You’re seeing some great results with clients, and you want to start capturing those success stories to help market your business—but you aren’t sure how. Should you ask them to write a testimonial? Should you try to write a case study? If so, how would you write it? What should it include? How can you write it so it will engage prospective clients and make them want to use your services?
Issues like these can make writing a case study seem daunting. But it doesn’t need to be if you ask the right questions, keep your audience in mind, and know where to direct the spotlight. In this video I’ll walk you through the process of developing a case study. We’ll talk about the essential questions you need to ask beforehand, the very basic structure you should follow, and the most important things to be aware of. You’ll be writing effective, engaging case studies in no time!
Let's talk about case studies today, because as a consultant, as a service provider, as an expert, you have war stories that you're proud of. You have examples of the awesome work that you've done, and you're excited to share those examples. We typically call them case studies.
The trouble is that you package it up, and you share that story with someone, and they don't seem to get it. And you're trying to figure out what's lost in the messaging here. So let's unpack the structure of a good case study so you can leverage your war stories better.
Case Study vs. Testimonial: What’s the Difference?
The first thing I want to do is to highlight the difference between a testimonial and a case study, because they're not the same thing. I'm here at jennycraig.com. Jenny Craig is a popular weight loss company here in the US, and so what we have here is a page full of testimonials.
What's the format for a testimonial? "Hey, my name is Sheila. I got a result on this program." "Hey, my name is Rashid. I got a result on the program." "Hey, my name is Jennifer, result, program." "Sam, result, program." "Pam, result, program."
There's nothing wrong with having testimonials, nothing wrong whatsoever. The thing is, testimonials are easier to digest with things that we're used to buying, things about which we have a general sense of scope and understanding already. You know what weight loss is and what a weight loss program is, more or less, and so it's easier to digest the possible results and context for buying or getting involved with a program like this.
But if you sell complex services, if you sell consulting—the kinds of things that your client doesn't buy often—they don't have enough context to appreciate what the benefit is and to decide for themselves if they should get involved. Testimonials are too short to provide enough context.
Now here's an example from my website of a case study that's too long to give enough context. This is me talking to a client of mine after he finished the program, and this is what I have on his case study page.
Look at the amount of information here! How do you know what happened? How do you know what the benefits were? How do you know what he liked or didn't like, what he said or didn't say? How are you supposed to figure all of that out?
So, yes, this is at least a starting place, but this is also not a good case study. It doesn't provide enough context fast enough for you to decide if this is a good program for you to be in or not.
We've got to strike a balance here. Let's unpack what that looks like. (At the time of recording this video, I am actively updating the case studies on my own site. So the framework I'm about to show you is the precise framework I'm following right now.)
Developing a B2B Case Study Template: First, Ask Questions
First of all, you’ve got to start with yourself. You’ve got to ask some selfish questions internally, so we're going to call this "Selfish," and we're going to call it "Internally." These are questions that you need to ask yourself and your team on the inside:
- What project do we want to repeat? What have we worked on that we'd love the opportunity to work on again?
- Why do we want to repeat it? Why is this particular project a good scenario for us internally, selfishly?
- What was the win for us?—internally, selfishly? What is the concrete thing we can point to that says to us, yeah, we should be doing more stuff like this?
- Can we repeat it? If we got to this scenario again, if the exact same thing happened again, are we confident that we can repeat that internal win?
Once you have clarity here, now you can begin to create some positive case studies.
These questions over here are also selfish, but they are selfish externally. This is what your prospective client is asking or what they're thinking about when they're reading your case study. So let's see their questions:
- Is this case study of someone like me? Your prospective client is only worried about themselves and their own situation. So as they're reading this case study, all they're concerned about is: Is this someone like me?
- Are they in a situation that I can recognize? Is their problem like mine? Are they being faced with something I can recognize? Are they being faced with a challenge that is similar to the one I'm currently challenging?
- Are their resources similar to mine? As they attack this issue, do they have the kinds of things that I have? Do they have the money, the time, the investment, the people, the schemes, the infrastructure? Do they have a scenario like my scenario?
