Theory versus practice. Which is more important? Perhaps, you’ll agree that it’s wrong to think of these two terms separately. Theory isn't possible without practice, and practice isn't possible without theory. Only their synthesis gives deeper, specialist knowledge.
However, if you run your business online, then being a good specialist is not enough. It’s necessary to show your professionalism and clearly demonstrate that you are better than your competitors, and your approach really works. How do you do this?
Create expert content: make videos and infographics. Write articles, white papers and case studies. Ideally, you should use all of the listed content types, but if you are running out of time and budget then you can stop at just two of them – educational articles and case studies. Why these two? Let’s take a look.
Potential customers pass through 5 stages before acting:
- Realisation of a problem
- Studying a problem
- Searching for possible solutions
- Comparing their effectiveness
- Making a decision
In the first three stages, he uses informational articles to source necessary information. In the final two stages he uses case studies. When a website doesn't have either of these two types of content, then the chances of users performing a desired action (a purchase) significantly decreases. Consider: if a user, having absolutely no idea about the nature of a problem, reads your case study straight away, will he regard it as useful? Vice versa, if he reads a theory but sees no practical evidence, is he likely to perform a desired action? No, he isn’t. That’s why both types of content must be used together. Articles as the basis. Case studies as the final push.
Unfortunately, case studies are not as popular as articles. We’ll try to explain why it’s wrong to ignore cases and demonstrate to you that this type of content is one of the most effective ways for getting new customers.
Well, let’s begin.
What is a case study?
In terms of online marketing, a case study is a story (oral or written) describing a real-life problem, ways to solve it and how to achieve results. We’ll give you an example to illustrate this.
A blogger doesn’t have enough traffic on their website (a problem). He decides to write a guest post to increase it (a solution). After publishing 20 articles on third-party platforms, his traffic grows by 50% (a result). If he combines all this data into one article and fills it with screenshots that validate his content, then it is a great case, which proves the effectiveness of the chosen promotion strategy.
What do you need case studies for?
Case studies are a great tool to increase conversion rates. According to research from Eccolo Media, today they are one of the most powerful types of “sales content” (they take second place after white papers). The reasons for their effectiveness are:
- They give a 'real' solution to a problem
If they find useful content, a user is very likely to return to your website. Even if he didn’t buy anything the first time, you've already got the main thing – his loyalty. Next time, in the same conditions, his loyalty will be higher, then even higher and so on until the moment he make his final decision.
- They increase the level of users’ trust
Case studies are a great way to express your competences and, thus, increase the level of potential customers’ trust. Today it’s especially topical – wherever you go there are “professionals” with a “top notch service”. How do you prove that you really understand your business? It’s very simple. Write and publish at least a few case studies on your website which illustrate your professionalism.
- They unobtrusively talk about your advantages
Properly written case studies don’t have obvious ads. They don’t obtrude anything and they don’t irritate anybody. Wherein, they describe your advantages and explain to users that you and your product are the most effective solution to their problem, in a very delicate way.
How do you write a good case study?
Many people think that some statistical data and a couple of screenshots are enough to write a good case study. That's a big mistake. A quality case study should contain not only numbers and graphs, but a catchy and logical story that touches readers’ hearts. As a rule, such stories can be separated into the following points:
The introduction should make a user want to continue reading. Use a variety of writing techniques: intrigue, surprise or shock. In general do anything, but make the user want to proceed to the next point.
In this section you must describe a situation and problem in detail, explaining why it is so important to solve it.
Here you should describe methods that were used to solve the problem. Wherein, you should include so many details that you answer all a users potential questions. For example, if you write a case study about guest blogging, then discuss in detail what articles you wrote (on what topics, of what length, whether you used keywords and links or not), how you cooperated with bloggers (whether they were easy to cooperate with, how it took for them to answer your messages, how much they asked you to pay) and so on.
Here you should include your statistics and other important data. All facts must be accompanied by supporting screenshots.
The opinion exists that at the end of a case study it’s essentially important to include a call to action, contact numbers and so on. However, we are sure that you shouldn’t do so. Users, who read your case study and want to participate in what you are offering, won’t be lazy enough to visit a “Contact us” section, while rough advertisements after such a great excursion can scare them away. That’s why we don’t recommend you do this, instead just draw your conclusion.
Problems you may face when writing case studies
Despite the fact that case studies have a lot of pros, they have some cons as well. In general, these are not exactly cons but problems you can face when writing them.
The main problem you can face is that customers may not be willing to disclose their data. We have faced this issue many times in our practice. The worst thing about it is that you can’t solve this problem, and dozens of amazing case studies remain unwritten.
Another problem is that case studies should be written in an engaging way and in catchy words. Numbers and facts are not enough. You must use all your writing skills and catch readers in the first few lines. Sometimes it can be very hard to do.
The last problem is that case studies should contain no ads. A lot of people write case studies like they are medals they won in a cruel war with competitors, so they must brag about them in front of readers. It’s not the main goal. The main goal is to help users solve their problems.
An example which proves that case studies work
Well, let’s get to the most interesting part. Did you really think that an article about case studies didn't contain at least one real example of their effectiveness?
In 2013 we published a case study on our Russian website that proved the effectiveness of content marketing. By the way, you can read the translation here – it’s completely adapted and contains a lot of useful information, examples and thoughts. This case study met all the requirements listed above: it was written in proper words, contained a lot of facts, supporting screenshots and there were no ads at all. It took us one day to write the case study, but the results were stunning.
During a 5 day period we had 437 views and 12 (!) new requests. This was a couple of times higher than our average level at that time. Put in context, views doubled, and the number of requests increased by 4-5 times. Unfortunately, we can’t prove to you the number of requests, you must simply believe us, but here’s the screenshot that proves the number of views (the URL to the Russian case study is http://texterra.ru/master/571/ if you have any doubts):
Speaking about case studies and their long list of advantages, you may think that they are the only type of content to post on your website. However, that would be wrong. In order to have a really high conversion rate, you must have as many different types of content as possible – both theoretical and practical. This is the only way to give a potential customer the opportunity to pass all the stages from realisation of a problem to making a final decision in your favour.