Why case studies beat blogs and facebook
Expert content marketers say that case studies are the most effective promotional content. In a recent survey, these experts ranked case studies ahead of blogs, social media, ebooks and email newsletters.
Why are case studies so effective? The survey didn’t go into this question, so I’ve drawn on psychological research to suggest some answers.
1) Everybody loves stories
Our brains are hardwired for stories. “Evolution shaped our brains to learn through narrative,” says Marco Iacobini, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. Stories activate the part of the brain that processes meaning – essential for making information memorable.
What does this mean for you? If you have some information to get across, think about whether it can be packaged in a story. This will be far easier for your audience to digest and remember than a straight list of facts.
The case study is essentially a story. It’s what your business did in a given situation with a certain outcome.
2) Stories are efficient
Stories get your point across. Fast. Take this example:
The client asked for more hosting space, so we found a solution and accommodated this at no extra cost.
In nineteen words, you have information about expertise (we were able to find a solution), and responsiveness (they asked and we delivered). Imagine if you wrote that information in a report format. It would take paragraphs, and be less persuasive.
On the web, you have to get to the point quickly. Case studies pack a lot of information into a small space.
3) Case studies add credibility
When potential clients are deciding whether to work with you, they look for information to reduce risk. “This person says they can do the job, but how do I know they can?” The psychological principle of social proof comes into play here. We look to other people’s experiences to help us decide.
That’s why referrals are such a powerful form of marketing. Think of a case study as a referral in writing, packaged in a story: “you can trust us, because we’ve delivered results for people like you.” Including quotes from your clients will make this effect even more powerful. It shows that they are willing to go on the record to back up your claims.
4) Case studies give a good return on investment
So far, we’ve talked about the psychology of case studies, but there are also very practical reasons why case studies are so effective:
Low(er) maintenance: to do blogs and social media well, you have to keep a frequent flow of updates. With case studies, you have more flexibility. Depending on your industry, even one new case study every few months will be enough fresh content.
Longer shelf-life: interest in blog posts drops off quickly – and even quicker for facebook and twitter. The older posts on my blog get far less traffic than newer ones. Case studies don’t date as quickly. Again, it depends on your industry, but case studies a year or more old can still be current and relevant.
More resuable: Where case studies really have the edge is how many different formats they can be used in. You can feature a case study on your website under the ‘Our work section,’ in your company newsletter, in your annual reports, in your brochures….
Blog content is far more tied to its format. You can post a link to your blog on LinkedIn, but it’s harder to reuse the full content across multiple channels.
B2B Content Marketing, Content Marketing Institute. The survey I referenced at the top of this post.
Tell to win, Peter Guber. Useful information on the essential elements of stories. The author is a bit self-congratulatory, though.
Influence: the psychology of persuasion, Robert Cialdini. Excellent book about social proof and other influence techniques.