How to Write A Better Case Study for B2B
Through words and images, B2B case studies tell detailed stories of how your company solves business and technical challenges for customers.
Sales teams consistently rank case studies as the most requested content tactic. Between 400–1,000 words, online case studies help drive prospects to your website, build credibility and trust, and demonstrate performance in the customer’s or prospect’s industry.
The B2B case study can quickly communicate your company’s value to a prospect who is looking for answers to a problem. At the same time, the case study can set you apart from competitors.
Today, most consumers don’t buy anything of significant value without reading online reviews first. Research shows that 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, according to Inc. magazine.
The B2B equivalent of online reviews is the case study. Research by the Content Marketing Institute found case studies to be one of the most effective content types for influencing engineers and other B2B buyers during the consideration and evaluation stages of their decision-making process.
This also might be the reason why case studies consistently rank as your website’s most-read pages. Detailed case studies help prospects visualize how your products or services can be used for their applications. At the same time, they provide proof senior leaders want when evaluating a potential supplier’s capabilities.
If your products and solutions are tailored to serve multiple applications or industries, create at least one case study for each sector you serve. Prospects value industry experience, and want proof that your solutions work in their specific situation. Well researched and written case studies communicate:
- You are comfortable with the prospect’s industry or application.
- You understand their specific needs and can deliver results.
- You’ve solved many similar problems before, and have the knowledge and experience to address their unique problem.
What Makes a Good Case Study Candidate?
Your sales team is often an excellent source for identifying which customers would make the most compelling case studies within each industry you serve. Ask your sales team what questions they’re hearing from your customers and prospects. This business intelligence helps you better understand the language your prospects use to define their specific issues. Also choose case studies based on which projects represent work that you’d like to do more of, and show off your differentiators in the marketplace.
Gather Case Study Facts
Before you write the story behind your case study, resist the urge to make the narrative all about your team’s genius and ingenuity. First, find out what information your prospects and readers desire most in a case study. Note, this information could likely differ by industry, but always put your audience’s information needs first. The Content Marketing Institute says, 90 percent of top-performing B2B firms put the audience’s information needs before their own.
Short of talking with your target audience directly, the best source for learning their information needs will likely come from the people who are closest to your customers — sales. Ask your sales team the following questions or have them email you answers in bullet point form. Additionally, proposals, scopes of work and project detail documents will help you flesh out details.
8 Questions to Ask Sales
- What were the goals of the project?
- What problem(s) was the customer trying to solve?
- How did you understand their needs and add value?
- What did your company innovate or learn in this project? Would others be interested in this new approach?
- What products and services did you provide, and what was unique about this implementation?
- What were the project results and business results? How did you help the client succeed?
- Think about other people browsing your website, looking for evidence that you’ve solved similar problems to theirs, and you’re the right company to help them. What would they be looking for?
- What type of business do you want to attract with this case study? What kind of customer or problem do you want this case study to appeal to?
Interview Your Customer to Create the Best Case Studies
You can write a compelling case study using internally generated information from the checklist above. But, like a good news story, the best information in a case study comes directly from the source. To write next-level case studies, ask clients for a 30-minute call because you’re interested in featuring their company and experiences on your website, which will be seen by hundreds of people. Explicitly stating “We’d like to write a feature on your company” is much more enticing to your customer than asking “Can we do a case study on you?”
Sometimes, having someone on your sales team conduct the customer interview can help deepen the customer/supplier relationship and possibly even lead to future opportunities. On the other hand, to maintain more objectivity, your marketing team can talk with the customer. However, if objective feedback is important to your company, you’ll produce the most straightforward and unguarded responses from customers when you hire an independent writer or agency to interview your customers.
10 Questions to Ask Your Customer
- At the beginning of this project, what were you trying to solve, or what were your initial goals?
- How have you measured success or business results?
- Were you able to isolate this project’s effect on revenue growth, market share increase, increase in leads or other important metric?
- Have you been able to meet your [specific] needs better as the result of our work, [products or services]?
- What feedback have you received from customers/stakeholders/management, positive or negative?
- Overall, has the project met your expectations?
- Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would do differently with the solution or process?
- Why did you choose us to work with you?
- Has your work with us influenced how you plan and execute [service]?
- Did working with us meet your expectations; would you work with us again?
