16 Important Ways to Use Case Studies in Your Marketing

When you’re thinking about investing in a product or service, what’s the first thing you do?

Usually, it’s one or both of the following: You’ll likely ask your friends whether they’ve tried the product or service, and if they have, whether they would recommend it. You’ll also probably do some online research to see what others are saying about said product or service. Nowadays, 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year, and 82% of consumers read online reviews. This shows that the majority of people are looking to peers to make a purchasing decision.Most customers know that a little online research could spare them from a bad experience and poor investment of your budget.

Download our free case study templates here to help you display your company's success.

A marketing case study aims to persuade that a process, product, or service can solve a problem. Why? Because it has done so in the past. By including the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of the study, it appeals to logic while painting a picture of what success looks like for the buyer. Both of which can be powerful motivators and objection removers.

Why Use Case Studies?

In essence, case studies are an invaluable asset when it comes to establishing proof that what you’re offering is valuable and of good quality.

According to HubSpot’s State of Marketing Report 2020, 13% of marketers name case studies as one of the primary forms of media used within their content strategy. This makes them the fifth most popular type of content, outshined only by visual content, blogs, and ebooks.

a graph that shows results from the question "what are the primary forms of media used within your content strategy?" with videos being the highest at 19%, followed by blogs, ebooks, infographics, and case studies. White papers, checklists, interviews, and "other" trail behind.

Okay, so you know case studies work. The question is, how do they work? And how can you squeeze the most value out of them? 

When to Use a Case Study

Here are the ways you can market your case studies to get the most out of them.

As a Marketing or Sales Asset

1. Use a case study template to create PDFs for email or downloads

Do not underestimate the value of providing social proof at just the right time in order to add value and earn their business. Case studies are extremely effective in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey when they are actively comparing solutions and providers to solve a problem they’re experiencing. 

For this reason, case studies in an independent PDF format can be helpful in both marketing and sales. Marketers can use these PDFs as downloads in web content or email campaigns. Sales reps can utilize these assets in demonstrations, in a follow-up, or to overcome objections. 

example of a case study template in Microsoft Word with graphs and sections for "how product helped" and "results"Image Source

The easiest way to create PDF case studies is by using a case study template. Doing so can decrease the amount of time you spend creating and designing your case study without sacrificing aesthetics. In addition, you can ensure that all your case studies follow a similar branded format. 

We’ve created a great case study template (and kit!) that’s already locked and loaded for you to use. All you have to do is input your own text and change the fonts and colors to fit your brand. You can download it here.

On Your Website

2. Have a dedicated case studies page.

You should have a webpage exclusively for housing your case studies. Whether you call this page “Case Studies, “Success Studies,” or “Examples of Our Work,” be sure it’s easy for visitors to find.

Structure on that page is key: Initial challenges are clear for each case, as well as the goals, process, and results.

Get Inspired: Google’s Think With Google is an example of a really well structured case study page. The copy is engaging, as are the goals, approach, and results.

think with google case study outlining sections for goals, approach, and results

3. Put case studies on your home page.

Give website visitors every chance you can to stumble upon evidence of happy customers. Your home page is the perfect place to do this.

There are a number of ways you can include case studies on your homepage. Here are a few examples:

  • Customer quotes/testimonials
  • A call-to-action (CTA) to view specific case studies
  • A slide-in CTA that links to a case study
  • A CTA leading to your case studies page

Get Inspired: Theresumator.com incorporates testimonials onto their homepage to strengthen their value proposition.

customer testimonials on theresumator homepage

Bonus Tip: Get personal.

Marketing gurus across the world agree that personalised marketing is the future. You can make your case studies more powerful if you find ways to make them “match” the website visitors that are important to you.

People react to familiarity — for instance, presenting someone from London with a case study from New York may not resonate as well as if you displayed a case study from the U.K. Or you could choose to tailor case studies by industry or company size to the visitor. At HubSpot, we call this “smart content.”

Get Inspired: To help explain smart content, have a look at the example below. Here, we wanted to test whether including testimonials on landing pages influenced conversion rates in the U.K. The landing page on the left is the default landing page shown to visitors from non-U.K. IP addresses. For the landing page on the right, we used smart content to show testimonials to visitors coming from U.K. IP addresses.

 comparison of a and b versions of a split test that tested case studies as a landing page element

4. Implement slide-in CTAs.

Pop-ups have a reputation for being annoying, but there are ways to implement that that won’t irk your website visitors. These CTAs don’t have to be huge, glaring pop-ups — instead, relevant but discreet slide-in CTAs can work really well.

For example, why not test out a slide-in CTA on one of your product pages, with a link to a case study that profiles a customer who’s seen great results using that product?

Get Inspired: If you need some help on creating sliders for your website, check out this tutorial on creating slide-in CTAs.

