Tips on how to write a better Case Study

Case studies are the perfect marketing tool. The best way to convey your marketing message is through the voice of a successful and happy customer. We have invited Case Study Experts to shed light on the following question: If you could give our readers one tip on how to write a better case study, what would that be? Read on to get their insights.

Recommended Resources from Experts on Case Studies

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Casey Hibbard

Blog Stories That Sell Twitter Casey_Hibbard

“Always write for your audience”

Casey Hibbard’s Bio

Casey Hibbard is the founder and principal of Compelling Cases, Inc. Over the past decade, she has created and managed nearly 500 customer stories for dozens of companies, including Level 3, USA.NET, Jobfox, Qwest, Great-West Healthcare, Vocus and Verio. She is the author of the first published book on the topic of customer case studies, Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset.

Casey Hibbard’s Tip

The best case studies will create an “aha” for your prospects. To do that, stay absolutely focused on the audience. From the questions you ask to customer quotes to the headline, everything should be focused on the messages you want your specific audience to know.

Define your audience on an organizational and individual level. For example, your audience might be a director of HR at a small to midsize manufacturing company. Or maybe it’s the senior systems architect of a large healthcare company. What one type of prospect wants to know is different from another. Always write for the audience.

Casey Hibbard Recommends

Cindy King

Blog CindyKing Twitter CindyKing

“Remember the international reach of your case studies”

Cindy King’s Bio

Cindy King is a Cross-Cultural Marketer & International Sales Specialist based in France.  She uses her dual background in sales & marketing, in international business development, to help businesses improve their international sales conversion. She is also adept at content marketing, international web marketing and social media marketing.

Cindy King’s Tip

Remember the international reach of your case studies.  Case studies are used to reach clients through: Content marketing plans, Social media marketing campaigns, Web marketing. When case studies are used online these case studies reach international readers too.  If you want to avoid pushing away these international readers you should give a little thought into how you write your case studies. For example:

  • Write with extreme clarity to make comprehension easy for non-native English speakers too
  • Be sure to explain the process outlined in the story in a way that is easy to understand for people who live elsewhere

This way your case study will appeal to a broader audience. If you want to be proactive in developing these international markets you can even use case studies within an international lead generation strategy.  This is where you use country and industry specific case studies to connect with foreign customers in a strategy of international business development. To write better case studies within an international lead generation strategy you need to get your strategy right before you start. 

Cindy King Recommends

Michele Linn

Blog Savvy B2B Marketing Twitter MicheleLinn

“Know your audience”

Michele Linn’s Bio

Michele Linn is a freelance marketing writer specializing creating buyer-focused B2B marketing content, such as white papers, research reports, feature articles and case studies.  Her business is devoted to making the job of B2B marketers easier by producing effective content and providing insights on how they can market it. Her website is Linn Communications.

Michele Linn’s Tip

Know your audience! Every case study should be targeted at one specific audience; a one-size fits all approach is not effective.  Understanding your audience can impact who you will interview, what questions you will ask, what facts you will focus on, what format you will use and how you will promote your case study. For instance, if you are targeting your case study at an executive decision-maker, you need to interview a person who is in the same role, write the story using terms this person understands and focus on details that are relevant to this person, such as ROI or the cost of implementation.  This would be an entirely different story than one targeted at technical users who may want a more detailed explanation of how the tool works.

Michele Linn Recommends

Stephanie Tilton

Blog Savvy B2B Marketing Twitter StephanieTilton

 “Break out of the one-size-fits-all mindset”

Stephanie Tilton’s Bio

Stephanie Tilton is an expert case study and white paper writer who helps B2B companies advance the sales cycle by engaging prospects and customers. Harnessing her unique blend of technical knowledge, marketing savvy, and writing skills, Stephanie has crafted nearly 100 case studies and white papers for leading brands such as Akamai Technologies, EMC, Macromedia, Novell, SAP, and Symantec. Her website is Tenton Marketing.

Stephanie Tilton’s Tip

According to MarketingSherpa, less than 38% of B2B marketers say they tailor their content to specific stages of the buying cycle.[Source: MarketingSherpa’s 2008-2009 Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide]. That fact is clear when it comes to case studies. The majority of companies produce one-size-fits-all versions of these powerful marketing tools.

Unfortunately, the standard “problem-solution-results” case-study formula doesn’t resonate with every person involved in the buying process. For example, technical evaluators making a short list of possible solutions want different details than business users who are just starting to explore options. The most effective approach is to align case studies with the buying process and each prospect’s role in that process.

Continue to produce case studies that help prospects visualize how the solution will help them overcome business challenges or achieve their goals. But don’t forget to offer stories that address common objections early in the buying cycle. And make sure you satisfy the needs of technical evaluators, who want to read lessons learned by customers that have already implemented the solution.

Stephanie Tilton Recommends

Best of Content Marketing Blogs – May 09

There are thousands of posts being published on various blogs every month. With our busy schedules, it sometimes proves difficult to keep track of them all. We scan quickly our RSS readers then move on to other tasks, wondering if we’ve missed some gems along the way. It’s in this spirit that we’ve put together a recap of the best of Content Marketing blogs! Here we’ve chosen 5 not-to-be-missed blog posts that contains great thinking. Ready?

