Case studies are a form of social proof that can drive sales for many brands. A study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs (pdf) found that B2B marketers rated case studies as the most effective form of content during purchase decisions. Many brands, however, publish lackluster case studies that fail to convert leads into paying customers.

That’s why we’ve asked digital marketing experts why brands need case studies, what a successful case study looks like, and how marketers can make the most of the case studies they produce.

Why Do Brands Need Case Studies?

Case studies can build trust with potential leads through social proof. “In a world of consistent consumer feedback, we are so used to being able to gauge the likely level of satisfaction for any given purchase,” explained Toby Walker, managing director of Workshop Marketing, “that making a decision without some kind of external validation is almost an alien concept.” That’s why a well-crafted case study is crucial for proving to potential leads that your brand has already achieved results for other customers.

“The value of a case study lies in its ability to be a high-value form of social proof where, unlike a testimonial, a business can demonstrate in detail the kind of benefits they provide for their customers and the kind of value they bring,” said Jonathan Chan, head of marketing at Insane Growth. Case studies can also be tailored to a brand’s target audience and their specific pain points to maximize their impact.

Related Article: How to Create Content With Purpose

Anatomy of a Business-Winning Case Study

With the value of case studies clear for most brands, here are some tips from the experts for producing an effective case study.

Have something interesting to say

Walker believes the case study needs to reveal something of substance. “You need to drill down into the core of the issue,” he said, “and why it’s more than just a description of a purchase.” Case studies should present your brand as the only viable solution to the customer’s problem in order to stand out from the competition.

Think of situations where your brand went above and beyond expectations, or even just that your brand has worked with a household name. “What’s important,” continued Walker, “is to know that something about your case study is worth writing about.” If your case study isn’t a unique or interesting use-case, the chances of driving conversions are low.

Follow storytelling best-practices

“Following the basic storytelling method of ‘thesis, antithesis and synthesis’ is important,” said Chan. By this, he means setting the stage with the customer’s desired outcome (thesis), describing how their existing situation doesn’t meet their expectations (antithesis), and how working with your brand overcame this situation to reach the intended goals (synthesis). 

Learning Opportunities

Chan added, “Content marketers need to be able to succinctly present the problem that their customer was facing, the benefits of solving that problem, and how they were able to both solve that problem and how the outcome was even better than expected.” This will help brands present the value they provide in a way that potential leads can easily recognize.

Don’t forget visuals

Chan believes visuals are a crucial element of compelling case studies. “Great case studies are ones that are able to present the most important information, facts and statistics in a visually clear and easy-to-understand way.” Unfortunately, many brands neglect the visual aspect in an attempt to cram in as much information as possible.

Besides being informative, the case study needs to be interesting and enticing for readers. “Case studies that are just blocks of text that occasionally contain a logo here and there,” Chan warned, “rarely convert well.” Be sure to include visuals like charts, graphs or other attention-grabbing visuals.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Tell a Better Visual Story 

Leverage Case Studies the Right Way

If you want to get the most out of your case studies, you need to consider how it will be consumed. “That means you need to truly understand your audience and channels,” explained Walker. “If you do, then it’s possible for the same case study to be repurposed in a variety of ways to target different individuals.” The ROI of a particular case study can improve dramatically if it’s tailored to the interests and needs of different roles within an organization.

In addition, Chan said, timing is everything. “The best way brands can use their case studies is to promote them at the right time within the customer lifecycle.” Case studies could be the extra bit of information prospects need to make the buy decision or even inspire a potential lead to begin tackling a problem in the first place. Either way, Walker said, “case studies are still an important tool in the B2B marketers armory.”