8 Data-Backed Reasons to Prioritize Case Studies

8 Data-Backed Reasons to Prioritize Case Studies

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Across eight surveys, over 2,400 qualified B2B marketers and buyers identified case studies as one of the most influential types of content marketing collateral.

As you ramp up your 2018 content marketing plan, don’t forget case studies. When they take an authentic angle and provide actionable insight, their versatility, credibility, and value can’t be beat. Both on their own and as support for other marketing and sales efforts.

If anyone on your team wants proof, point them to this collection of surveys. Where possible, I quote the reports directly. In some instances I paraphrase for clarity. I follow each statistic with a takeaway to help you make better decisions faster.

Reason #1 – 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing Report (DemandWave)

From the report
Case studies were the third-most effective type of content at driving leads and revenue. Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.

Takeaway
Without seeing samples of the case studies that were credited for driving respondents’ leads, I’m willing to bet that they shared some of the following characteristics:

  • followed a story arc with the customer in the hero’s role
  • provided valuable insight into the customer’s journey from problem to solution
  • featured at least one call to action
  • showed why the customer chose the vendor over its competitors

Read more
http://typeacommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2017-State-of-Digital-Marketing-FINAL.compressed.pdf

Respondents
200 B2B marketing professionals based in the U.S., from marketing managers to C-level executives.

Published
February 2017

Reason #2 – The 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report (DemandGen)

From the report

  • “When we specifically asked which sources and formats are most valuable for research, case studies again emerged on top, with 48% of respondents indicating them as most valuable, followed by third-party/analyst reports (44%) and white papers (35%).” Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.
  • “Buyers are also inclined to check trustworthiness of sources, and analyst reports and third-party independent content are preferred by a wide margin among buyers.”
  • “When we asked what type of content they want, prescriptive content that lays out a formula for success was the most popular type of content among buyers.”


Takeaway
Combined, these three points speak to the demand for authentic, insightful success stories written in the customer’s voice. Structure your case studies as if they were substituting for a candid conversation between your customer and your prospect. The prospect wants to understand your customer’s pains, their decision to use your solution, and how they achieved success. Reserve details about your solution for other marketing collateral.

Follow that formula, and you’re much more likely to win over prospects directly (by ‘laying out a formula for success’) and indirectly (by getting an adapted version of your case study accepted by one of those trustworthy third-party independent sources).

Read more
https://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/research/the-2017-content-preferences-survey-report

Respondents
189 buyers of B2B products and services. 59% were from companies with annual revenue of more than $10 million. 52% hold C-level, VP-level or director-level positions.

Published
April 2017

Reason #3 – The 2018 B2B Content Marketing Survey – North America (Content Marketing Institute)

From the report
Among all respondents, from those who characterized their organization’s overall content marketing approach as extremely or very successful to those who characterized their organization’s approach as minimally or not at all successful, case studies ranked as the second most effective type of content. Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.

Takeaway
“Effective at what?” you’re probably asking. We don’t know because report doesn’t say. However, it’s hard to argue with the fact that case studies ranked among the top three types of collateral. You could build a strong content marketing strategy on these three types of content. You’d hit each stage of the buying process: awareness (social media), interest (Ebooks/White Papers), and desire (case studies).

Read more
http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2018-b2b-research-final.pdf

Respondents
Some 870 B2B marketers from a wide range of company sizes and industries.

Published
September 2017

Reason #4 – The 2016 B2B Content Marketing Spotlight Report (B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn)

From the report

Q: What types of content subjects are most effective?

Q: What content marketing tactics are most effective for you?

Takeaway
The B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn dug deeper than other groups into the underlying question: “what makes content effective?” The four most popular answers in the group’s survey included: audience relevance, engaging and compelling storytelling, content that triggers a specific response, and effective message delivery. Case studies nail each of these parameters naturally.

  • Audience relevance–Case studies naturally focus on one client. That makes for instant relevance. For greater relevance, case studies should explore just one or two use cases.
  • Engaging and compelling storytelling–A case study written in a feature format (as opposed to the traditional format) has all the components of a great story: a hero, a conflict, a solution, and an outcome.
  • Content that triggers a specific response–-By the time readers look seriously at your case studies, they’re well aware of their problem and think you can help solve it. For that reason, your case studies should include a clear call to action.
  • Effective message delivery–An authentic story told in the customer’s voice lowers the reader’s guard. Where messaging in other types of collateral might meet resistance, case studies provide an excellent mechanism for delivering messaging in a subtle, soft-sell format.

Read more
http://marketingbuddy.com/download-b2b-content-marketing-report/

Respondents
Over 620 B2B marketing professionals, mostly from N. America and Europe.

