06 | 17 | 2024

Creating More Effective Case Studies — A Plea to B2B Brands

Written by

Libby Graham

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The sales cycle in the B2B world is long and grueling. There are usually multiple decision-makers at the table and a thick layer of influencers surrounding them. Add to that the typically tall investment required to secure many B2B solutions, and it’s easy to see how risk-averse buyers might need more convincing.

For this reason, sales and marketing teams of B2B businesses are constantly looking for ways to build credibility and stay in front of prospects with meaningful content in order to — hopefully — tip the scales in the seller’s direction. In most industries, what speaks volumes is your past work: the numbers, the stories, the testimonials — your customers as proof.

Often, a case study is the closest thing B2B companies have to a “try before you buy” sales approach. Even our tech-driven clients that offer potential customers a trial use of their software struggle to overcome the IT security concerns of those prospects. However, a well-done case study is much easier to slip through the door. 

We’ve learned a lot over our 30+ years developing and marketing B2B case studies for clients (as well as our own). If you want to infuse value into your sales journey, we recommend following these four tips for an effective case study. The results will speak for themselves.

Tip 1: Your clients are more interesting than you.

It’s really difficult for most salespeople to refrain from selling the company’s services in a B2B case study. We get it. But your prospects aren’t going to self-identify with your company as much as they might with your customer — a peer who was at some point struggling with similar challenges. If you pick the right client to feature (you’ll know by their reaction when you ask), you’ll be selecting an advocate for your brand. Let them sing your praises in an authentic manner. Pushing details about the services and innovative solutions that were used might feel forced or, worse, self-aggrandizing.

If you want to feature a business division or solutions suite from which the case study might be a result, consider using an at a glance-style callout. Just be careful not to turn it into a sales pitch. Remember, the quality of your B2B marketing case study and, ultimately, your client’s story will help you build brand awareness and credibility. All your prospect needs to see is their own potential in your company’s hands.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.”
Seth Godin, Best-Selling Author & Speaker

Tip 2: Favorable results don’t always show up as numbers.

A B2B marketing case study should reflect a real-world scenario; i.e., come across as genuine and reflect results that are true and defensible. It goes without saying that if there are impressive results and numbers to include in your B2B marketing case studies, communicate them in your loudest font. However, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of social proof. In addition to capturing quotes from your client, don’t shy away from the human journey.

It can be as memorable and, ultimately, more intriguing to some prospects than numerical outcomes. Remember, you want your prospect to self-identify with the client in the story. Numbers-driven results may be attractive, but what about the opportunity to overcome a limitation that could have caused catastrophic outcomes?

It may be a little more difficult to tell a story around what didn’t happen to the client’s business because of your company’s intervention, but it might also be a more interesting one. How many lives were positively affected? How has the partnership impacted employee satisfaction or reduced workload stress? What was the client able to achieve now that X, Y, Z was no longer a threat? Your potential customers may be dreaming about results like these.

Tip 3: Be dynamic in your B2B marketing case study — please.

Thank goodness the days of static, one-page written case studies are long behind us. Today, you can choose the most captivating content type for your B2B marketing case studies (and your target audience), such as video, animation or an audio interview. But being dynamic doesn’t just refer to your content marketing mix. It’s also about narrative and channel.

First, narrative: There’s no need to stick to the classic “scenario-strategy-results” formula many case studies follow. To tell a more dynamic story, consider starting with a question that lends context to the client’s dilemma or try using quotes from your client to suggest a riveting situation — one readers will want to dive into. In a recent B2B marketing case study AvreaFoster developed for a client, we used a timeline to create a sense of urgency and intrigue. Think about what is most riveting about the story and build the narrative around that.

Second, channel: Take a tip from content marketers and build a digital marketing strategy around each of your case studies. Rather than simply posting case studies on your website, consider promoting them via paid channels, on social media and/or through your client’s owned digital channels. This is a great way to learn your target audience and understand which channels and types of content or messaging themes work best. Based on your learnings, you can optimize future marketing efforts.

For example, you might find brief, visual content is preferred and that organic LinkedIn promotions endorsed by your client gain the most website traffic. This gives you the opportunity to set expectations with clients you ask to feature and arms your marketing team with a content scope that can easily translate written long-form case studies into, for example, an animated short or brief infographic series.

73% of B2B buyers say that case studies are a key factor in their purchasing decisions, according to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute.

Tip 4: If you build B2B case study content with SEO, they will come.

Most B2B decision-makers prefer a self-serve approach to their customer journey, conducting their own independent research before actually reaching out to a business to learn more. Your best opportunity for consideration is to get in front of prospects without their thinking they are being targeted. In other words, less pushing and more appearing magically through the power of SEO. After all, chances are high you found this piece of content through search.

Again, good SEO strategies require you to know your prospects — what they’re searching for and what they most want to read about. It also requires a talented writer who can infuse SEO without making the B2B case study sound forced or fake. The recent onslaught of AI-written content has demonstrated the worst of what can happen when SEO search terms are sewn into a narrative without bounds. If you don’t want to leave your prospects yawning, laughing or, in some cases, disgusted by your company’s lack of quality control measures, think like them — not an SEO keyword-obsessed robot.

It’s not uncommon to think of creating B2B marketing case studies as daunting. Many of our clients say they don’t want to bother their customers by asking them to take time out of a busy schedule to talk about their experience. But in the three-plus decades AvreaFoster has been conducting client case study work, we have only found that customers are ecstatic, even flattered, to talk about themselves — what they went through and how they were able to overcome adversity.

When you add a third-party perspective into the mix, which is how AvreaFoster  serves its clients, it gets even easier to get featured customers to open up. Many clients also recognize a case study about their company, especially one they don’t have to pay for, as a high-value opportunity.

In Conclusion

When you do secure a client to feature, it’s important to capture the insights you need to create a brilliant story. If you’re thoughtful about the questions you ask, intentional in your digital content marketing strategy and follow the tips we’ve outlined in this piece, that case study will deliver an impressive ROI.

Next Steps

Find out how AvreaFoster can make your case studies more effective and work better with your inbound marketing efforts. Let us help.

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