5. Write blog posts about your case studies.

Once you publish a case study, the next logical step would be to write a blog post about it to expose your audience to it. The trick is to write about the case study in a way that identifies with your audience’s needs. So rather than titling your post “Company X: A Case Study,” you might write about a specific hurdle, issue, or challenge the company overcame, and then use that company’s case study to illustrate how the issues were addressed. It’s important not to center the blog post around your company, product, or service — instead, the customer’s challenges and how they were overcome should take centre stage.

For example, if we had a case study that showed how one customer generated twice as many leads as a result of our marketing automation tool, our blog post might be something along the lines of: “How to Double Lead Flow With Marketing Automation [Case Study].” The blog post would then comprise of a mix of stats, practical tips, as well as some illustrative examples from our case study.

Get Inspired: Check out this great example of a blog post from Moz, titled “How to Build Links to Your Blog – A Case Study.”

6. Create videos from case studies.

Internet services are improving all the time, and as a result, people are consuming more and more video content. Prospects could be more likely to watch a video than they are to read a lengthy case study. If you have the budget, creating videos of your case studies is a really powerful way to communicate your value proposition.

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Get Inspired: Check out one of our many video testimonials for some ideas on how to approach your own videos.

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7. Use case studies on relevant landing pages.

Once you complete a case study, you’ll have a bank of quotes and results you can pull from. Including quotes on product pages is especially interesting. If website visitors are reading your product pages, they are in a “consideration” mindset, meaning they are actively researching your products, perhaps with an intent to buy. Having customer quotes placed strategically on these pages is a great way to push them over the line and further down the funnel.

These quotes should be measured, results-based snippets, such as, “XX resulted in a 70% increase in blog subscribers in less an 6 months” rather than, “We are proud to be customers of XX, they really look after us.”

Get Inspired: I really like the way HR Software company Workday incorporates video and testimonials into its solutions pages.

workday's use of testimonial in the top left corner of a product page

Off Your Website

8. Post about case studies on social media.

Case studies make for perfect social sharing material. Here are a few examples of how you can leverage them on social:

  • Share a link to a case study and tag the customer in the post. The trick here is to post your case studies in a way that attracts the right people to click through, rather than just a generic message like, “New Case Study ->> LINK.” Make sure your status communicates clearly the challenge that was overcome or the goal that was achieved. It’s also wise to include the main stats associated with the case study; for example, “2x lead flow,” “125% increase in X,” and so on.
  • Update your cover image on Twitter/Facebook showing a happy customer. Our social media cover photo templates should help you with this!
  • Add your case study to your list of publications on LinkedIn.
  • Share your case studies in relevant LinkedIn Groups.
  • Target your new case studies to relevant people on Facebook using dark posts. (Learn about dark posts here.)

Get Inspired: MaRS Discovery District posts case studies on Twitter to push people towards a desired action.

Mars Discover District tweets showing their promotion of case studies

9. Use case studies in your email marketing.

Case studies are particularly suited to email marketing when you have an industry-segmentable list. For example, if you have a case study from a client in the insurance industry, emailing your case study to your base of insurance-related contacts can be a really relevant addition to a lead nurturing campaign.

Case studies can also be very effective when used in product-specific lead nurture workflows in reactivating opportunities that have gone cold. They can be useful for re-engaging leads that have gone quiet and who were looking at specific areas of your product that the case study relates to.

Get Inspired: It’s important that your lead nurture workflow content includes the appropriate content for where prospects are in the sales cycle. If you need help on how to do this, check out our post on how to map lead nurturing content to each stage in sales cycle.

10. Incorporate case studies into your newsletters.

This idea is as good for your client relations as it is for gaining the attention of your prospects. Customers and clients love feeling as though they’re part of a community. It’s human nature. Prospects warm to companies that look after their customers; companies whose customers are happy and proud to be part of something. Also, whether we are willing to admit it or not, people love to show off!

Get Inspired: Newsletters become stale over time. Give your newsletters a new lease of life with our guide on how to create newsletters that don’t suck.

11. Equip your sales team with case studies.

Tailored content has become increasingly important to sales reps as they look to provide value on the sales call. It’s estimated that consumers go through 70-90% of the buyer’s journey before contacting a vendor. This means that the consumer is more knowledgeable than ever before. Sales reps no longer need to spend an entire call talking about the features and benefits. Sales has become more complex, and reps now need to be armed with content that addresses each stage of the buyer’s process. Case studies can be really useful when it comes to showing prospects how successful other people within a similar industry has benefited from your product or service.

Get Inspired: Case studies are just one type of content that helps your sales team sell. They don’t always work by themselves, though. Check out our list of content types that help sales close more deals.

12. Sneak a case study into your email signature.

Include a link to a recent case study in your email signature. This is particularly useful for salespeople. Here’s what my email signature looks like:

signature of hubspot employee that features a case study link at the bottom of the email signature

Get Inspired: Did you know that there are lots more ways you can use your email signature to support your marketing? Here are 10 clever suggestions for how you can do this.

13. Use case studies in training.

Having customer case studies is an invaluable asset to have when onboarding new employees. It aids developing their buy-in, belief in, and understanding of your offering.

