So what’s better for growing your business – case studies or testimonials? Here’s what we suggest.
Whether you run a business, or you’re interested in marketing someone else’s business, you might have come across the “case studies vs. testimonials” question.
In our experience, case studies are better.
But, of course, we’ll delve deeper into the details here to explain exactly how and why. (In the style of a real case study, of course.)
In a 2019 survey of 127 B2B marketing professionals, 60% of respondents said peer reviews/user-generated feedback are the most trustworthy form of content. (So if you’re not producing regular case studies already, you might want to get moving on that.)
It was also noted that reviews for B2B companies are not enough. Case studies are highly recommended.
(Source: The Top Tech Content Marketing Trends)
April Dunford, the author of Obviously Awesome (arguably the best book on product positioning out right now), suggests in her blog post If you think positioning is a marketing exercise, you’re doing it wrong:
Your claims now need to be backed up by data, 3rd party validation, independent reviews, and customer endorsements. The days of prospects trusting what you have to say without proof to back it up are long gone.
Want help crafting your own compelling case studies? We’ve laid out our entire system for creating case studies, the same one we use for our clients so that you can do the same. Grab our FREE guide “Winning Case Studies – 6 Steps To Standing Out Through Customer Stories” now.
How do case studies provide better proof than testimonials?
We’ve all heard about the benefits of testimonials. They’re supposed to represent the voice of a customer who refers the product or service to its peers. It’s a classic, textbook example of a viable and profitable marketing tool.
That’s not entirely the case. Why?
Well, customers have grown suspicious of fake comments and testimonials.Customers have grown suspicious of fake comments and testimonials. Do this instead. Click To Tweet
More and more companies center their marketing campaigns on clandestine services that offer likes, comments, and shares for a certain fee.
From there it goes viral. Consumer mentality led people towards places packed with good reviews.
Finally, the true comments and reviews outrank recruited testimonials, but the damage has already been done, as the business racked up money on perceived reputation.
Here’s a list of some of the typical examples of a testimonial-gone-horribly-wrong (taken from an actual web page offering false testimonials):
“Keep up the excellent work. XXXX has got everything I need. Definitely worth the investment.”
– Anni N.
“XXXX should be nominated for service of the year. I use XXXX often.”
– Ninetta O.
We’ve all become wary of such an approach. Customers see through testimonials as something easily forged, biased, and unreliable.
Case studies, on the other hand, are more difficult to fake.
A case study has 2 distinct advantages over a testimonial
- It’s based on a complete story, with the structuralized approach, and concrete facts to offer a more all-around picture about the product/service.
- It provides social proof in a more sincere way than testimonials do: while a testimonial gives personal opinions rather than the true aid that was received, case studies follow through each step of assisting the customer, and the history of the relationship with the company.
Creating a proper case study requires time, resources, and effort.
In the era of quick, shallow information, it re-emerges as something reliable enough to be trusted, in spite of being created “by the business”.
In the end, what you’re offering are the fruits of your labor, and customers sure can appreciate that!
Case studies give the whole story
The main benefit of using case studies over testimonials is that they give more complete info about practically all the important things related to your business offer.
A case study presents the challenges, the step-by-step story of the process, and the final results.
Instead of merely portraying a happy customer in the manner of a testimonial, a case study shows how you were approached by the customer, how you perceived their issue, and applied your skills to help them solve it.
A well-written case study represents the rewards that both you and your customer earned.
So, how do you make a well-written case study?
First of all, you have to find the appropriate customer to tell his/her story.
There are several criteria you need to pay attention to:
Experience with your product or service – the ideal customer has some knowledge of your product or service, as with richer experience comes a more detailed story.
Best results – this comes without saying–you’ll want a customer who was very positively affected by your product/service.
Big names – although not necessary for a good case study, names that come with a reputation can turn out to be major boosts to your own credibility, as long as you don’t center it around their names, but the stories of your own products.
