People use the internet as a learning resource, especially in the B2B realm. Content marketing is a wonderful method for agencies to reach prospects with information and examples of agency work. Putting the two together gives agencies a point of connection to initiate contact with prospects who might otherwise refuse to crack the door open enough for you to insert your littlest piggy.
One of the most attractive styles of content is the case study. Why? Because it details a step-by-step process to achieving desired results.
According to Second Wind’s 2017 Annual Agency Survey Report, 80 percent of agencies offer results-based case studies in proposals; 71 percent use a case-study portfolio; and 71 percent share case studies on their agency websites as part of their new business strategies. Here are ten ways agencies should be using case studies. How many tactics are you trying?
1. Agency website – Present case studies as part of the agency’s online portfolio. It’s a great way to impress prospects who might otherwise surf off to a competitor’s site. As a best-case scenario, agencies should provide background (the problem or issue); a thumbnail explanation of the key insight; the strategy; execution (with digital images to illustrate); and results. If you collected awards for creative or effectiveness, highlight those as well. For lead capture, share part of the story, then ask for an email address in exchange for a detailed case study PDF. Consider shareable video case studies, or capsule case studies presented as simple slide shows or images plus text. Whenever possible, invite further contact with email links or phone numbers; use an online form to collect a little information about the contact.
2. Agency blog – Share case studies in written or story form as blog posts. Again, illustrate with images. Focus on some part of the story that highlights the team, the client, your process or the big idea, to show off how the agency works. Again, share the success of the project. Promote your post through social media. (Respect client confidentiality.. no trade secrets!)
3. Case study articles – If you “have an in” to publish case studies in article form on business news or industry sites, go for it! Case studies make appetizing content, as teaching moments as well as to share successful tactics and tout results. When writing case studies for other sites, look at how each site presents content to their readers. Adapt your style to fit the readership—businesslike (just the facts, ma’am), step-by-step (tutorial), entertaining (story as memory aid), etc. Be sure you get reciprocal links in exchange for sharing the content. Promote the articles via your own social pages.
4. Case study freebies – Build your email contact list by offering case studies as white papers or microsites accessible in exchange for an email registration. Be sure to track in your database what content new registrants downloaded, so you can begin to build pictures of what those contacts are interested in.
5. “Pushed” case studies – Promote your case study success stories by serving them to targeted lists through LinkedIn, or pointing group members to your case study-as-teaching-moment, with an interesting question or opinion to invite discussion. Invite shares, re-tweets and comments. Use interactions to form new connections.
6. “Liked” case studies – Promote your Facebook or Twitter feeds by offering a free case study or white paper if someone follows your page. Facebook guidelines allow marketers to make such offers through their cover photos as well as in-feed posts. Follow the user guidelines for each site; some restrictions apply.
7. Twitter feeds – Twitter is a fun way to push case study links and a sound tactic for agency inbound marketing. Also, create keyword hashtags (e.g., #BlueWidgets) for products or services, then track and participate in conversations about these topics, forming connections with interested parties. Tweet about topics your new connections are interested in. Look for opportunities to share relevant case studies as a “nurturing” tactic. Showcase capsule highlights of the case in a thread, so they remain linked.
8. Email offers – Periodically (don’t be a pest!) target segments of your prospect lists, or even specific “A” prospects, with case studies that match expressed interests, industry topics or past search activity. Build your list by collecting an email address in exchange for case study access. Use unsubscribe best practices in any follow-up emails.
9. Direct mail – Yes, really. Send a postcard, maybe a PURL (personal URL) aimed at collecting info about each contact, sharing part of a case study. Provide just enough to whet their whistles, and make them crave the full story. Create a microsite where the user can download the free case study (in exchange for some basic contact info). If you don’t use a PURL service, at least use a registration form and get users’ email addresses, names and company names.
10. 3-D mailers – Combining a case study with a 3-D mail piece really adds impact and makes the case study—and your agency name—more memorable. Targeting the mailer to a specific industry or company category also allows you to use the same mailer for several prospects. “We helped Conover Concrete win the construction barrier contract for the state of Tennessee. Want to know how? Email us at ____ and we’ll send you our Government Contractor case study.”
Case studies are instantly attractive to readers, since they are “real” stories. And in many cases, the truth is stranger—or at least more interesting—than fiction. Remember to treat each case study as a story. Make sure each one is polished, well-edited with a defined idea, a theme, characters (if possible), and even dialog. Then make sure that the story “goes somewhere” and has a strong conclusion, clearly establishing the point of the study.
Case studies should be part of an overall content marketing strategy for your agency’s self-promotion. They are also fantastic vehicles for client content marketing. Test some of these tactics for your agency, then build tactics you like into client content marketing plans. Track everything to see what tactics work best for industries and subgroups you seek to cultivate.
One final note: keep your case studies current. Anything older than two years is old news. Like press releases, portfolio work, blogs and social media pages, case studies should be freshened regularly to be truly effective.
See also: Are You on the Case?