Get Inspired: Have you completed our Inbound Certification course yet? During our classes, we use case studies to show how inbound marketing is applied in real life.

In Lead-Gen Content

14. Include case studies in your lead gen efforts.

There are a number of offers you can create based off of your case studies, in the form of ebooks, templates, and more. For example you could put together an ebook titled “A step-by-step guide to reaching 10,000 blog subscribers in 3 months…just like XX did.” You could create a more in-depth version of the case study with access to detailed statistics as an offer. (And don’t forget, you can also use quotes and statistics from case studies on the landing page promoting the ebook, which adds credibility and could increase your conversion rates.) Or, you could create a template based on your customer’s approach to success.

Get Inspired: If you think you need to be an awesome designer put together beautiful ebooks, think again. Create ebooks easily using these customisable ebook templates.

You can also use case studies to frame webinars that document how to be successful with X. Using case studies in webinars is great middle-of-the-funnel content and can really help move your leads further down the funnel towards becoming sales qualified leads.

Get Inspired: Webinars are really effective as part of a lead nurturing workflow. Make sure your next webinar is spot on by following these simple webinar tips.

15. Create a bank of evergreen presentations.

It’s important to build up a bank of evergreen content that employees across your organisation can use during presentations or demos. Case studies are perfect for this.

Put together a few slides on the highlights of the case study to stir people’s interest, and then make them available to your sales and customer-facing teams. It’s helpful if the marketer who created the presentation is the one who presents it to anyone who might use them in the future. This ensures they can explain the presentation clearly and answer any questions that might arise.

Get Inspired: What to create presentations people want to use? Here’s a list of tools to make your presentations great.

16. Create SlideShares based on case studies.

Following on from a few short slides, you could also put together a more detailed presentation of the case study and upload it to SlideShare. After all, not only is SlideShare SEO-friendly (because Google indexes each presentation), but there is a huge pre-existing audience on SlideShare of over 60 million users you can tap into. SlideShare presentations are also easy to embed and share, and allow you to capture leads directly from the slides via a lead capture form.

Get Inspired: Want to generate more leads with SlideShare, but not sure how to get started? Check out this blog post.

hubspot slideshare on "how to grow with inbound marketing" that is an in-depth case study

Now that you understand the value of a marketing case study and the different ways that they can be used in your content marketing (and even sales) strategy, your next step is to think about what would convince your target audience to do business with you. 

Have you recently accomplished something big for a client? Do you have a process or product with demonstrable results? What do your potential clients hope that you’ll do for them? 

The answers to those questions will help you craft compelling content for your case study. Then, all that’s left is putting it into your audience’s hands in formats they want to consume.

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Jul 30, 2020 2:15:00 PM, updated July 31 2020

Topics:

Content Types

10 Pieces of Content Your Audience Really Wants to See [New Data]

Content marketing is constantly evolving, which is what we here on the HubSpot blogging team love about our jobs. It keeps things interesting. And while it’s easy to get caught up in experimenting with innovative content, it’s important that we pay close attention to how our readers are changing, too.

According to HubSpot Research, 2016 marks the start of a new phase of technological development, where new innovations and consumer preferences will usher in a new way of how marketers will do business.To learn more about the challenges marketers face today, download the free 2016 State of Inbound report here.

Our research team surveyed over 1,000 internet users worldwide to learn about their preferences and behaviors when it comes to their content consumption habits. In this article, we’re diving deeper into two specific trends to discuss how marketers can prepare their content strategies to meet the needs of their readers.

Content Types

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What content types do readers want to see more of in the future?

HubSpot Research found that internet users’ behaviors are changing to reflect a growing interest in visual content. They’re also shifting where they’re reading content, choosing social media platforms over of more traditional blog and long-form outlets:

types_of_content-1.png

It’s important to note that these survey results don’t mean that content creators should abandon mediums such as blogging or podcasting, as these content outlets will continue to provide value over time. Instead, what the above chart suggests is that marketers should develop a more diversified strategy to meet the growing demand for alternative content types such as video and social media content.

How are readers consuming content?

For content creators, it’s important to know what kind of content readers want, and also how they want to read it. HubSpot found that different types of content are more likely to retain readers’ close attention than others. Generally speaking, longer written content is more likely to be skimmed, and content with more visual elements, such as videos and images, are more likely to be thoroughly consumed:

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Now that we’ve reviewed the types of content readers want and how they want to consume them, let’s take a look at some effective examples of below.

10 Pieces of Content Your Audience Actually Wants to See

Click on the categories below to check out examples of the types of content your audience is looking for:

  1. Videos
  2. Social Media
  3. News Articles
  4. Research Content
  5. Online Classes/Educational Games

Videos

Video is and will continue to be a huge part of content marketing: According to Cisco, 80% of web traffic will be video by 2019. That’s a lot. And this same sentiment is reflected in the latest report from HubSpot Research, where 45% of survey respondents admitted to watching 1+ hours of video on Facebook and YouTube each week.

