Provide a 1-2 paragraph description of your company which includes when it was established, field of expertise, target audience, geographic area of operation.
- What are your [enter relevant sector] goals?
- What [enter relevant sector] challenges does your company face?
- When did you start using [X]? Where you using a different product prior to this to meet your needs, and if you, why did you switch?
- How does [X] help you overcome the challenges your company faces?
- What specific features/functionality/services do you find most helpful?
- Cite and describe several best practices or helpful strategies you’ve implemented.
- Provide a description and clear data which shows how [X] contributed to your goals.
- Provide two quotes on how [X] has helped your company achieve its business goals.
Analyze All of the Information
After the client answers your questions, add this information to the research you’ve conducted, and narrow it down to what matters most. When analyzing the data, make sure to extract the numbers that best represent how your product has helped the client. Also, keep an eye out for: the client’s goals, challenges, needs, and the solutions implemented.
(case studies / shutterstock)