If you are looking for a way to improve your content marketing strategy this year, consider case studies. Case studies are obviously not new. Organizations have used them for years as a way to provide a systematic examination of cause and effect over a period of time. True, some case studies are about as cheesy (and creepy) as a cheap pick-up line. However, today’s savvy organizations tie well-written case studies to a larger content marketing strategy and overall integrated communications strategy.
If you’re unsure on the meaning of content marketing and its role in organizational branding, here is a great summary by Shelly Kramer at V3 Integrated Marketing titled, “Content Marketing: A beginner’s checklist.” Case studies fall within an overall content marketing strategy. Writing case studies requires a marketer’s entrepreneurial mentality and a journalist’s “nose for news” approach. Report legitimate information that establishes a favorable outcome for your clients and supports your organization.
With that, here are five ideas to help you write case studies that avoid the cheesy and create value.
1. Spotlight others
Yeah, your case study ultimately communicates what you can do for clients, but if you truly embrace the success of others, then let your customers tell your story for you. If they succeed as a result of their involvement with you then you will succeed. Case studies are a great opportunity to let others speak on your behalf. No, it isn’t direct sales, but success sells and every successful organization is open to possibilities that open new avenues of success. And frankly, if your organization can’t point to the success of its partners, then you probably have bigger issues than developing a balanced content marketing strategy.
2. Target substance
Sure, everybody knows a case study written by an organization is going to cast that organization in a positive light, however, it is the substance of the study that brings the benefit. Poorly written case studies tend to “push the pitch,” and that’s what creates the cheese factor. You risk losing credibility instead of gaining it. Cheesy pitches are easy to spot since most people reading case studies found on corporate websites read with a bias anyway. Trust the outcome that resulted from your involvement in another organization. If you solved a problem for someone, chances are they are happy to testify on your behalf in a substantive way and that authenticity is the substance for which prospects are looking.
3. Get to the point
Open your case study by offering a concise summary of what someone can expect to learn by reading it: What was the problem; what was the solution, what’s the outcome. State the problem in a way that is specific to the organization you helped, but as universal as it can be so that others with a similar issue can relate. Think about the broader audience when writing the summary. This offers the gist of the case study if no one reads any further.
4. Content matters
The body of a case study should use active verbs and clearly communicate the situation before your organization got involved and the outcomes as a result of of your involvement. Use direct quotes by others to state the issue they faced and how you solved the problem. Include any relevant metrics that don’t compromise proprietary information. Offer depth. This is where the inner reporter should kick in. Write the content objectively and with pertinent facts. Credibility significantly increases when this style of authorship is embraced.
5. Clearly summarize
This is almost a copy and paste of the opening summary because it restates the problem, the specific solution employed and the resulting benefit the customer received from connecting with your organization.This doesn’t have to be long because the point is to leave the reader with the real sense that something positive was accomplished; that change for the better happened.
Content marketing at its core offers customers and prospects useful information that benefits them. The more useful and substantive, the more you’ll be seen as a competent provider of the services you offer. Well-written case studies “sell” you because they’ve documented results. And remember, people who hire are looking for results, and that’s something cheesy sales “pick-up lines” don’t offer.