How to Write a Winning B2B Case Study

Listen:
case study graphic

Business-to-business (B2B) marketers understand the power of case studies for helping to nurture leads. A successful B2B case study establishes trust and offers proof of the value of your products or services.

Unfortunately, many marketing teams fail to publish effective studies.

What is a Case Study?

Case studies are stories that show your expertise and experience in a given field or service. Many companies use case studies to market themselves to potential clients. They are generally written out as a PDF, but they can also be videos. The case study must clearly demonstrate a successful solution to a problem faced by one of your customers.

To do this effectively requires several key components. 

If you want to get more out of your case studies, ensure that they include the following three things:

1. Easy-to-Follow Story

Every case study needs a story. Do not think of the study as a sales pitch. Use it as a chance to tell a story about how your B2B products or services assisted another business.

The reason why case studies are one of the most used marketing tools is that people relate to the stories.

73% of B2B marketing teams use these studies to nurture their leads. After white papers, B2B marketers consider case studies the second most effective solution for content marketing.

Coincidentally, 73% is also the percentage of decision-makers who use case studies in their decision-making process.

When you read a case study, you become engaged on a deeper, more emotional level compared to reading a white paper.

If customers do not remember any of the stats or data presented in the study, they are still likely to remember a compelling story.

Three Elements of a Story

The story itself also contains multiple components:

  • Problem
  • Action
  • Results

Following this outline helps create an easy-to-follow narrative. It has a beginning, middle, and end backed up with relevant data.

The story should present your customer’s challenges. Explain the issue or issues that they faced before using your products or services. This frames the story and gives the reader a chance to identify with the problem.

After presenting the problem, discuss the solution. Provide a detailed look at how your B2B company solved the customer’s challenge.

When discussing the solution, present data. Discuss the stats before and during the implementation of your solution.

Conclude the story with the results. When you back up the results with data, focus on key metrics such as ROI, sales growth, or revenue gains. However, this is not the only outline for a B2B case study.

Instead of the “problem, action, results” format, some businesses utilize a Q&A-style format.

For example, LiquidPlanner, a SaaS company offering project management software, uses the Q&A style to make the case study more personal. In the company’s case study for a non-profit customer, the story unfolds through a series of questions directed at the customer.

No matter if you use a Q&A-style format or the standard outline, your story starts with a headline.

As with landing pages, a case study needs to captivate the audience instantly. Apptio, a company offering business management software, uses the headline to draw readers into the story. Browse Apptio’s testimonials to view a few examples.

Each case study includes a headline that addresses “who, what, and how.” Before you read a single paragraph, you know what to expect.

2. Data and Information

The goal of the B2B case study is to educate your potential customers without using sales copy to hype your products or services.

After presenting the customer’s problem, discuss how your solution came to the rescue and follow up with the results. Throughout these sections of the case study, data remains an essential component.

When it comes to B2B sales, the decision-makers tend to focus on solutions. They want to know that your product or service can resolve their problems.

In fact, 97% of buyers look for B2B companies that demonstrate a strong knowledge of the solution area. 90% of buyers look for content that showcases the potential ROI of the products or services. The data and information in the study help with both areas.

Presenting facts replaces the need to hype your offerings. The results and the stats are the sales pitch.

Example Data Points

The metrics that you focus on depend on the industry. For example, marketing and advertising firms should offer stats that show they can deliver positive results, such as:

  • Sales leads
  • Total revenue or sales
  • Conversion rates
  • Number of visitors
  • Cost per acquisition
  • Overall return on investment

B2B Case Study Examples

An Australian advertising firm, SMART, includes measurable results to demonstrate the company’s ability to generate new sales. In the case study for The Beach Apartments Broadbeach, SMART illustrates how they developed a B2B marketing campaign that led to $17.9 million in sales.

Marketo also provides several great examples of studies that rely heavily on data. This marketing company tends to display several key stats at the very top of the case study.

In the case study for Charles Schwab, Marketo displays that they generated $1.1 billion in assets and $100 million in sales via their nurture marketing program.

A company in the industrial manufacturing sector may need to use a different approach. Instead of focusing on stats, these companies tend to focus on knowledge.

For example, Production Modeling Corporation (PMC) establishes itself as an authority in its field by presenting an entire library of case studies. The information contained in the studies helps reassure decision-makers that they are dealing with a company that understands their needs.

3. Customer Quotes and Testimonials

Along with data and facts, testimonials and quotes from customers help add authenticity.

60% of B2B buyers search for testimonials and peer reviews during their research. Decision-makers believe quotes from their peers more than they trust your stats.

Additionally, 90% of decision-makers claim that positive customer case studies influenced their purchasing decision.

Sprinklr (a social media engagement agency) includes numerous quotes from its customers throughout its case studies.

In their case study involving Groupon, Sprinklr obtains quotes from Groupon’s head of content and social media. The customer’s feedback helps tell the story and makes the study more engaging.

SimpleReach used this same strategy when creating their Intel case study. Throughout the study, the head content strategist at Intel explains the problem that the company faced and how SimpleReach came to the rescue with effective content marketing.

Last Thoughts on B2B Case Studies

A recent report found that 68% of B2B buyers perform their own research. Case studies give you an extra source for presenting information to potential customers during their research process.

An effective case study should include a compelling story. However, it needs two key details to help bring the story to life — data and customer quotes.

The details, facts, and stats included in your case study help illustrate the value of your products or services. Use metrics to demonstrate how your solutions work.

Customer quotes and feedback help make your story more relatable. Decision-makers are more likely to believe a case study when it includes short testimonials or quotes.

Along with the content of the case study, pay attention to the presentation. B2B companies often present these studies as individual web pages or downloadable PDFs.

Thanks to the latest technologies, B2B companies are experimenting with innovative techniques. You may consider making your case study interactive or utilize parallax scrolling to create a dynamic presentation.

Whether you use a traditional format or a creative approach, use your case studies to stand out from the competition.

Share:

Austin Cline is the founder and CEO of ASUN Digital. He frequently writes about brand strategy and digital marketing with expertise in B2B marketing. He has served as a senior director of marketing and director of digital and web for previous marketing agencies and has over 10 years of marketing experience. You can follow him on Twitter at @_austincline or connect with him on LinkedIn by visiting his profile.