Whether you’re shopping for a physical product like a new phone or a digital service like an online course, how do you decide to make a purchase? If you responded that you rely on the opinion of family and friends, you’re a part of the 83% of American consumers who are more likely to make a purchase when they’ve received a verbal recommendation from someone they’re close with.
In this day and age, consumers’ purchasing decisions are no longer swayed by flashy sales pitches, but instead, rely on real-life experiences - simply because they are more likely to trust fellow consumers before trusting money-hungry companies.
Building consumer trust is a key ingredient of any thriving business - including online course sellers. Brand trust is essential for gaining new customers and maintaining customer loyalty. Similar to recommendations, one of the best ways to build brand trust is by sharing case studies.
The power of case studies as a top-tier marketing tool is undeniable. While building brand trust is an incredible benefit in itself, the benefits of case studies don’t stop there.
In this post, we’ll map out the top five reasons you should use case studies and how you can create a great case study for your business!
What is a case study?
Case studies explore a customer’s problem point and what your business did to help them resolve it. But it’s more than just an explanation or step-by-step process - it’s a story complete with a plot, characters, conflict, and a resolution. In case studies, your company plays the brave knight rescuing the damsel in distress from the evil dragon.
Herein lies the difference between a case study and a testimonial, which is simply a customer claiming your product is great. Yawn. Now, don’t get us wrong - testimonials provide great content for web pages and social media. Sometimes they can be enough to turn a prospect into a customer. Other times, prospects require a little more convincing, which is why their in-depth alternative, the case study, may be necessary.
The five benefits of case studies
Let’s get to it! Here are the reasons why online course sellers and other businesses should utilize case studies in their marketing strategy:
- Build unbreakable brand trust
With 70% of surveyed consumers reporting that trusting a brand is more important today than in the past, it’s a necessity for companies to invest in this component of their business. Case studies build trust by representing the very customers you serve. Not only does this allow a potential customer to imagine how you might solve their own problem, but by allowing your previous customers to share their stories, they endorse your brand which gives your business real credibility.
- Demonstrate authority in your niche
Case studies are the perfect opportunity to capture a buyer’s attention because the content should be highly relevant to various segments of your target audience. While you have your buyer’s attention, demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, solutions for your customer’s needs, and product usage. Together, these things will work to establish you as an expert in your niche, which can lead a buyer to choose your services over your competition - who doesn’t love winning?
- Provide social proof where you have a say
Eighty-three percent of customers don’t trust advertising, which means you’ve got to convince them to purchase your product through another avenue - like social proof. Case studies are a form of social proof that provide potential buyers with what they’re looking for, which is confirmation from other buyers that your products are the real deal. But unlike reviews, ratings, and social media comments, you have a smidge of control over what goes into a case study, which helps you write your company’s story.
- Build a search-engine-optimized online presence
Yes, even case studies can assist with SEO. How? If you publish your case study as a blog post or a web page, Google and other search engines will index your case study with associated keywords and rank your content. If done right, your case study could end up on the first page of Google, where it can generate a hefty amount of traffic to your site. Here’s a detailed post on how to write an article that both people and search engines will love that can be applied to writing a case study blog post.
- Strengthen customer relationships
By simply asking a customer for an interview, you are building a connection that has the potential to last a lifetime. Through the interview process, you are establishing that you believe your customer has a valuable story to share. While it might feel like you’re imposing on a customer by asking them for an interview, don’t worry. A study from Harvard found there is an intrinsic pleasure to be gained from talking about oneself and sharing one’s experiences with an audience. Your customers will appreciate it - we promise!
Elements of a great case study
Case studies may appear daunting at first, but with a step-by-step approach, they can be easily implemented into your overall marketing strategy. Before diving into how to create a case study, let’s talk about the three elements that make up a great case study:
A case study should be digestible. Truly effective case studies should be concise and clear, getting straight to the point. Avoid unnecessary information and fluff that doesn’t add to the story.
A case study should be thorough. A solid case study will map out exactly how the customer got from A to B using your product. There should be no guesswork as to how your product or service solved the customer’s problem.
A case study should tell a story. Your case study should follow the same pattern as a story with a compelling plot that creates tension and requires a solution. While your company is technically the hero of the story, don’t steal your customer’s spotlight! They are the main character, and without them, there wouldn’t be a story at all.
How to write a case study
Now that you have an idea of what a great case study looks like, let’s jump into how to create one:
- Determine the case study format.
When it comes to case study formats, you aren’t limited to only blogs or web page content. Case studies come in all shapes and sizes including downloadable ebooks, videos, and infographics. It’s best to choose a format based on what works for your business, the marketing channels, and the marketing campaign if there is one.
- Determine the case study objective.
Before ever choosing a candidate for your case study, determine what it will achieve i.e. what are you trying to demonstrate to your potential customers. Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to help narrow down an objective:
- Are you trying to increase revenue for a certain product or service?
- Are you trying to increase lead generation?
- Are you trying to increase audience engagement?
- Choose your ideal customer.
When considering which customer to use in a case study, don’t use just anybody. Not every customer success story will be relevant to your target audience or have the hook that’s needed to create an emotional response. To identify the perfect candidate, ensure they meet the following criteria:
- They’ve seen good, if not great, results with your product or service.
- They chose you over a competitor or came to you from a competitor.
- The customer has a solid understanding of your business and service and can speak on both with authority.
- Interview the customer.
The interview may be the most exciting and crucial part of the process seeing that’s where the story lives! But before jumping on a call with your interviewee or sending the interview via email, ensure that you are asking the right questions. A mixture of both broad and targeted open-ended questions are best. Here are a few examples to get you started:
“What was the biggest challenge you faced before using my product?”
“How did my product help you overcome that challenge? Can you provide any key metrics to support your answer?”
“What tangible and intangible benefits have you gotten after using the product?”
Tip: don’t be afraid to ask similar questions. Sometimes, you’ll need to ask the same thing in different ways to get rich responses that make for a compelling story.
- Outline your case study, and create!
Finally! You get to create your case study. Whether you are writing a blog or filming a video, make sure you include the following pieces of information:
- Customer introduction
- Clearly defined customer problem
- Product or service introduction
- Solution (how the product or service helped)
- Results (the tangible and intangible impacts on the customer)
- Call to action
Depending on your case study objective, the CTA may collect email addresses, send traffic to a product page, or offer a free downloadable like a checklist - an excellent option for a lead magnet.
For a little case study inspiration, check out three of our top favorite pieces:
- Triathlete’s knowledge commerce journey goes from coaching to courses to membership community
- Solopreneur success stories; inspiration to write your own
- Author, Bobby Owsinski, goes beyond books with Kajabi
The bottom line
With all of these elements, your case study is sure to tell a compelling story.
Sure, ads still have the power to make someone aware of your company, and landing pages can tell them how your product or service solves their problem, but there’s nothing like a person (who isn’t paid by your company) singing your praises.
Whether you’re growing an e-commerce or online knowledge business, case studies, if done right, have the power to deliver a huge return on investment time and time again.