The Agency Guide to Writing a Client Case Study (plus, examples!)
It’s an age-old question. If you want to get more clients, where should you put your content marketing focus?
Your first instinct might be to say blogging. This answer seems to make sense – for years now, blogging has been touted as the best way to get an audience and prove your expertise. But while blogging can highlight your expertise, it isn’t going to be nearly as effective as showing real results to win new clients.
Instead of pouring all your time and creative energy into blog posts, a better approach is to focus on client case studies that showoff your marketing skills.
Case studies are, in many ways, similar to blog posts. Writing them takes a similar skill set, and once they’re finished, they live on your website and bring in organic search traffic.
However, case studies have one major advantage over blog posts: they show potential clients exactly what you can do for them.
If you haven’t written any new case studies in a while (or ever), you’re missing out on a great marketing opportunity. Here’s how you can get started attracting new clients with a marketing case study.
Why Client Case Studies Are Worth the Effort
Case studies can seem like a bother to put together; especially if you’ve never written one before. How do you decide which clients to feature and what details to include? Just getting started can be a challenge. While there’s a bit of a learning curve to writing a good client case study, it’s not as difficult as you might think, and the benefits of case studies far outweigh the effort of creating them. Good case studies are engaging, visual, and effective, all of which are top priorities for B2B content creators.
If you want more engaging, effective, visual content on your site, write some case studies. Source
Case studies speak directly to your potential clients. Your blog posts are probably well-written and informative, but are they compelling? Readers are busy, and if your latest blog post doesn’t speak to their current needs, there’s a good chance they won’t read it.
Case studies, on the other hand, are more likely to grab readers’ attention. People love reading about situations like their own. If you can tell a potential client a story about how you helped a business similar to theirs, they won’t just pay attention – they’ll remember you later, when they’re ready to hire an agency.
Case studies can do everything blog posts can do. Your client case study doesn’t have to be a dry, boring wall of text. It can inform, entertain, and inspire readers. You can share useful findings or advice in a case study, just like you would in a blog post. Case studies are also ideal for displaying your skills and positioning you as an authority, which is what blog posts should do, but often don’t.
Case studies build credibility and trust. Your perceived trustworthiness is a crucial factor in whether people decide to hire you or not. Most people would hesitate to hire an agency that didn’t have any examples of their past work on display. Case studies give clients a way to evaluate your competence before they commit to working with you.
Case studies make you stand out from the competition. Case studies are a bit more specialized and challenging to write than blog posts, which means that not everyone writes them. If you want your agency to look more professional and put-together than your competitors, writing case studies can give your image a boost.
Case studies make a great lead magnet. If you want to grow your email list, create a few case studies. Let people read the beginning (make sure it’s strong!), and offer to send the whole thing in PDF form in exchange for an email sign-up.
Case studies work. In a 2016 survey, nearly two out of three marketers said that case studies are an effective method for winning more B2B clients. The only two methods ranked more effective were in-person events and web-based events like webinars and webcasts.
A 2016 survey found that case studies are marketers’ third most effective B2B marketing tactic. Source
How to Write a Marketing Case Study that Wins You More Work
1. Define the kind of clients you want to attract
Before you email any former clients or start working on an outline, take some time to figure out who your ideal client is. Write out your ideal customer profile. Is there a type of business you especially like working with? What kind of work do you want to do more of?
Case studies, like any other type of content marketing, work best when targeted towards a specific type of reader. If you design your case study to resonate with your ideal clients’ wishes, insecurities, and goals, your agency will attract more of the kind of clients you enjoy working with.
2. Gather information and data points
Once you know who you’re writing your case study for, decide which project you want to write about. Pick something that your ideal client will find relatable in some way.
Always reach out to any current or former clients before you write a case study about them. You don’t want to post any potentially-sensitive information about someone else’s business online without their permission. Many of your clients will probably be happy to be featured in a case study, as long as you make them look good and avoid giving away anything they don’t want to be public knowledge.