To further illustrate this point, let’s consider that users watch 8 billion videos on Facebook and 10 billion videos on Snapchat per day. Today, social media platforms are becoming more about content sharing and discovery, so an integrated video and social media strategy will be necessary for brands seeking to compete. (Learn more about creating video for social media in our free ebook.)

1) Tasty on BuzzFeed

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BuzzFeed’s Tasty videos are a great example of the type of video content people want to consume. According to their Facebook Page, they can be best described as “snack-sized videos and recipes you’ll want to try.” It’s as simple as that.

Each video covers one recipe in an engaging, fast-motion format — making them tailor-made for Facebook scanners.

Why this works so well:

  • They’re short and sweet. Mini Matters reports that YouTube viewers favor short videos, approximately 42 seconds in length.
  • They don’t require sound to understand what’s going on. According to Digiday, 85% of videos on Facebook are watched without sound.
  • They teach how-to skills. Google reports that searches for “how to” video content have increased 70% year-over-year.

Views: 1.1 million

2) Vox Media

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Vox’s video content varies between news, explainers, entertainment, and how-to videos (check out their full YouTube channel here), and their videos are highly shareable and easy to consume.

Why this works so well:

  • The video are around two minutes in length. According to research from Wistia, this length is optimal to ensure viewers watch all the way through to the end.
  • They feature captions and animations so viewers can understand the gist of the video without having to turn on the volume.
  • They cover breaking news, which 64% of Twitter users surveyed said they want to see more of.

Views: 2.7 million

Social Media

The global social media audience is vast: Facebook has 1.7 billion daily active users (DAUs), Instagram has 500 million, Twitter has 313 million, and Snapchat has 150 million. Users are consuming more content than ever on social media networks, and content creators will have to shift their publication strategy to meet their audience where they’re gathering information.

3) Intel

Here’s another example of the power of video marketing in the context of social media posts — the second most popular content form users are looking for. Intel creates products in the information technology and cloud computing space, but their tweets touch on how technology interacts with the rest of the world.

For example, this tweet shares a video from Drone 100, an event Intel hosted in Sydney, Australia where users launched Intel drones for a crowdsourced light show. (Learn more about how to use Twitter for business here.)

Why this works so well:

  • The tweet uses video, which drives engagement: 82% of Twitter users watch video content, and Twitter videos drive more retweets, likes, and replies than video on third-party players.
  • The tweet uses relevant hashtags sparingly. Locowise found that numerous hashtags don’t contribute to greater Twitter engagement, but that the occasional relevant hashtag, such as #TBT or a branded campaign hashtag, can help new users find your content.

Retweets: 190, Likes: 492

4) FedEx

fedex2.png

FedEx features stunning photos of their trucks, planes, and envelopes around the world, and what’s more, the vast majority of their posts are photos taken by other Instagram users. Rather than posting boring photos from a mail sorting facility, FedEx featured this gorgeous shot of a branded plane with a full moon in the background.

Why this works so well:

  • Their Instagram features user-generated content (UGC), which humanizes brands and promotes greater brand engagement.
  • Their posts feature hashtags, which help users find new Instagram accounts to follow. According to research from TrackMaven, Instagram posts with four to five hashtags saw an increase in interactions.

Likes: 1,337

News Articles

Four in ten Americans get their news online, and 55% of HubSpot Research respondents find new content by searching on publications’ websites directly. That said, online newspapers and magazines should continue regular, if not daily, publication to keep up with reader demand.

5) ESPN

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According to our research, more readers want news articles, but that doesn’t mean they want to read them thoroughly. As 37% of those surveyed indicated they would be more likely to skim-read news articles, this article from ESPN does a great job of balancing the desires of skim-readers and content devourers alike.

Why this works so well:

  • This longer article features an accompanying video for those who don’t have the time to read the full text.
  • It includes bullets and images to maintain reader attention and to break up larger paragraphs of text.

Facebook Shares: 1.9K

6) Mashable

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Here’s a shorter news article from Mashable, the blog-turned-news outlet that covers anything and everything related to the technology in our lives. This article does a great job of balancing the needs of both skim-readers and close-readers with its comprehensive overview without overwhelming readers.

Why this works so well:

  • The article incorporates tweets and external content from Elon Musk’s master plan to make the article more diverse and visually interesting.
  • The article uses visuals, which are more memorable than text alone according to the picture superiority effect.
  • It has a clear headline that tells the story of the article if readers don’t make it to the end, which Copyblogger tells us only 20% will.

Social Media Shares: 2.2K

Research Content

Based on our survey, readers are looking for original research that can be consumed thoroughly, but also easily understood. Research publications should look to other trends in content marketing, such as the increased interest in visual elements, to guide their research strategy.

7) Chartbeat

Chartbeat_research_content.png

Here’s a short and sweet research article from the folks over at Chartbeat. If you’re producing research content at your organization, there are a few strategies you can test to get more readers looking at your work.

