How to Write a High-Converting Case Study
Most content marketers focus on traffic. They write more content for more keywords, all with the hopes of getting more sales, and the competition is getting fierce. There are only so many spots on the front page of Google, right?
As a result, smart marketers are looking for ways to get more from the traffic that they already have. How to keep them engaged, how to convert higher, and how to interact faster-anything that will help them gain an edge on their competition.
What can you do to pull ahead? Try story studies.
They’re designed to not only help you write case studies that convert sales and close clients, but to actually drive more traffic to your website. In fact, using this method, I managed to generate $3 million dollars in client requests from a single post. To help you get started, I’ll walk you through the method below, show you how we use it in our own business, and then break down each step so you can write one for yourself.
What are story studies and why do they work?
Story studies are a tool for converting readers into buyers.
Here’s how they work: You start with a standard case-study result that you got for a client or customer. Then, you add in both a narrative and actionable advice. You take the reader on a journey, seeing the process and problems through the client’s perspective.
You start at the beginning with the problem, the issues it was causing the client, the struggles they had to get past, the emotions they had, and the process they used to get their results. You break it all down and explain 99% of the process that they followed.
This method works well for a few reasons:
- It speaks to the four potential reasons you might be losing a particular customer.
If someone doesn’t buy your offer, it usually comes down to one (or more) of four reasons. They either need reminding, they’re skeptical and need to see more proof, they don’t trust you or that it’ll work for them, or they procrastinate and leave it. However, because of how the story study is structured, it provides a solution for each reason you might be losing that customer.
- It attracts backlinks and drives traffic.
By showing the entire process of how the client got the result, you make the content valuable. It becomes an asset that people link to and share, driving organic traffic and rankings. Even better, it helps to convert the skeptics because they can see the analytical evidence.
- It’s emotional, so it resonates with the audience.
Copywriters have known this for years, but the more the audience feels, the more chance that they will take a call to action. Old-school case studies are short and feel like they’re all about the service provider, but story studies feel like they’re all about the reader and their issues.
And that’s what your audience cares about. Not about you and your offer, but themselves and their problems. The better you can help them connect the dots, the easier it is to make the sale. In fact, in a recent quote by Michael Brenner, former CMO of Nielsen, he states that:
The biggest mistake that brands make today is making it all about themselves… you have to make the customer the hero of the story. The elements of any good story are a hero and a villain - the customer and their problem. You should spend 90% of your time letting your audience know that you feel their pain.
How I used story studies to generate $3 million dollars in client requests in 14 days
A few years back, I used to run a small ad agency that focused on paid traffic. Rather than have all my eggs in one basket, I wanted to look at implementing content marketing for our company. I figured that if it worked well, then we could get traffic, and the worst-case scenario was that it would help convert more customers.
Why? Well, one of my biggest issues was that we would have a lot of back and forth conversations with clients, explaining what we do, and how we do it, etc., before we would make the sale. So, I decided to write a case study with a twist. I would not only share the results of the campaign, but I would also write about exactly how we got those results. Better still, I would position it from the client’s point of view so that it would resonate with the audience.
The results were crazy. Within two weeks it had been read 50,000 times and led to 300+ requests from clients. Not only that, it ended up being voted to the ‘Top 10’ marketing articles of all time on inbound.org and continues to get us client requests even today.
The story study not only presold our audience, but the process was far faster and automated. Someone would read the article and then request to work with us. So, no more back and forth emails.
Since then, I’ve used this same method for other case studies and seen crazy results. For example, this case study on paid content promotion has over 100+ linking domains, helping to drive traffic and rankings. Doesn’t seem like a lot right? But in a recent study of 912 Million articles by Backlinko, they found that 94% of articles have less than a single backlink.
Ready to try this out? Here are the six steps to follow.
Step #1: Interview the client
The story study takes the reader on an emotional journey. They connect with the hero of the story, their problems, their struggles, and the path that they took to get the result. Because of this, you need to know more about your client and their background.