Published
September 2016

Reason #5 – Peer Stories and Credible Data Attract and Engage B2B Buyers (Forrester Research)

From the report

  • When asked to name highly valuable content for helping them explore and decide to make purchases, 71% of business technology buyers cited “customer, industry, or peer case studies” most often. (Closely followed by “White papers with supporting data” (68%) and “Business case/ROI content” (67%).”) Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.
  • The most reliable sources of such content were: Tier 1 analyst firms, cited by 63% of respondents; technology news and information websites (61%); and consulting firms (59%).

Takeaway
To increase the perceived value (and thus the impact) of your case studies to your prospects, produce them to the same standard of an analyst firm or a technology news site. Focus 80% of the content on the customer’s experience, from the challenge through the struggle to the solution and outcome.

Dare to be vulnerable; include a few lessons that readers can apply immediately, even if it means revealing a hiccup in your implementation or integration. Doing so will earn substantial credibility.

Read more
https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2017/09/20/case-studies-top-b2b-marketing-tactics/

Respondents
214 business technology buyers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Published
September 2017

Reason #6 – 2017 B2B Buyers Survey Report (DemandGen)

From the report
Once at the point of evaluating a set list of solution providers, respondents were asked to list and rank the importance of the variables that influenced their decision (e.g., peer reviews, pricing, solved a pain point, etc.). Case studies were the only type of collateral to make the list. In comparison with the 2016 report, case studies’ importance increased 3%. Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.

Takeaway
When buyers have settled on a short list of vendors, they want to take a sober look at their options. They may disregard preliminary marketing collateral as too vague for their particular use case. Case studies illustrate in a concrete way how you can help them, why similar companies chose you over your competitors, and what it’d be like to work with you.

Read more
https://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/research/2017-b2b-buyers-survey-report

Respondents
283 B2B C-level executives, VPs and Directors across various B2B industries

Published
June 2017

Reason #7 – 2017 Content Insights from U.S. Tech Marketing Execs (10Fold)

From the report

  • 44% of respondents say that a lack of domain expertise is the top barrier for creating quality content. Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.
  • 75% plan to generate 3x more content in the next 12 months than they did in the previous year.

Takeaway
Case studies resolve both of these issues.

  • Lack of domain expertise. This barrier doesn’t exist in the production of quality case studies. It’s simply a matter of asking the client the right questions about their situation before choosing your solution.
  • 3x more content. Produce an insightful, engaging and helpful case study about every willing, available customer and you’d have the genesis for more content than you’d know what to do with.

Read more
http://10fold.com/tech-marketing-content-survey-download/

Respondents
176 U.S. marketing executives working for technology companies that had budget and oversight authority for marketing content.

Published
October 2017

Reason #8 – 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report (eccolo media)

From the report
Respondents ranked case studies as the third-most influential type of content while evaluating a technology purchase. Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.

Takeaway
The report begins by stating that most buyers only consume two to five assets before they are ready to make a purchase. They may only read one of your case studies. It’s absolutely vital that your case study library cover the breadth of your target industries and the depth of use cases for your solution. Your prospects must be able to find a case study that relates to their particular situation and sheds light on how your solution can help.

Read more
http://eccolomedia.com/eccolo-media-2015-b2b-technology-content-survey-report-vol2.pdf

Respondents
Over 100. 33% were influential in making a technology buying decisions in the six months prior to the survey; 67% were decision makers.

Published
January 2015

Bonus Reason: Global B2B Branding Survey (McKinsey)

From the report
“Has a high level of expertise” ranked as the third-most important brand theme in buyers’ perceptions of brand strength (after “Cares about open, honest dialogue with its customers and society” and “Acts responsibly across its supply chain”). However, global B2B brands considered “has a high level of expertise” as the eighth-most important element of brand strength. Share on LinkedIn. Share on Twitter.

Takeaway
Though this survey took place in 2012, the dissonance between messaging and customer perception is no less of a threat today. Case studies provide an excellent vehicle to demonstrate “a high level of expertise.” Discuss a customer’s pains, early attempts at resolution, eventual success (with your offering), and broader takeaways for readers, and your case study will naturally position your company as an expert in the field.

Read more
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/how-b2b-companies-talk-past-their-customers

Respondents
1,408 global executives

Published
October 2013

Conclusion

Marketing leaders and their target audiences agree: case studies are one of the most influential types of content.

If you’re still skeptical, please take a look at the reports, their methodologies and their respondents’ descriptions.

If you’re sold on the value of case studies, here’s your next step: create an inventory of your current and prospective case studies. You’ll get the most from your efforts if you focus on producing case studies that either support your sales team’s current plans or fill gaps in your case study library.

Get started faster with my free case study inventory tool available at https://convertwithcasestudies.com/case-study-inventory/

Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

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