The outline of a case study
There’s no preset for a perfect study.
Some of us use the regular interview-format, some use visual cues (slides, pictures) more than stories, others completely rely on specialized videos and recorded speech.
Whilst video case studies can be the most compelling and engaging, they also require a heck of a lot of work:
- Scripting what you want to ask in your interview and how you want the final edit to flow,
- Finding a videographer (or sourcing your own equipment),
- Planning a schedule to film your clients (either at your place or theirs),
- Filming the client, and then
- Post-editing to make it all look amazing
- Finally publishing it online, and
- Promoting it.
So we recommend that until you gain experience, it is probably best to stick to the most common format–written interview, which shares its characteristics with all the other formats.
With that said, there are some forms, tips, and hints that you can use to create your initial case studies.
- Title. Keep it concise and precise. Focus on the most important aspect of the story.
- Intro. Use about 3 sentences to inform customers about the content of your case study. Focus on the most relevant information.
- Bio. Tell the background of your case study narrator. Ask them personally, or find it online.
- Issue. Explain the problems your customer faced before it turned to you for help. Use 2 longer or 3 shorter paragraphs.
- Help. Provide a step-by-step chronology of how the issue was solved. Use 2 longer or 3 shorter paragraphs.
- Outcome. Give a testimonial-like excerpt of how your services impacted the customer’s needs and achievements. Be precise, use concrete numbers and methods.
- Supporting tools. Pick proper quotes and visuals. Don’t overuse, a couple should do the trick.
Related: How to make a case study
A proper case study dramatically boosts your business authority
When Meryl Johnston, CEO at Bean Ninjas, called us in to develop content for her blog we realised that one of the key goals she had was to raise awareness of her brand, their services and also the types of businesses her business supports.
So we both agreed that developing regular customer success stories would be a great way to highlight all those points.
We then got to work producing some high-quality case studies for Bean Ninjas.
Here are a couple of examples of what we produced:
As you can see from the examples above, a well-executed case study stands as the ultimate marketing device for your business growth.
It has all that you need: the customer’s story, your product’s key benefits and advantages, the ethics of your company, and many other positive aspects you bring into the market.
It trumps all other marketing and advertising tools when it comes to increasing your authority, credibility, and expertise.A well-executed case study stands as the ultimate marketing device for your business growth.Click To Tweet
What entrepreneurs keep doing when it comes to marketing is that they keep selling, instead of giving unbiased information that is of use to customers.
Okay, we understand that selling is in our nature, but, in case studies, it is best to confine our instincts and reduce the marketing aspect to the minimum.
Avoid speaking “all the best” about yourself, using the absolutes, bragging and boasting your product, and other tasteless tactics.
Your customers – the real heroes of your business story
A proper case study relies on a kind of credibility that improves your authoritative presence on the market.
That’s why you lend your voice to the customer.
You only need to be a platform for the words of a genuinely pleased customer. The customer, on the other hand, gives his/her credibility to the advantages of your business.
That way you can tell the whole story, from the beginning to the end, without false pretense, and without marketing fluffs and spurs.
Numbers, facts, and credible information reflect with the market that is done with absurdly fake marketing tactics, while your credibility increases.
You do not sell. You share a compelling story.
You’re no longer a stock character of a travelling merchant. You’re a human, a friend, and someone who can help. People will remember that.
No customers? No worries!
Now if you don’t have customers you can also do case studies of experts in your industry or niche.
Jarrod Robinson of The Teacherpreneur.com hired us to do exactly that!
Here’s one of the case studies we did of somebody in Jarrod’s community:
Here’s what Jarrod had to say about our done-for-you case study service:
Now it’s your turn
So, are you ready yet? Reach out to your customers (or an industry expert), find an enthusiastic individual, and make a compelling case study! It’ll be worth the effort, you’ll see.
Want help crafting your own compelling case studies? We’ve laid out our entire system for creating case studies, the same one we use for our clients so that you can do the same.