You need to ask them the following questions:
- What was your end goal?
- What was the problem that was stopping you from getting there?
- How did that make you feel?
- Had you tried to deal with this problem before?
- When did you realize that this was a problem?
- What happened to make you want to fix it?
- Looking back, what was your biggest struggle with solving it?
- Where there any particular challenges or frustrations?
- Did you have any doubts or worries about solving this problem?
- Now that you’ve solved this issue, how do you feel it tied into your end goal?
- How did you know you had succeeded?
- What are your results now?
- How do you feel now?
- How has your life changed?
- What would you tell people just like you who are still struggling with this problem?
Each of these questions will help you find the information you need to make sure that your content resonates with you readers. I highly recommend that you interview them over Skype, so you can record the conversation. This will help you to not only remember the clients answers, but to also see the language that they use to describe their issues. Copywriters call this ‘mirror language’.
Why should you care? Because explaining the audience’s problems in their own words, helps them feel like you have the best product or offer for them.
Step #2: The headline
Case studies are all about results and solutions. They need to connect with the reader and their issues right now. So a good headline is:
‘How to get X results in Y time, while avoiding Z problem/objection’
This speaks to your audience and stands out. If they have that problem or want to achieve that goal, you now have their attention.
Step #3: The introduction
The introduction follows a standard B.A.B sequence:
Before - The reader describes their problem in their own language.
After - What do they want to achieve?
Bridge - How the results were accomplished, how that ties into the reader’s goal, in a certain time frame.
This is short and to the point. It helps the reader know that this article is relevant to them, and it hooks them in. So, they keep reading.
Step #4: Emotion, proof, and context stacking
Humans work off a system of stimulus and response:
- We enjoy something, and we want more of it.
- We feel pain, and we want to remove it.
The goal of your case study is to get your reader to do something. They should read it and then want to take action. So, how do we do this? Well, in story writing, they build tension. They develop the character and the world, so you care about the end result.
We do something similar. Our goal is to stack the problem, then stack the desire for the result, all while ‘setting the scene.’ We want them to feel so emotionally invested that they want to keep reading and then act on your call to action.
It looks like this:
- Introduce the hero of the story:
- Set the scene, share the hero’s situation at the start of their journey, and stack their unique problems that tie into the overall issue.
- The incident that caused them to take action:
- Share the results, how it was solved, and any additional benefits:
By doing this, the reader is invested and they feel that connection. Not just for the hero of the story, but they also see themselves in it. By this point, they want that same transformation.
Step #5: The ‘how-to’ steps
The how-to section makes up around 80% of the article. You break down the entire process into fine detail, step-by-step. Each step looks like this:
- What you’re doing.
- Why you’re doing it.
- How to do it.
- Transition to the next step.
You follow that pattern for each step that your hero took to get the result. Go into detail about each thing that they need to do. Not only that, add images for context and to remove any ambiguity or ‘what-if’ questions that might stop your reader from taking action.
This will help convert those skeptics and worriers They see how it’s done and why it works. This not only builds trust and sales, but it actually shortens the amount of interaction that you need with them. They know what they’re getting and how it works. Now, they just want to buy.
Step #6: The call to action
This is quite possibly the most important part of your entire guide. You always need a call to action. If you want them to buy from you, to book a call, to set up a meeting, or anything at all, then you need to ask them to do it. It’s as simple as:
- Recap the end goal, the pain caused by the problem, and where they want to be at the end of the process.
- Ask them to take the action.
- Show them how to take the action.
Now, it’s your turn
Story studies might seem overwhelming, but they do get easier. All you’re really doing is adding a narrative, some plot points, and some actionable advice. You simply follow this structure, answer those questions, and you have all you need to write one for your own business or even a client.
So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and write your own story study now, and before long you’ll see more sales, backlinks, and traffic.