Anti-Starbucks filmmakers hijack the coffee company’s own Twitter marketing campaign

Do you still wonder if social media can have a real influence on your business? Simon Owens portrays on Bloggasm the story of Robert Greenwald, who held anti-Starbucks campaigns on Twitter and succeeded in hijacking their social media campaigns. We mentioned a few times that we were experiencing a shift of power from corporations towards the public and individuals – this post by Owens will tell you how it happens. Great read!

The Content Marketing Two-Step Trap

Patsi Krakoff explains here two common mistakes content marketers might fall into, and I quote:

  1. If you write to educate and entertain, people may love you for it, but so what? They read, say “hmmm!”, then click away, and it’s bye-bye. Gone. Where’s the money in that?
  2. If you write to persuade people to hire you or buy from you, then you risk turning them off with sleazy sales copywriting techniques. You may make a few sales, but readers won’t subscribe and they won’t come back.

Does it feel like this might be a trap you fell into? Check out her post and learn how to avoid this fate!

Marketo Sales Insights – A 6th-Sense Advantage for Sales Effectiveness

Lead generation is one of the main leitmotiv of B2B interactions, but is also extremely hard to harness and measure. Ardath Albee presents great thoughts on a product called Sales Insight, which “enables sales to work more collaboratively with marketing in a natural and real-time manner.” That definitely got us curious!

Amusement Park + Content Marketing + DINU = Hogwarts

Content marketing as an amusement park? Or as Harry Potter? That might seem a far stretch, but come to think of it, the author has an interesting point – content marketing strategies don’t have to be applied only to your writings. It goes well beyond that. Inspiring post (that also makes really good use of an editorial calendar!)

Why You Need to Publish a Custom Book: Q & A with Eloqua’s Steven Woods

Joe Pulizzi mentions that writing a book “that positions you as a trusted expert in your field.” In that spirit, he interviews in this post author Steven Woods, who just released a book called Digital Body Language, about the purpose, process and promotion that comes with writing a book. It was very nice to read about an insider’s perspective.

Did we miss out on something? Did you enjoy this recap? Comments are open! Also, you can subscribe to this blog for free – we offer both email and RSS subscriptions!

9 Ways People Respond to Your Content Online by Rajesh Setty – A review

We’ve been talking about Content Marketing for some time now, providing you with what we hope are insightful thoughts and advices on building great content. We haven’t approached yet how to measure if your content strategy is proving to be successful or not and thought it was time to do so! Indeed, producing meaningful posts is one thing, but if you can’t engage your audience, you’re wasting both your time and your reader’s time and money. So how can you determine the level of engagement you’re getting from your readers?

Rajesh Setty is a prominent entrepreneur and blogger. If you haven’t had a look at his LifeBeyondCode blog yet, please do! Rajesh has produced a very interesting article last week on Lateral Action called 9 Ways People Respond to Your Content Online. This struck us as a fantastic way to determine how readers are engaging with your content. As you can see from the image above, Rajesh pinpoints 9 elements that describes how readers interact with a piece of writing – it starts with content seen as spam up to content so good you want to subscribe. Simple scale, high impact.

How does your content measure up next to these steps? If most of your content can be classified as high value, congratulations! You’re doing a great job and keep going! If you get very little feedback from your readers, this could mean you create very little engagement with your content. How can you know for sure?

  • No one comments on your blog, though you do get visitors.
  • Your feedburner stats are desperately low.
  • You can’t seem to be able to generate discussions or reactions from other blogs or sources.
  • Your Alexa ranking is decreasing.

These are all elements that could let you think you are not successful at creating content that engages your audience. A great way to remedy to this situation is to ask your readers how you can improve your content. Have a look at Uservoice, a website that enables people to leave feedback and suggestions on your site. You can set up a free profile for people to use. By the way, we would love to know how we can improve this blog. You can share your thoughts on our own Uservoice page, by email or through comments. As Rajesh pointed out, “learn from the feedback and incorporate this learning into your next article.” That’s exactly what we’re intending to do!

White Papers – List of “How To” Blog Posts

White papers are an essential item in your marketing toolbox. Every Monday of this month I will compile and publish lists of the many exceptional blog posts from thought leaders on the topics of white papers. The first installment will be a list of ‘How To’ blog posts about white papers.

