How To Craft a B2B Case Study That Converts
B2B case studies are an extremely effective form of content for businesses to build trust and acquire new leads.
It’s not hard to see why. Case studies provide what buyers want more than anything: hard proof you can do the job. Before engaging your company, prospects need to be convinced that you can deliver the goods. And case studies are social proof that promise exactly that.
A strong case study (or several) is a key tool in your marketing toolkit. Let’s look at how you can start growing a library of B2B case studies that help you convert more leads.
Ask your clients to participate
Creating a case study requires buy-in from the client. It’s their information you want to share, and you’ll need their cooperation to measure outcomes.
It’s tempting to wait until the end of a project to ask a client whether you can trouble them for a case study. After all, if they’re happy with the work then it shouldn’t be a big ask, right? In reality, this probably isn’t the best time to broach the topic. The client is already mentally shifting to their next task. Plus, all the normal bumps and frictions that arise during a project are still fresh in their minds.
Instead, float the idea of a case study during client onboarding, at the beginning of your working relationship. Demonstrate your commitment to their success by telling them that their project is going to be so good it will warrant its own case study. Then ask whether they’d be open to that idea. Since the project hasn’t yet begun and you are enthusiastic about their success, the odds are good they’ll be happy to participate.
During the course of your regular work, allude to the case study from time to time. Share some other client case studies so they can see what theirs will look like. You’ll also want to communicate how the case study is also beneficial for the client, not just yourself. For example, you can mention how the backlink you provide will boost their search engine positioning.
Finally, make the case study a part of the project and work on it as you go. This will give the client the sense that it is part of your deliverables. You won’t need to ask them for more of their time at the end of the project since the case study is almost finished.
Highlight the client
It’s tempting to think about your case study as a vehicle to showcase how amazing your company is. Instead, your case studies should highlight the strengths and general awesomeness of your clients. Make them the star!
This approach will make it far more likely that a new client will want to participate in a case study. Who doesn’t like being promoted on the internet by a credible third party? The more value your client sees in participating in a case study, the more likely they are to take action.
Putting your clients on a pedestal also supports business development. Prospects love to see that you care about your clients enough to cheer for them and support their growth. Who wouldn’t want to work with a company like that?
Tell your client’s story
We think of case studies as a process of distilling facts. But the best case studies draw attention to normal human emotions and experiences.
Bring your case study to life by telling a story in the client’s own words. How did they feel at the beginning, middle and end? The more your reader identifies with the client, the more invested they’ll become in your solution.
Don’t be shy about the negative stuff. It’s normal for people to have doubts about working with a new vendor. Prospects find it reassuring to know that someone else had the same concerns they are currently experiencing and that it all turned out alright in the end.
The best way to humanize a case study is by filming the project owner and letting them share their experiences in their own words. This is a step above and beyond, but it puts your testimonial on steroids. Many business challenges are universal, and prospects can’t help but find elements of their own situation in video testimonials.
Video makes stories authentic in a way that a 50 word testimonial just can’t manage. Many businesses don’t use video testimonials because they think they lack video expertise. Don’t let quality concerns deter you from giving your clients a voice. Real experiences and valuable insights trump polished aesthetics any day of the week.
Creating the case study
B2B case studies generally follow a similar structure. First, they’re short. No one wants to plow through pages of data and one page is usually enough for readers to get the idea.
Ideally, your case study will also include visual elements. Images, charts and variable text (e.g. quotes, states, bullet points, tables) help break up the content and make it easier to read.
The most effective testimonials include a quote from the project manager highlighted in a prominent location. Testimonials accompanied by a headshot feel more ‘authentic’ than stand-alone text quotes. Some individuals or companies may not feel comfortable being named in a case study, but the more you can feature a specific customer, the stronger your case.
The case study template
Case studies generally adhere to a common pattern:
This approach walks the reader through the process the client experienced and demonstrates how your company solved their problem.
The problem section defines the challenge the client starts out with. Ideally, this section describes a problem that the reader is also facing so they connect closely with the rest of the case study.
The solution describes the steps you took to solve the client’s problem. Include a reasonable amount of detail. Buyers like to understand your approach to projects.
The results highlight the outcomes the client experienced by implementing the solution. Try to make the results section as comprehensive as possible. Readers want meaningful information that will apply to their own situation. Numbers are the best way to illustrate your point; for example, “The client averaged a monthly savings of $2,348 in fuel costs after using our software.”
Case studies are all about social proof, and outcomes are the centerpiece of your case study. Feature your achievements in a prominent location where they’re impossible to miss.
One client closed $45k in revenue directly attributed to our first two campaigns.
One small business generated a 241% increase in demo requests from year 1 to year 2 working with Accelity.
Over the course of our engagement, one B2B SaaS client realized a 372% return on their investment.
Promoting your case study
Case studies are a valuable tool for converting site visitors to leads. But they don’t do you any good if no one can find them.
Your case study is no different than any other piece of content on your website or blog. It should have a focus keyword that is easily searched on Google. It should be expected to bring in visitors.
Sales Higher recently produced a case study for list building solutions. One of the first steps for the study was to find a keyword that accurately described the service provided. But also had a good chance of ranking in Google. The search phrase “list building services” was selected because it has modest traffic and very low competition, making it easy for Sales Higher to rank well for that search term.
For your case studies, follow a similar approach. Find search terms that describe the work performed. But also reflect the relative strength of your website compared with your competitors. If you choose a search term that’s too competitive you’ll end up on page 2 of Google. Keywords that are less competitive will give you a good shot at receiving visitors via search engines.However, choosing less competitive search terms also means fewer people will find your case study. It's a balancing act.
Add case studies to your B2B marketing toolkit
Case studies are an excellent way to show prospects the kinds of amazing results you can generate for them. Adding case studies to your standard process for working with clients will help you develop a wide selection of case studies that you can promote in no time.
Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. Sales Higher is a B2B lead generation solution for small and medium businesses all over the world. Because sales people should be focused on closing deals, not finding new opportunities.