If your client does not want to be features under their brand name, you can decide to write the case study and highlight the metrics without using their name and simply say “A Company in [blank] Industry”. But a more compelling case study features a brand, so try to find projects and clients that are happy to have their name on your site.
Once a client agrees to the case study, set up an interview with them so you can discuss the project. A testimonial is a great addition to a case study.
Gather the information and data points prior to discussing with your client, so they have a clear idea of what will be included in the study. A great marketing case study includes visual data points. Take screenshots to highlight results and add credibility.
Source: AgencyAnalytics Dashboard
3. Outline your case study
Once you have all the information you need, it’s time to make an outline. Think of your case study like a story – it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Present your client’s problem at the beginning, and fill in the middle with the details of how you solved it. Cap things off with a description of how your client benefited from working with you. Don’t forget, the client is the protagonist of this story, not you.
4. Be Human
As you start writing your case study, remember to keep it relatable. Don’t just rattle off a list of stats your client wanted to improve. A compelling case study will also be entertaining and enjoyable to read.
Dig a little deeper and talk about the implications of their problem. For instance, was your client frustrated that none of their strategies were working to bring in more traffic? Were they disappointed about having to delay other projects because their conversions weren’t improving? Try to zero in on specific pain points that your potential clients may be dealing with themselves.
5. Provide actionable advice
An effective case study doesn’t just make you and your client look good. It also provides information or advice that anybody can use, whether they decide to hire you or not. You don’t have to give away the key secrets of your trade, but don’t be stingy either – share some of your methods, your knowledge, and anything interesting you learned in the process of helping your client. Give the reader something they can take away and apply to their own work.
This isn’t as counterproductive as it might sound. Being open about your work will help build valuable trust with potential clients. And even if you’re completely transparent about your methods, most people who aren’t marketing experts will still opt to hire you instead of doing the legwork of implementing your strategy themselves.
6. Write Clearly and Succinctly (Avoid industry jargon!)
A good case study is easy to read and digest. These pointers will help you keep your readers interested from beginning to end.
- Write tight. Don’t bog your piece down with unnecessary details.
- Avoid jargon as much as possible. Someone outside your field should be able to read and understand your case study.
- Break up the page with plenty of white space. Use short paragraphs, sub-headers, and bullet points to organize your content.
- Include plenty of charts and graphs. Visual content breaks up the monotony of text and keeps readers engaged.
7. Publish and promote
Before you publish your case study, show it to your client to make sure they’re happy with everything you’ve written. Once they give you the thumbs-up, you can post the piece on your site or start using it as a lead magnet. For best results, promote your case study just like you would a blog post. A few well-timed social media posts can bring your case study a lot of extra attention, and maybe even get you a few more leads.
Local oriented Facebook Ads can be really effective for agencies! Using your case study or a pdf expanded version of it can be a great lead magnet to gather the email addresses of potential clients. Don’t just publish the case study and forget it. Make the most of it! One case study can be a powerful lead generation tool.
Real Client Case Study Examples
Looking to find a bit of inspiration too? Sometimes the best way to learn is to follow a great example. See how some of these leaders in their industry have taken their marketing wins and crafted compelling case studies for their clients.
LunaMetrics writes SEO and Analytics case studies that never fail to impress. They have an overview section that gives a great overview about the goals, approach, and results. Read the full case study here.
KlientBoost includes marketing case studies on their website that are short and to the point. The one page case studies focuses on results that are delivered to the clients. Read the full case study here.
The Wonderist Agency is a great example of a very a visually engaging web-based case study. It highlights the problem, actions, and results. View their case study on their website. Read the full case study here.
Learning to write case studies is a smart investment in your agency’s future success. Case studies can grow your reputation, earn new clients’ trust, and highlight your agency’s skills in a way that most other types of content can’t. Even blogging won’t help you reap the same dividends that a few targeted, high-quality case studies will, so don’t overlook this powerful marketing tool.
Written by Joe Kindness
Joe is the CEO of AgencyAnalytics, but often spends his day programming, designing or executing marketing tasks. And like most Canadians, he can be found playing or watching hockey!