How to Create a Case Study that Builds Trust and Motivation (with examples)
Case studies are a very powerful tactic to win the hearts and minds of your audience. They are certainly one of the most effective tactic for converting B2B audiences too.
But what makes an effective case study?
When to use case studies
First you need to be clear on the purpose of the case study, what target audience it is for and what challenges they are facing.
The purpose of a case study is to provide ‘social proof’ and build trust about your ability to solve our customers’ challenges or help them fulfil their aspirations. It also showcases what a successful outcome from your solution looks like, i.e. how you add meaningful value.
It needs to tell a hero story, be realistic, believable, and relevant to your target audience.
Case studies are best used at the consideration/decision stage of the customer journey. They are aware of the problem they want to solve and are looking into solutions and/or choosing between different solutions providers, assessing value vs cost and risk.
Case study checklist
Aim to highlight:
- Challenges the person or organisation was facing before using your solution or an aspiration they were persuing.
- What the customer (can also be a service user, beneficiary, donor or volunteer) had tried to solve these challenges, how they used the solution you endorse/offer.
- The outcomes they saw or the difference it made to their life/role, etc. Think about both short-term and long-term impacts.
- Reservations the customer had to using your solution (e.g. concerns about getting buy-in for our solution from key decision makers, concerns about the time it would take to implement our solution, etc.). How were these overcome? Or perhaps it turned out there was no need to worry about this. Or the value outweighed the cost or time investment
- When relevant, outline what made the customer choose your solution or organisation over others. Who got involved in the decision-making process. How did they buy-in for your solution/action you are encouraging?
- The step-by-step process to using or implementing your solution (or another action you want to encourage). Were there challenges along the way? How were they overcome?
- What was the objective (related to the use of our solution) and was it achieved?
- What they found valuable or enjoyable about the use of your solution or working with your organisation.
- Would they recommend your solution and organisation to others. If so, why?
If you offer sustainability-related data, show how that data is used to inform concrete actions (e.g. mitigation and adaptation) and the impact from these.
Example – your solution helped them:
- Align their climate change mitigation practices with global best practice.
- Understand the internal processes needed to strengthen and institutionalise their long-term success in responding to climate change.
- Utilize your research reports and data to keep abreast of the various industries’ and peer organisations’ climate efforts to determine areas in which they can improve.
It’s good to include projected cost savings from planned mitigation measures informed by your solution.
Example: an impactful case study from CDP
Back when I worked at CDP, we published this case study about CDP’s data. It aimed to help reach and attract a new audience for CDP (formerly Carbon Disclose Project) – government authorities. It led to a new partnership with New York Port Authority – the state took the case study to the rest of the public authorities that it runs as evidence for the benefits of CDP’s product (environmental disclosure through CDP’s platform) for the port authority and proposed a roll-out across the rest of its institution.
Subsequently, New York requested all of their 12 public authorities to disclose their
environmental impact through CDP in the coming 1-2 years.
Example: an effective case study from DKMS
The main goal of DKMS is to register stem cell donors who can give a potentially lifesaving donation to people with blood cancers and blood disorders. When I worked at DKMS, online registrations for stem cell donors were a key performance indicator (KPI) for the Marketing and Communications team.
In time for Valentine’s day in 2019, we sourced and published this donor story related to Valentine’s day. Our PR officer then sold in the story to a media outlet based in the donor’s place of birth. Parallel to that, we promoted the story on social media.
The case study led to a high number of new requests for donor registration kits.
The Facebook post alone got 765 likes, 222 shares and 28 comments.
When approached strategically, case studies can really add an unparalleled level of credibility, trust and concreteness. Thus, help your audience get a clear sense of how you can help them solve key challenges they are facing and encourage them to take the action you want to move them towards.
What impactful case studies have you seen or worked on?