Why this works so well:

  • It uses effective data visualization. According to Brain Rules, relevant images accompanied by reading or hearing information helps us remember 65% of the information days later — when we read text alone, we only remember 10%.
  • It uses color, which is an important factor when it comes to creating visual elements: Color improves content readership, recall, and attention span by roughly 80%.
  • Text is broken up with quickly digestible images, like the clearly captioned graphs above. This is important because research shows that readers might only read 20% of an article’s text, while scanning the rest.
  • The content is actionable. Readers want to come away knowing how to apply the results of findings to their own strategies.

8) Nielsen

Nielsen_Research_Content.png

Here’s another cool graphical breakdown of research from Nielsen, which researches consumer and media behaviors around the world. They conducted detailed research about global eating habits and how they’ve evolved according to demographic and socioeconomic changes around the world, but the published results aren’t lengthy. It’s easy to scan this research and quickly glean the results without poring over a huge paper.

Why this works so well:

  • The headline inspires curiosity in the reader and takes advantage of a phenomenon known as the curiosity gap, which makes readers more likely to click and learn new information.
  • The research article uses information-carrying images, such as graphs, infographics, and charts, which readers typically pay more attention to than the rest of the text on the page.

Online Classes/Educational Games

9) CodeAcademy

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CodeAcademy’s online coding classes are easy, portable, and, most importantly, free. Anyone can sign up for these interactive lessons and see the website, game, or program they’re building as they complete each module so they can see their finished product.

Why they work so well:

  • The classes meet a demand: CodeAcademy teaches Java, SQL, and Python, which are among the most popular coding skills in terms of their demand in the workplace.
  • The classes have clear course objectives and are easy to use, which, according to an Eduventures survey, were students’ top priorities when pursuing online classes. CodeAcademy’s bare bones platform is split so that students can always see an overview on the left-hand side of what they’re studying and how it will help them long-term.

Users: 24 million

10) HubSpot Academy Certifications

hubspot_academy-3.png

HubSpot Academy Certifications are free online training courses centered around the development of marketing and sales skills. The Inbound Marketing Certification course, for example, provides folks with an opportunity to invest in their career by staying up-to-date on the latest marketing best practices.

Why they work so well:

  • The classes are self-paced. This approach represents a growing trend in the e-learning space, as it allows student the flexbility they need to work around their schedules.
  • The classes meet a demand. The HubSpot Academy Certifications cover critical areas such as inbound marketing, sales, and email marketing — some of the most in-demand skills in the marketing and advertising industries.

Users: 50K

Common Themes for Marketers

That was a lot of information. Let’s review some common themes and takeaways that you can apply to your content strategy after finishing this article:

  1. Keep video content short and sweet. Ideally, it won’t require sound to be played.
  2. Video content should answer a question or meet a demand that lots of people are looking for.
  3. Humor (when appropriate) makes for memorable content.
  4. Images and videos are key to more engaging social media posts.
  5. Social proof helps beef up claims behind your content.
  6. Experiment with user-generated content for greater social media engagement.
  7. Use clear, grabbing headlines to draw the attention of readers.
  8. Use images, bullets, and formatting to break up text in longer articles for skim-reading.
  9. Make content actionable so readers can come away knowing what to do next.
  10. Use graphs and infographics to display numerical data when possible.

Now that you know how to create different types of content that 2016 readers are looking for, check out the rest of our content marketing research, and learn key tips and tricks for writing great content today.

What’s your favorite type of content? Are you more likely to skim-read some types of content more than others? Share with us in the comments below.

get the free 2016 state of inbound report

Originally published Jul 28, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2020

Topics:

Content Types

10 Ways to Make Your Blog Post Interactive

Static marketing content is as outdated as print-only newspapers. Just as day-old newspapers become litter in the streets, static digital content is useless to the average reader. With such an inundation of static marketing content, one piece hardly stands out from others, meaning brands blend and ideas fade.

Readers crave the dynamic nature of interactive digital content. An ion Interactive study measured the success and general feeling from marketers regarding interactive content. In terms of effectiveness, 93% of marketers say interactive media is great at educating buyers; 88% say it’s effective at differentiating brands, whereas static was found to be only 55% effective. Not convinced yet? Did you know that interactive content also drives 2X more conversions than static content?

Despite these numbers, many marketers shy away from interactive content. It might be because it has a reputation for being expensive and labor-intensive. But that is an unfair reputation. Creating interactive elements is, in fact, easy, fast and even free.

These ten tools allow you to start immediately interacting with customers, which draws them in, converts at higher rates and gives feedback to improve your business.

→ Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

1. PlayBuzz

The original PlayBuzz site is for the average Internet user interested in which Hogwarts house they belong to or testing their knowledge about 1990s TV shows. However, PlayBuzz’s business site is tailored to empowering companies to generate an interactive feature, embed it in their marketing content and watch user engagement rise and their network grow.

With PlayBuzz you can create free countdowns, polls, personality quizzes, flip cards, trivia, rankable lists, general lists, gallery quizzes and a swipe voting feature made popular by dating apps.

