Does your business need case studies to tell its story?

Case studies can be an effective tool in your content marketing arsenal. They are a way of showing how your business helps its customers achieve their goals without sounding overly promotional, as the story is told through the eyes of the customer.

Case studies can be used by businesses to show how they bring value, as seen through a customer's eyes.

A case study can illustrate the value your business offers.

Typically, a case study is set up in a problem-solution-results format. The problem is explained from the customer’s point of view, the applied solution is described and then the results are shown (5 percent increase in sales, decreased turnover, increased sales leads, etc.) to prove that the solution works.

They can be very powerful tools, serving as a product/service demonstration and testimonial all rolled into one, but they aren’t for every business. How do you know if a case study is right for you?

Your business serves other businesses and not consumers.

Case studies lend themselves well to B2B companies. There tends to be more depth to the problem and the solution, and how everything fits together may not be obvious without a detailed article explaining each step of the process. This isn’t true for every B2B company, but if you serve other businesses, the odds are more in your favor of having a case study work for you.

Your business provides a solution to a complex problem.

Regardless of whether you serve consumers or businesses, if you provide answers to a complex problem, a case study might be right for you. For it to be effective, there needs to be a narrative that walks the reader from start to finish through the problem and solution. Some problems are just too straightforward to make for an effective case study. For example, a restaurant solves a problem -- someone needs something to eat -- but it doesn’t make for a good case study (no one really cares about how a corned beef sandwich solved someone’s lunch dilemma).

On the other hand, if a business provides answers to complicated challenges, a case study might be appropriate. For example, a wedding caterer that specializes in making every request happen, no matter how unique, could create case studies around how it created a dream wedding based on some of its more challenging client requests. (The results portion for this type of case study is typically an amazed crowd that will remember the event forever.)

Your business gets results.

A case study only works if there is success involved. The more success, the more effective the case study. For example, if a business can analyze a company’s hiring practices and reduce turnover by 25 percent, that can be a huge cost savings for customers and will immediately generate interest from those reading it, as they, too, want to see the same results. If your results are minimal, the case study will not have the same impact. Any positive results also need to be tied directly to the solution so that it’s clear your business is driving the change and isn’t just a beneficiary of a much larger strategy of which it is just a small part.

Case studies are powerful tools for telling potential customers how your business can help them, but not every business can use them. Make sure your business meets the criteria above before trying to create a case study to share with customers.

Todd Shryock is the director of content at Emerge Inc. If you have questions about whether your business is a candidate for a case study, contact him at tshryock@emergeinc.com.

Emerge is an Avon Lake (Lorain County)-based provider of web, mobile and content solutions, and serves the communities of Avon, Avon Lake, Lorain, Elyria, Wellington, Grafton, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake and all of the Western Cleveland suburbs.

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