You’ve probably heard that case studies are an important part of any content marketing strategy. Harvard introduced case studies as a concept in its management classes more than 100 years ago, and since then, hundreds of thousands of businesses have used them to demonstrate the value of their products and services.
A century later, you wouldn’t be alone in wondering if case studies have lost their potency. Perhaps there’s some kind of newfangled, better way to demonstrate the value of products and services? After all, aren’t case studies a little old-fashioned?
While case studies can be presented in a number of new ways—a business could release a video case study, for example, that’s accessible through a QR code—they remain an invaluable asset in content marketing. Regardless of the bells and whistles, case studies remain effective for the simplest of reasons: They work.
But why do they work?
Short and Sweet, No Sales Pitch Required
Case studies are usually short, which is one reason they’re effective. When done right, they address a specific need or worry, perhaps one the audience hasn’t yet been able to articulate. But let’s not overlook the fact that case studies are easy to read because they usually get to the point. They are the opposite of those online recipes that take 14 detours and provide way too much background information when all you want is the list of ingredients.
Case studies also, ideally, showcase key data points. The best case studies are a powerful blend of content and design working together to convey potent information quickly and create an easy reading experience for busy decision-makers. But best of all, there’s no need for a sales pitch. While you should end your case study with a call to action, a case study is a less-demanding and more relaxed approach.
Concrete Evidence of Success
In a world of hype and flash, case studies offer tangible evidence that your business has solved real-world problems for clients or customers. Instead of burying your audience with sales pitches and empty claims, a case study serves as an undeniable witness that your product or service delivers real results.
HubSpot reports that 64% of B2B marketers consider case studies one of the most effective content marketing tactics. And with potential clients conducting more due diligence online than ever before—lurking all over your website and social media platforms—a business can do well by making it easy for them to find something meaningful, even if they don’t know what they’re hoping to find.
Captivating Storytelling for Engagement
Attention spans are fleeting—I’m sorry, I was looking at my phone, what was that again?—so captivating audiences can be an uphill battle. Case studies, when crafted effectively, become compelling narratives. They take readers on a journey, from the initial problem your client faced to the triumphant solution your company provided. This storytelling element captures your audience’s attention and keeps them engaged. Marketers love to borrow from other fields; once they shifted their focus to storytelling, it wasn’t long before they began to incorporate elements from creative writing courses into their discourse, which is why you see narrative design, dramatic structure, and even Freytag’s Pyramid mentioned in marketing articles and conferences.
(Brief aside: As a mildly pedantic former professor who thinks words matter, I must say that a two-dimensional representation should not be called a pyramid. I usually refer to this diagram as the “inverted checkmark,” as Janet Burroway calls it inWriting Fiction.)
Sharing Is Caring
Educating your audience about the practical applications of your product or service is a crucial step in the sales funnel, which is why nearly two-thirds of B2B enterprises still use them, according to the Content Marketing Institute. Informed prospects are more likely to become customers, after all.
Many successful business owners don’t feel comfortable with anything resembling bragging or self-aggrandizement. If you feel uneasy about documenting a moment of success for your business, change your perspective. Don’t think of it as bragging, because it’s not. With a case study, you’re just sharing the truth of what happened. And sharing is caring, after all.
Building Trust and Credibility
Prospective customers approach grandiose claims with skepticism: It slices, it dices, it files your taxes and relieves lower lumbar pain…but wait, there’s more!
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, while a significant 70% trust online reviews and opinions from strangers. Case studies bridge the gap and shift perception so that your business can start to be seen as a trusted authority.
Trust is the cornerstone of modern marketing, after all. Customers seek authenticity and real-world results. By showcasing your past successes, case studies help build trust and credibility with your audience going forward. Not much is more powerful than authentic narratives regarding your clients’ satisfaction.
Spotlighting Problem-Solving Prowess
Thriving businesses excel at problem-solving. Case studies enable you to showcase your knack for addressing complex challenges. When potential clients or customers read about how you helped others overcome similar obstacles, they are more inclined to believe you can do the same for them—which is why case studies should be considered a foundational element of any multi-step marketing strategy.
Before you send those emails and punch up your social media efforts, make sure your website has meaningful and persuasive content—including case studies—waiting for eager new visitors to encounter.
Evergreen Content for Long-Term Impact
In a world where content can swiftly become outdated, case studies stand as timeless assets. The problems businesses face today will likely mirror those of tomorrow—regardless of technological or societal developments—because the essence of human psychology isn’t radically different from what it was a century ago. Consequently, well-crafted case studies retain their relevance for years, continuing to attract and educate your audience long after their initial publication. They can also be repurposed in a number of ways: social media posts, a section of a customer-facing email, and more.
Ultimately, asking if case studies are still relevant is fine—it’s good to check your assumptions every so often—but is your business harnessing the full potential of case studies? If not, reach out to Rare Bird and start a conversation. Our strategic thinking and deep immersion into the customer experience is rooted in the art of persuasion. We know what motivates customers, and we’d be thrilled to be your marketing partner.