How to Format Your Case Studies
Now that you’ve talked with your sales team and customer gathering facts, it’s time to write a case study narrative. Demonstrate your company’s knowledge and problem-solving capabilities. Detail the challenges and conflict your customer was facing.
- What was the initial problem?
- How did you and your customer resolve the problem?
- What was the process or journey to find a resolution?
- What does the happy, climactic scene at the end of the story look like?
Begin writing your case study by focusing on the customer. Better yet, make them the story’s hero. After talking about your customer and their needs, introduce your company as the expert guide that helped them. That’s where you talk about your products and services and how they helped.
- Use this on pages that link to the case study, and provide a short, skimmable overview at the start. What sound bites or customer quotes are the most important? Is there an image that can provide an overview? Write this section last.
- What products/services were used? What industry or application? What key results or metrics resulted?
- Begin the meat of the story by spotlighting the customer.
- What problem was your customer trying to solve? Why did they need you? Why did they seek out your services? What other solutions had they tried or investigated?
- Discuss how your products/services were implemented. What did you discover; what obstacles did you overcome? Describe how your products or services solved the customer’s problem (this is the chance to pitch your solution and your process).
- Provide as many specifics as you can about how you solved the problem. Hard numbers like savings, revenue gains, growth, return on investment, customer quotes and images are all great here. Summarize and close your story.
Call to action
- Don’t forget to incite action in the reader by including a customized or boilerplate call to action to encourage prospects to contact your sales team to discuss their unique situation. Provide browse paths to services or similar case studies for those who aren’t ready to talk yet.
Use Strategic SEO
As you write your case studies think about what keyword phrases your prospects may use to search for relevant content. This is strategic search engine optimization (SEO). What kinds of questions might they be asking? Look for opportunities to address prospect questions or queries through keywords weaved into case studies. These keyword phrases will significantly improve the chances your content will appear on a search engine results page like Google.
Be sure to include a mix of what are called long-tail phrases and broad words. For instance, the phrases “sensor failure pneumatic actuators” and “robotics” represent two ends of a spectrum covering the same topic.
Write your case study around what you accomplished first, but then go through your list of target keywords and see which ones could naturally fit within the material without changing its meaning. Ideally, shoot for 1% – 2% of your overall word count to be your target keyword. SEOquake is a great chrome extension you can use for checking keyword density, amongst a few other things.
Additional Case Study Tips
As you begin creating your portfolio of case studies to share on your company website, you’ll likely have further questions or concerns. The following are several more considerations to think about as you write new case studies:
Can you mention your client contact and company names? Most companies will have guidelines you need to comply with when it comes to publicly sharing information. Many industrial companies operate under strict NDAs designed to protect proprietary information, trade secrets and patents. If you can’t disclose the company’s name, consider using a general description such as a “Fortune 500 manufacturing company” or a “Minnesota-based medical device manufacturer.” When in doubt, review a draft of the case study with your customer and allow them to make edits prior to publishing.
If you have numerous case studies, categorize them by industry, company size, or product/solution. Link to them from your product and industry pages.
Format your case studies so they’re easy to skim. Include fact-based vital points in your subheadings. For instance, instead of “Results” as an H2, say “Results: 25% Increase in Efficiency.” Get to the heart of the essential story in around 600-1,200 words.
If you worked with other solutions providers or vendors on the project, consider naming and linking to them for added credibility.
Include client quotes you captured during the personal interviews.
Video testimonials are a great addition to provide credibility. Identify the best spokesperson and write an interview guide that you’ve previewed before going on camera. Include B-roll of their facility, if possible.
Re-purpose the case study. Post it on your website, consider sending it out to your mailing list as a supplement to the useful content you’re regularly sending, and share the case study on social media.
PDF case studies are still widely used, but sharing case study content right within the webpage, without requiring a “gate” or form-fill to download is better. This will allow Google to crawl the entire article, and let your users find you via search and understand how you work without obstruction. However, a PDF or gate can be helpful in the instance where you can provide a meaty, freely available and searchable case study (600-1200 words) and then ALSO offer a more in-depth gated content that provides even more detail about the process and results. The “gate” in this scenario works best as a form that hides part of the on-page content from view, like this case study we wrote about SEO & Digital Marketing. If it’s technically more feasible, a gated PDF download also does the trick.
Whether it’s creating convincing copy, fine-tuning content to improve search results, or designing and building an all new case study infrastructure, we’re here to help.