- Can I accomplish this too? As your prospective client is reading this case study, what's going through their mind is: Can I do what they did? Are those results possible for me too?
This is the criteria that your prospective client is actively thinking through when they read your case study. So you’ve got to be sure that what you create meets this criteria.
A B2B Case Study Framework
Let's go a bit further here into the structure of the case study.
Component #1: The Result
The case study begins with the result. What was achieved? Don't beat around the bush, no long drawn out of introduction. What was achieved?
Then, how would you quantify that?
- Time: What time impact was made? How much time did you save them? How much time did you allow for them to do other things? Can you highlight a time impact?
- Money: How about a money impact, money that was made or money that was lost? Is there some way that you can quantify their experience through money?
- Strategy: Or strategic impact—was there a specific goal that your prospective client highlighted and you were able to help them reach that specific goal? Whatever it was in the strategic growth of their business, did you help them get there?
What was that thing? Call that thing out in the very beginning of the case study. That is the headline of the case study that you created.
Component #2: The Process
How did that result occur? This awesome thing that you helped them get to, how did that result occur?
- What did the client do?
- Then what did you do to help the client?
- What steps did the client have to take?
- What was your responsibility to help that client get those things accomplished?
This is a case study: the big result and the steps required to get to that big result.
What Makes a Good Case Study?
Now here are some watch-outs:
- Make sure the client is the hero. In this case study, the client is the hero, not you. This is not a veiled marketing asset where you just get to describe how great your services are and the client can be anybody. No, your clients are heroes. Your clients are the winners. So it's important to see this case study, to design it in such a way where your client can be the actual hero.
Because if we look at what your client is thinking about, what your prospect is thinking about, they want to be the hero too. They want to look good at the end too. So we want to make sure that the client is the hero, not your services.
- Highlight the client’s process. The client's process matters, not yours. Yes, I understand that there are things that you did to help your client go where they're trying to go, but it's your client that had to navigate that process. Your client had to get those things done. Your client had to allow for certain things to manifest, to unfold, to be executed on. The client's process matters.
You need your prospective client to appreciate the process that they have to go through, their own process inside their company, inside their situation. They need to see that for themselves.
- Be realistic about the investment. In your case study, you want to dispel any notion of “magic results.” Sometimes those testimonials look like, "Hey, it's me. I did a thing and I won." "Hey, it's me. I did a thing and I made a million dollars." "Hey, it's me. I did a thing and it all worked out fine."
But we all know, especially when you start interacting with clients and going deep with clients, there's some stuff you got to work through. So it's really important that you show your client upfront that there is no magic. Be honest about the investment required to get to this end goal.
If it costs a certain amount of money to get to the end goal, that's what it costs. If it requires a certain amount of time to get to the end goal, then that's what it costs. If it requires a certain amount of people or support staff or existing software or training or development, then that's what it costs. Be aggressive in your case study about dispelling the “magic.”
- Be truthful. Please don't lie or embellish. We don't do this on purpose, but we want to make our company look the best it can, and so there's a tendency to trump up, put some extra icing and sprinkles on top of the results that we've created for people.
It's easier to deliver the truth. What I mean is you want to be able to tell your prospective client, "Hey, listen, this person was just like you. They went through an experience that you can also manage, and if you go through the experience, you will win."
So if you've told them the precise truth here, it's a whole lot easier to deliver on what you told them. But if you embellished in some way here, it becomes more difficult for you to keep that promise, the one that you made in the case study.
Recap: The Essentials of a B2B Marketing Case Study
Not Too Short, Not Too Long
So we're saying here that the classic testimonial is probably too short for your client to make an informed decision. But if you told the entire story in it's long depth and detail, that also doesn't serve them the best. So you’ve got to do something in the middle here.
It’s All About the Client
It's important when you craft this unique case study that your client is the hero, that they see clearly what the process is to get the result they want, and that they know the truth about what the reality looks like, about the investment that is required to get to the end goal.
Now go develop that better case study!