B2b companies, according to 2016’s b2b content marketing report by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, have ranked case studies as the 3rd most effective type of content in b2b marketing today—followed by white papers, videos, research reports, eNewsletters, blogs and so on.
But for some reason, a lot of companies still don’t seem to see why these stories are given that much preference. Most of them put out zero to five case studies and that’s it.
Yet, if you search “customer stories” on Google today, you’d find case studies from blue-chip businesses like Telsa Motors, Salesforce, Zendesk, Switzerland’s BMC, Dell, etc on the very first page of results:
Stories are almost (if not) the only credible marketing content you’ve got to ensure customers that your offerings can solve their problems as you promise in other forms of content on your site (sales pages, brochures etc.) and these A-list companies seem to understand that clearly.
However, it’s okay to be unsure whether you need these case studies or not. But if you fall into any of the following three categories, chances are you mostly need case studies in your content marketing mix—now more than ever:
1. You want to convince prospects you can help them thrive in a changing environment
Business environments are always changing. There’s always some new challenge out there, a better way to solve an industry-wide problem and so on.
For example, “Instagram” was never a buzz word in CRO back in 2009—just 6 years ago. But try search the same word today; here’s what you’ll get:
Those are 3 billion+ results. With answers from gargantuan brands like Microsoft, Windows, Mashable, etc on SERP2.
So the same environment your prospects were in a few years or even months ago have morphed into something else entirely today, and you want to let them know you have offerings that can help them to not only adapt to those changes, but also flourish in them.
However, people want to be sure that your new offerings/features really work and at least have a glimpse of how they work in real life situations—before they make their ultimate purchase decisions. Who have used them? And what returns did they earn?
So case studies (customer stories, they’re the same) come in handy here. For example, after Instagram started allowing all businesses—big and small—to advertise on their platform, Yotpo launched a new feature that helps their customers turn user-generated photos and 5 star reviews into the content of Instagram ads.
Cool idea? Yeah. But does it really work—and if it does, where’s the proof? Yotpo backed up their new feature with customer success stories and slipped in a simple, 3-line testimonial in the middle of their Yotpo Ads for Instagram page.
Yotpo Ads For Instagram
People, especially the ones in business, are smart. They know you want to sell, and you can use (almost) any marketing tactic to talk them into buying your stuff. So, naturally, they want to protect themselves by looking for credible stories people who have used your new offerings.
However, you definitely can sell without case studies and even end up with sizeable returns, especially if your existing customers are your prospects for your new offerings.
But what case studies do is to help you sell more. You’ll be selling more than you’ll do if you have no customer stories at all. Neil Patel puts it this way:
“I’ve personally used case studies in my emails to increase my deal closing ratio by 70%. Overall, by testing 3 case studies here at NeilPatel.com, my sales grew by 185% (although my aim was just to increase the number of leads I generate).”
Emphasis on “increase deal closing ratio” and “sales grew”. Those are what case studies do—they grow sales and close ratio (not just make them).
2. Your prospects are mostly skeptics
Skeptical customers aren’t the easiest to convince. They usually have a lot of questions in their minds about what you’re offering. The more promises you make, the more they want to ask “Where’s the proof”.
However, customers don’t just become skeptics for the fun of it. In most cases, they have good reasons for doubting. And it could any of these (or more):
You sell relatively expensive offerings, so they naturally want to take extra caution (more on this in a bit).
They’ve been hearing about you for quite a while but aren’t sure if you’re a right fit for their business.
They’re just hearing about you or your product for the first time.
And so forth.
So how do you know if the prospects you’re dealing with are skeptics?
Naturally, skeptics are people who always looking for proofs before they believe anything. If you have customers that ask you for case studies before they decide to buy your offerings, they’re skeptics (and that isn’t a bad thing).
So what do you convince them with? Credibility—success stories from your past/existing customers. Yaro Starak of Entrepreneurs Journey puts it this way, “…any form of real life stories from people who are not you, who are succeeding because of you, builds your credibility.”
How have you helped your customers with your offerings? And more importantly, what results did they get using your offerings?
3. You sell relatively expensive products.
Even if your offerings aren’t so expensive, prospects still want to see that it’s helped others. But generally, the more expensive your product is, the more prospects want to see the proof that it really works.
For example, let’s say you sell your product for $100/month (which is $1,200/yr) and a customer wants to buy 200 units of that for his employees. That’s $240,000 in total each year. You can expect anyone to want to be so sure it really works.
Case studies might not have been a crucial part of your content marketing mix for a while now. That’s fine. But if you find yourself in any of the three situations I addressed above (and highlighted below), chances are pretty high that you need them now more than ever.
You want to convince prospects you can help them thrive in a changing environment.
Your prospects are mostly skeptics.
You sell relatively expensive products.