I have categorized this list into 2 sections

  • Blog posts on Writing White Papers
  • Blog posts on Marketing White Papers

Blog posts on Writing White Papers  

How to Write a White Paper – A White Paper on White Papers
What should the objectives of a white paper be? How long should it be? Read Michael Stelzner’s How to Write a White Paper – A White Paper on White Papers.
How to Write an Effective White Paper
Nelson Acquilano writes about How to Write an Effective White Paper. This article gives information about the purpose, length and style of white Papers for maximum impact.
How to Use Descriptive Paragraph Starters
Using descriptive paragraph starters will engage your readers better. Jonathan Kantor shares his insights in his blog post How to Use Descriptive Paragraph Starters.
How to start a white paper
Gordon Barker points out that forethought and some structure will help you get started with writing your white paper. Read his blog post on How to start a white paper.
How NOT to Format a White Paper!
Business exectuives today have very limited time for reading complex information. You have to format your white paper to draw and retain attention of your readers. Read How NOT to Format a White Paper! for Jonathan Kantor’s insights on what mistakes to avoid when formatting your white paper.
How to Make Your White Paper ‘Good to the Last Drop’
Apryl Parcher recommends to have a good balance between education and marketing in her blog post How to Make Your White Paper ‘Good to the Last Drop’.
How to Craft White Papers that Stick in Readers’ Minds
How can marketers apply the principles from Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick to produce powerful white papers. Stephanie Tilton discusses this in her blog post How to Craft White Papers that Stick in Readers’ Mind.
How to Clone Your White Paper for Different Audiences 
Most white paper readers want content directed right to them. But what if you have two or three different audiences in different roles or sectors? Gordon Graham discusses this question in his article How to Clone Your White Paper for Different Audiences.
How Many Pages Do You Really Need?
A frequently asked question of many white paper marketers, is “How many pages should I have for my white paper?”. Jonathan Kantor answers this question in his blog post How Many Pages Do You Really Need?
How Your White Papers Can Become “Weapons of Influence”
How can you apply lessons from Robert Cialdini’s classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion to writing and marketing white papers? Stephanie Tilton’s discusses this in her blog post How Your White Papers Can Become “Weapons of Influence”.
How to Generate Leads and Establish Industry Prominence by utilizing white papers
Jim Lodico has a white paper on How to Generate Leads and Establish Industry Prominence by utilizing white papers.
How to Write a White Paper: The Five Laws
How to write a marketing or technical white paper by focusing on “the five laws”? Read Hoffman Marketing Communication’s article How to Write a White Paper: The Five Laws.
How to Write White Papers that Drive Sales
White papers can be extremely useful sales tools for IT solution sales people, serving as education and decision-support materials for customers. Read Hoffman Marketing Communication’s article How to Write White Papers that Drive Sales.
How to Write a White Paper: A Closer Look at White Paper Definition
What is a White paper? Read Hoffman Marketing Communication’s article How to Write a White Paper: A Closer Look at White Paper Definition.
How to avert the big don’ts in creating a white paper
What are the big mistakes to avoid that can render your white paper virtually useless? Read Larry Lange’s article How to avert the big don’ts in creating a white paper.
How to Use Valuable Content to Attract Opportunity
Are you struggling to attract prospects? Read Michael Stelzner’s thoughts on how to leverage white papers to grow your business in his blog post How to Use Valuable Content to Attract Opportunity.
How to write White papers
Adriana Iordan discusses the benefits of writing white paper to promote your business in her eBook How to write White papers.

Blog posts on Marketing White Papers  

How White Papers Can Turbo-Boost Your Lead Generation Campaign
Generating quality leads is a growing challenge for many marketing professionals. Michael Stelzner shares his insights in his article How White Papers Can Turbo-Boost Your Lead Generation Campaign.
How to Build a Comprehensive (But Simple) White Paper Marketing Plan
In order for a white paper to have its desired impact, it has to be read. Just posting white papers on your website alone is clearly not enough. Sheldon Gladstein’s thoughts on this topic are at How to Build a Comprehensive (But Simple) White Paper Marketing Plan.
How to Create a Viral Marketing Buzz
Michael Stelzner says that good white paper is like the Energizer Bunny. It keeps going places you never imagined. Michael Stelzner ‘s blog post How to Create a Viral Marketing Buzz recommends you go viral with your white paper because people like valuable information and can easily forward it.
How To Drive Traffic To Your White Paper… Fast!
You just finished writing your white paper and set up a page on your website where people can download it. Vittorio Bosio discusses what steps to take to attract readers in his blog post How To Drive Traffic To Your White Paper… Fast!
How to use eNewsletters to drive interest in your white papers
Assuming your customers will simply come to your web site and seek out your white papers may be unrealistic. Scott Gradert’s shares tips on how to leverages newsletters to attract more readers in his blog post How to use eNewsletters to drive interest in your white papers.
How Can White Paper Marketers Tap the Power of Podcasting? 
Will podcasting help engage an audience and increase white paper conversion? Read Nettie Hartsock thoughts on How Can White Paper Marketers Tap the Power of Podcasting?
How to Improve Your Profits with White Papers
Jonathan Kantor says that white papers provides a greater number of uses than any other business marketing medium today and share his insights on How to Improve Your Profits with White Papers.

I hope you have found this list useful. No list is by any means exhaustive. Please add to this list.

Tips on How to Write a Better Case Study from Experts

Case studies are the perfect marketing tool. The best way to convey your marketing message is through the voice of a successful and happy customer. We have invited Case Study Experts to shed light on the following question: If you could give our readers one tip on how to write a better case study, what would that be? Read on to get their insights.