Each element has an appealing quality that catches readers’ attention and can communicate information quickly in a visual manner. It also keeps visitors on your page longer and is designed for social sharing.

When choosing from so many options, remember highly interactive features like quizzes and swiping are good for social platforms and visually driven posts, while flip cards and polls are good for text-heavy content.

When you are designing these embeddable features, keep in mind your company’s brand and voice, this will ensure consistency while adding that bonus feature that customers appreciate. The best way to track the success of PlayBuzz content is to monitor its social performance in shares, engagement and views.

PlayBuzz is also user-friendly, so you might forget you’re working while playing with the design tools and fun features. Check out these flip cards we made with it.

2. SlideShare

Slide presentations are something nearly every professional has seen or used, whether it’s from business trainings, college lectures or group projects. Putting information in a condensed, easily-digestible format is one of the most popular marketing, sales and proposal tactics because of its familiarity and logic.

SlideShare can be embedded into any blog post and breaks down a topic for readers in a more visual and attractive manner than static paragraphs of text. Try it with an existing post that needs more visits but provides valuable content.

Take text from the blog, simplify it for each slide, keep word count at a minimum, include a CTA on the last slide, and embed the feature somewhere in the post. If you put the slides near the top, you can include a friendly disclaimer such as, “Don’t have time to read the rest? We summed it up for you here.”

Readers appreciate options for taking in information and really appreciate when you understand their limits. SlideShare transforms already written content into powerful snippets of data.

Don’t think of SlideShare as a place to put all the information in bullet points; think of it as a place to present an idea in a visual and condensed manner. It might be a good challenge to fit a hefty amount of information into a slide show. This exercise will help you write succinctly and think about content in an out-of-the-box way.

Give the most important points priority instead of cramming an entire blog post into a slide show. Graphs, statistics and quick thoughts are especially effective on SlideShare.

In the example below, Orly Ballesteros, a business event organizer in the Philippines, created a SlideShare on easy digital marketing for your business.

3. Make a GIF

Regardless of how you pronounce it (“JIF” or “GIF”), these little graphics excel at entertaining and inserting some fun into your digital content. It shows you have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously. That said, make sure to use GIFs sparingly and only for appropriate topics.

Many websites have tools for creating your own animated GIF or have a domain of popular ones for every emotion and situation. This imagery also warrants the use of BuzzFeed-worthy titles and descriptions to accompany your chosen GIFs.

This type of interactive content performs excellently on social platforms because of the flashy element and viral qualities. These qualities lend themselves well to tracking social success easily by monitoring shares, likes and engagement.

When choosing or creating a GIF, make sure it is a reference your audience will understand. You wouldn’t want to use a GIF from a popular TV show if it’s not likely your customers are familiar with it. However, if pop culture references are common in your content, feel free to use GIFs as freely as you’d like. 

Websites such as GIPHY make the art of finding the right GIF quick and entertaining, while at the same time providing you with everything you need to share with your audience.

Take the GIF below – I typed “content marketing’ into the search box, found this gem from Mad Men, and simply copied the embed code into the blog. Easy!

Image Source

4. Qzzr

If the products or services you’re marketing lend well to quizzing your prospects, Qzzr is the right tool for engaging them further. This free quiz-making platform allows you to create a quiz in minutes, embed it into any post and track the results. It also comes with a WordPress plugin for easy integration.

Customers love to test their knowledge, if only to prove how much they know. They also love to reveal pieces of their personality and discover new sides of themselves. Giving your customers these opportunities through quizzes is the perfect gateway for interaction and connection.

Keep quizzes as short as possible so as not to fatigue your readers. Make sure the answers are pointed and don’t allow quiz takers to avoid questions. There is nothing worse than a vague answer and worthless results. And there is nothing better than seeing interactions with customers and the fruitful rewards of getting specific.

You might use a quiz if you’re trying to target specific products or services to your customers as they begin their buying journey. The fashion-delivery company Stitch Fix requires all first-time users to take a fashion quiz to determine which products will please them most.

You can emulate this model or use a quiz for testing your customer’s knowledge about your industry, current events or other relevant topics. Readers especially love quizzes that tell them which car, building, time period, scientist, politician, 1980s pop star, etc. they are most like.

The great thing about Qzzr is the ability to integrate with CRM systems. This feature allows you to track the success of each quiz, pull data from the results and target customers more accurately and personally.

5. Podcasts

Podcasts aren’t just for Serial fans or listeners of public radio. The audio format is a gold mine for the busy professional. It gives multitaskers a chance to consume your content on their terms. There might not be enough time in the day to read all the content circulating within certain industries or interact with specific companies.

But if marketers give professionals a way to gain all the benefits of static content during their daily commute without burying their faces in a screen, they might see a rise in interest and customer conversation. It’s also great for audio learners and is a much more casual and open environment for bringing guests and commentators to foster a fruitful discussion.

