Case studies are an important part of B2B content marketing. According to a survey done by the Content Marketing Institute, the top three most important marketing tactics for B2B businesses are in-person events, webinars and case studies.
Unfortunately, case studies are often difficult to execute on.
It requires time on the part of your customers. It requires negotiation on the type of information that is disclosed, which is tough in B2B because creating detailed success stories often requires sharing sensitive data or information. In most situations this is too big of a request.
Despite the difficulties, a company who has well respected and well-recognized customers needs to leverage as much of that brand power as possible.
A company needs to communicate reliability and trustworthiness. They can do this by creating high quality case studies using their best customers.
Best Practices For B2B Case Studies
The organization of case study “libraries” is an important aspect to consider. As you grow your library of white papers and case studies you’ll want to consider how users can find the content they’re looking for. Consider using filter options so users can find the exact piece of content they’re looking for, whether it’s by industry, content format, or topic.
For example, SOASTA uses a menu bar to filter case studies by industry.
You can also filter by content type, for example white papers, webinars, studies and etc.
Apptio is a great example, see below:
Also consider suggesting related content so they can continue engaging and learning about your solutions if they’re not ready to submit their contact information.
SOASTAS is also a great example of this kind of user experience as well. When you scroll down from the case study web page you get recommendations of similar companies. This encourages users to continue exploring your site.
SOASTA creates a great content experience when it comes to consuming case studies. They are easy to navigate and are beautifully presented.
Next let’s talk about telling a great story in the case study itself.
Telling A Great Story In Your B2B Case Studies
A great story begins with a great headline. If your case studies or customer stories appear in a library and are primarily used to engage audiences who are just discovering your brand and are browsing your site, then use a compelling headline.
Apptio’s case studies follow a formula for success when it comes to creating great headlines. It uses the "Who, What, When, Where, and How," namely "How."
Additionally, they use a powerful verb in each headline. They also paint a very vivid picture of the “What” in their case study headlines. The headline answers what the benefit is for using Apptio.
If your content writer is consistently writing great headlines like this, pay them like JK Rowling because it’s a true sign of skill.
Writing An Engaging Case Study
Most B2B case studies follow this outline: Problem -> Action -> Result.
It’s a structure for the body of your case study that keeps it concise. Any reader will appreciate that.
There other formats as well, including Q&A style. The strength of the Q&A style is that it tells a richer story from the perspective of the customer. If the customer uses common phrases and jargon related to their industry, it stands a higher chance of leaving a lasting impression with your prospects.
It’s like going to a conference to hear your peer speak about a great solution they are using. You trust their judgment and the problem they solved is a problem you want to solve.
A great example of this is dynamic project management solution, LiquidPlanner. They use a Q&A style, essentially an edit of an interview with their customer. It allows detailed storytelling that can’t be done in a third person narrative like the Problem -> Action -> Result approach.
We also interviewed CEO of LiquidPlanner, Liz Pearce. She shared a great story about growing LiquidPlanner and running marketing and operations.
See the example below, also noting the great headline:
Click image to enlarge
They also include a high level profile overview of their customer, weaving in OpenDNS’ business value with the stat line “Number of users protected.”
Examples of Great Video Case Studies
Videos may be more expensive to produce but it’s a medium that can communicate information very quickly. I’ve seen case study videos that resemble 60 Minute interviews. In other words, they were kind of boring.
Engaging video case studies are like good movies. They include characters, locations, and a story.
DoubleDutch does a great job of including characters such as buyers, end users, and sales rep to tell a story.
DoubleDutch is an events app that brings engagement and event performance together. Their video case study includes interviews with event chairs (the buyers) and event attendees (the end-users). And the B-roll includes shots of an actual conference, showing event attendees using the app. This set location communicates the value of the app. Testimony from end-users further communicate benefit.
For great video case studies, remember to include characters, a great location, and a compelling story told in both audio and visual mediums. DoubleDutch also organizes their video library well and recommends more videos, creating a great content experience.
How To Measure The Revenue Influence Of Your B2B Case Study
A lack of reliable information is the most frustrating obstacles to unlocking the potential of your case study pages.
As marketers we want to know that the effort we put into creating content results in influence and revenue. And if it’s not, we need to know in order to make content more engaging.
Pipeline marketing is about advancing the science of marketing and you can apply this by measuring your content’s influence on revenue.
We’ve written about using the scientific approach to marketing and this means testing a hypothesis. To test your hypothesis, for example that video case studies have a greater influence on revenue compared to PDF case studies, you need an attribution solution that connects marketing data to sales data inside the CRM.
Below is a screenshot of Bizible showing the revenue influence of content. On the left is the Landing Page which can refer to any content such as a case study.
You can see the channel source with Touchpoint Source, and the W-Shaped Revenue field that measures revenue influenced or generated. Lastly you can see the Opportunity Name.
Click image to enlarge.
We’ve covered many elements of B2B case studies. Executing successfully on case studies requires not only telling a great story but also supporting it with a great user experience. This is done by organizing your content so users can search for what they need, developing headlines that capture reader's attention, and presenting the content in a way that’s interesting and informative.
If you’ve set up attribution and execute well on your case studies you’ll be counting money like Ebenezer Scrooge.
If you're interested in tracking performance of your case studies and the rest of your online marketing, get the ebook on marketing attribution below.