Case studies require time, energy, resources and effort, but the payoff is immense because of the many ways this kind of content gets its ROI.

The whole premise of content marketing is to provide real value to readers, rather than overtly commercial material. Have doubts? A study by Chartbeat found that only 24 percent of users will read an article for more than 15 seconds once they realize it’s native advertising and not organic content. That’s why we’re such big advocates of useful news stories, in-depth blog posts and other actionable resources that exist purely to give readers value.

So what about case studies? It’s true that the initial investment in a case study is higher than a blog post or news video round-up. But a case study’s purpose is clear: To build trust with prospects by showing how products and services have worked for other customers. It’s a pretty straightforward marketing ploy – but it works. Customers don’t just want to take your word for it – they want to hear it from your clients.

Only 24 percent of users will read an article for more than 15 seconds once they realize it’s native advertising and not organic content.

But how can you tell a case study is doing a good job? What results can you expect to see and how do you measure them? Here’s a breakdown of case study ROI and why it’s such a valuable asset in your content strategy:

Build audience trust & buy in

The Millennial generation considers user-generated content (UGC) 20 percent more influential, 35 percent more memorable and 50 percent more trustworthy, according to research by Crowdtap. And while case studies aren’t completely made up of UGC, they do contain opinions straight from the source and come as close as any kind of content brands regularly publish on their websites.

Answer decision makers’ top questions

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Case studies are upfront in the way they present information. A case study is a clear narrative that progresses from problem to strategy to solution, illustrating the precise manner a business relationship will pay off for companies.

A CMO Council survey found something interesting about B2B content – it gets passed around a lot.  Almost all (94 percent) B2B decision makers circulated content across organizational tiers and to multiple stakeholders, so it’s important to provide clear-cut answers to executives’ questions. Case studies contain the right information to get buy-in across the company.

Strengthen relationships with results

One study estimated the probability of making a sale to a new contact is between 5 and 20 percent, all things being equal. However, pitching to a past customer is a lot easier – potentially 60 to 70 percent easier. It’s great to on-board new customers, but there may be more value in keeping your current patrons.

A case study is an attempt to split the difference between customers and prospects. If readers feel as if they’ve gotten to know a company, its employees and the overall experience they should expect, they’re more likely to buy because they’re already invested in the idea. This is particularly important in a B2B setting where purchases are mostly one-time only. It may not be possible to do more business with a client, but using that client’s satisfaction for victories down the road is a total win made possible by in-depth case studies.

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Drive results on multiple channels

Case study dividends are significant across channels. A case study can provide ROI across these platforms:

 Search: Case studies are extremely specific in terms of the subjects they cover. Well-executed examples have answers for particular pain points, so they’ll show up in the hyper-specific searches users are increasingly conducting.

 Social: Case studies catch eyes on social because users on that channel are also looking for something specific. Instead of “5 generic tips about why social is valuable”, you’re saying: “Here’s how doing X helped company Y get Z results.”

 Email: Using in-depth content as fodder for email helps increase the open and click-through rate. This is particularly true when email sends are segmented by industry, which is why having relevant case studies in multiple verticals can be a significant email marketing win.

Some of the best examples of content marketing involve giving away free samples. When customers get a taste of a company’s products or services in advance, they can judge for themselves if a business relationship is a good idea. But if an analytical blog post is like a supermarket sample, a case study is a half-hour cooking show that demonstrates exactly what goes into a meal. Sure, it may not contain the actual flavor, but it has so much detail and information prospects can’t help but see themselves eating the full course a little while down the road.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.