Before creating a podcast, study up. Listen to all different kinds of podcasts to figure out what works. It’s also good to pay attention to which length is appropriate. If you’re getting more downloads and listens for shorter episodes, your customers might want quick conversation. But if you see a demand for longer form podcasts, your customers probably appreciate deep dives into certain topics.

Bring in guests for fresh perspective. Try implementing different segments to break up the monotony of a single episode. But make sure to get into the groove of podcasting before you give up or count your early success.

As you develop your podcast and find what works, you will find you can adjust and evolve episode to episode based on listener feedback or performance statistics. The key is keeping your eyes and ears open. Podcasting is just as much about listening as it is about talking.

6. YouTube Videos

Similar to podcasts, embedding a YouTube video into your blog posts can make your post more interesting.

When you add a video, it gives readers the option to watch a video instead of reading the post. This means that you won’t lose any readers who are more interested in video content.

Additionally, it makes your post easier to scroll through and gives readers a chance to interact and engage with your post.

For example, in the post below, HubSpot embedded a YouTube video into a blog post explaining pillar pages and topic clusters.

HubSpot uses a YouTube video to make a blog post more interactive.

7. Charts and Graphs

Another way to make your blog posts more interactive is to include charts and graphs. Adding visualizations to your blog posts helps your readers understand and analyze the information.

You can choose to make your own charts and graphs by using visualization tools or you can hire a graphics expert to do it for you.

While it may seem like a daunting task, creating a visualization can actually be easy. In fact, you can create charts in a simple program like Excel or Google Sheets.

In the example below, UK firm Carvill Creative includes a chart to help readers visualize the expert opinions of leadership.

Carvill Creative interactive blog post.

8. Infographics

Not to reiterate, but for your blog posts to be interactive, you should include multimedia elements throughout the post. As a bonus, those elements also make it easier to read, so users are more likely to read through the entire post.

One element that can help you do this is infographics. In fact, sometimes you can create an infographic to communicate most of the information in a blog post.

For example, in this blog post by HubSpot, we included an introduction, and then let the infographic do the talking.

HubSpot's interactive blog post includes an infographic.

9. Images

Another great way to add interactive elements to your blog posts is to include images.

First, this helps readers visualize what you’re talking about. Second, images are just more interesting to look at.

For example, this post on The Verge, includes a moving image so readers can see a demonstration.

The Verge interactive blog post.

10. Pull Quotes

If you’re looking for a way to include a simple, interactive design element in your blog posts, look no further than a pull quote.

Pull quotes are just snippets of text from your blog post that relay the most important information.

Reading a pull quote should engage your reader and make them more interested in what you have to say. Hopefully, if they’re skimming a pull quote, they’re encouraged to dive in to the post because it’s so interesting.

Interactive content rules the marketing landscape for now and the foreseeable future. There’s no denying customers want more than some block text on a page. They want to dive in, learn more, give feedback and get to know the company.

Just ensure you’re balancing the message within the format and you should see success. Trying any of these methods should result in an increase of engagement and possibly even leads without the headache of a complicated tool and it won’t cost you a cent.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Jun 23, 2020 6:00:00 PM, updated June 24 2020

Topics:

Content Types

Ebooks vs. Whitepapers: Which One Should You Choose?

One of my favorite ways to learn new skills is by reading an ebook or whitepaper.

When I want an overview of a broad topic, like digital marketing, I look for ebooks. They’re fun, vibrant guides in an interactive, book-like format. I click on hyperlinks for extra details and analyze colorful graphs.

Click here to download our collection of customizable ebook templates.

If I want to know all there is to know about a specific topic, like email list strategy, I source a whitepaper. They illustrate points with charts, and use study data or other statistics to back up the points being made.

If you’re a marketer, there’s no doubt you’ve come across at least one ebook or whitepaper offer. But now, the time has come for you to make your own.

You have an idea, but maybe you’re not sure whether to make an ebook or whitepaper. Are ebooks and whitepapers even the same thing? Let’s figure this all out below.

Ebooks and whitepapers: What’s the Difference?

Time for a quick refresher: An ebook is short for “electronic book.” They’re made for online use, notated by embedded links and videos. Ebooks are responsive and are usually guides for large topics. For instance, some popular ebook topics revolve around SEO, inbound marketing, and ecommerce.

Here is an example of an ebook, “YouTube for Business,” from HubSpot. It’s optimized for reading on desktop, ereader, and mobile devices. Additionally, it’s vibrant — this has a variety of colors, graphics, and interactive media.

YouTube for Business ebook by HubSpotEbooks are great for increasing conversions and credibility. Think about a customer looking for a complete guide about how to hire top talent.

So, what’s a whitepaper? And how is it different from an ebook?

whitepapers are reports that break down a complex topic for the reader, and then provide an in-depth solution or opinion about that subject. They’re aimed at helping audiences comprehend a complex issue or inform a difficult decision.

