Cornerstone content is high-value, next-step content that is core to your industrial marketing goals, that establishes your authority within your industry, and that acts as a foundation for your brand.
Case studies are just one way to create compelling cornerstone content for your manufacturing company that can help you to earn trust, to generate new leads and to communicate to your prospects the value and usefulness of your product or service.
People love stories. And a case study is an opportunity to tell a great one - offering the chance to provide a genuine, first-hand account of a real-life experience that invites the reader to put themselves in the shoes of your customer.
Importantly too, a case study is an end-to-end, narrative description of a process which provides deeper insight into the mind of your client and the challenges they overcame.
So what are the essential features of a well-crafted case study?
Here are seven key elements to help provide some structure for your planning:
- An introductory summary - an attention-grabbing headline followed by a concise description of the core points covered in the case study
- The background of the client - a brief description of who your client is and their core credentials
- The challenge - several paragraphs that focus on the problem or goal that your client was looking to address
- How you met that challenge - a description of the strategy you devised to solve their problem
- Provable results - two to three paragraphs summarizing the measurable, quantifiable, impact that your product or service had on their business
- Quotes - Two or three short comments that best encapsulate their experience
- Additional resources - a call to action offering supporting materials such as an eBook, white paper, podcast, call-back or newsletter sign-up.
The first and most crucial step to creating your case study is to find the right candidate.
So who should you choose?
You can start by identifying customers who know your product or industry, who are recognised and respected brands in their own right, who have achieved exceptional results and who are happy to go on the record to talk about their experience.
The next step is to reach out to them to ask them to work with you. A little humanity goes a long way, so be sure to let them know why you’ve selected them and why you think their experience would make a fantastic topic for a case study.
You’ll then want to provide them with a short list of questions. These should be open-ended in style and should aim to cover all the key stages of their experience, including:
- What was the challenge, goal or pain-point they were looking to address?
- How did they identify your product or service as the solution?
- What was their experience of using your product or service?
- What results did they achieve?
- What advice would they offer to other companies looking to do the same thing?
- Is there anything they would have done differently?
Be sure to provide clear parameters as to how long it will realistically take to complete the questions, and give them a clearly defined timeframe in which you’re intending to complete the project.
Once they’ve agreed to participate, schedule a time for a call, preferably using an online meeting tool, so you can record the conversation and easily refer back to it when you need to.
Telling their story
Once you’ve received their responses, the next step is to “write” your story.
If you’re using a written format for your case study then you’ll want to follow the same principles of clear and concise writing that you use for your blog posts, articles or landing pages - creating content with your buyer persona in mind; writing in shorter and easily digestible sentences; and breaking up the text with whitespace, bullet points, lists, images, infographics and quotes.
Equally too case studies can be formulated (or be repurposed) in other formats such as videos or podcasts. Videos in particular can act as powerful tools for communicating your message in a compelling way - appealing on not just an intellectual but an emotional level, aiding comprehension and offering the potential for much longer engagement.
You’ll also want to consider whether you’re going to create this new content piece in-house or whether you need additional help.
Perhaps you already have the internal expertise, resources and time to see the project through? Or maybe your time is better spent on other activities?
If you’re already working with an inbound agency then this is a prime example of content creation that they can lead on your behalf.
Or you may prefer the compromise of partially creating your case study in-house and then outsourcing the elements you’re less comfortable with. So you might conduct the research and interviews for example but ask an outside expert to compile the content, come up with design concepts or to create specialised visual assets such as video or infographics.
As we've explored in this blog post, manufacturing case studies can form an invaluable and compelling foundation of your manufacturing marketing strategy, offering the chance to tell a story, inviting your prospects to step into the shoes of your customers and leading to more meaningful, long-term engagement.