Let’s go back to the ebook example, “YouTube for Business.” If this eBook were going to be a whitepaper instead, it would probably be titled something like, “How Using YouTube for Business Increased Our Conversion Rates by 30%.” This whitepaper would include the details of the findings, include other helpful data, and use that to explain how the experiment was successful.

One popular whitepaper format you might recognize is a “State Of” report. These whitepapers include factual information, statistical data, and often survey and experiment results to support the topic.

State of Marketing whitepaper by HubSpotImage Source

Have time and data? Consider creating a comprehensive whitepaper that will inform your audience at an expert level.

Now that we’re clear on the differences between ebooks and whitepapers, let’s decide which one is best suited to your goals.

Ebooks vs. Whitepapers

When you’re deciding between an ebook and a whitepaper, keep your goals in mind.

When should you write an ebook?

Short On Time

Ebooks are better, if you’re short on time. Generally, they’re shorter and serve the purpose of offering a “how-to” on a topic. They also use a mix of visuals and are packed with helpful links to support that writing.

Including Multimedia

Ebooks are interactive and traditionally less static than a whitepaper. Usually, ebooks aren’t a Google Doc or a PDF file, so you can really focus on multimedia. You might include supporting content from your business, a CTA, or links to previous studies or blog posts.

Easy To Make & Share

Creating an ebook is relatively simple — your CMS should offer templates, which save you time so you can spend more time writing. And when thinking about distribution, a free ebook is highly shareable on social media, in blog posts, and on your website. All you need is a landing page, CTA, and promotion post drafted.

Additionally, you can add the ebook in a hyperlink in your email signature or add it into an email update. Free educational resources are a great chance to delight readers and earn leads by gating your content.

To sum it up, if you want to create an interactive experience for your target audience, make an ebook. Especially if you don’t have that much time to devote to study but still want a compelling offer.

When should you write a whitepaper?

Thought Leadership

If your writing is focused on thought leadership, make a whitepaper. They’re more static than ebooks and traditionally cover less broad topics. For instance, an ebook can cover the basics of digital marketing, but a whitepaper would focus on a single digital marketing experiment.

Let’s say you want to feature a thought leader. Look for one that is in your industry, so they can expose your company to a large, ideal audience. Then, conduct a long form interview with the thought leader or ask them to contribute writing about the chosen topic, making sure there’s ample research and data to support.

Deep Explanation

Because whitepapers are more focused than ebooks, they give way for thorough explanation. They lean heavily on concrete data to support their findings or stance, while an ebook may gloss over some details.

Playing With Design

whitepapers are sometimes known as “boring” because they’re instructional reports. They present the facts. But this doesn’t mean your whitepaper will be dull — instead, use color and text to liven up the atmosphere, shown below:

Example of a visually stunning whitepaper.Image Source

Vertical, “old school” formats aren’t the most engaging experience for readers. But there are things you can do that make whitepapers compelling. Present the facts, but use a conversational tone, and make the landing page for your whitepaper colorful.

A crucial aspect of design for your whitepaper should be responsiveness. Prioritize making your whitepaper format responsive for different screen sizes. This is so your audiences can enjoy it, regardless of their device.

Ultimately, think of making a whitepaper to create thought leadership content in a different format.

The bottom line? Ebooks are great for driving growth and traffic, and whitepapers are excellent for conversion and filling buyer journey gaps. If you’re short on time, an ebook might be your best bet, but whitepapers are ideal for studies and reports.

If your company excels at one format but is lacking in the other, think of how your next offer could bring different results if the delivery method was switched. Remember, the goal is making the customer feel like they received valuable guidance about a topic.

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Originally published Jun 16, 2020 3:45:00 AM, updated June 16 2020

Topics:

Content Types

8 Engaging Examples of Interactive Storytelling in Content Marketing

As inbound marketers, content plays an important role in attracting attention and building trust with prospects. Our content can come in many different formats, and the format we choose can speak volumes about the research and ideas within.

Interactive content has become increasingly more popular as brands try to cut through the noise and keep prospects’ attention long enough to deliver a message.

The benefit being a higher likelihood of harnessing the audience’s ever-decreasing attention span by publishing stories with interactive elements so they gain an active role in consuming information. By dazzling the audience with an unexpected experience, you can increase engagement, on-site dwell time, and social share rates.

Plan your content for every persona and stage of the buying cycle. [Free Content Mapping Template]

In theory, any type of content can incorporate interactive elements. Interactive marketing requires ingenuity and innovation, and here are some of the ways interactive content currently shows up on the web: 

Quizzes

By their very nature, quizzes are interactive since input is required from the audience in exchange for valuable personalized content.

Interactive Infographics

Unlike static infographics, interactive infographics prompt the audience to take their own journey through the information being presented. 

Interactive Video

Video viewing is often a passive activity, but interactive videos can improve engagement and enhance the experience. This is done by adding 360 views, audience controls, or embedded content and interactivity. 

Surveys and Polls

If the audience wants macro data on a particular topic, they can be incentivized to take a survey. Then, both the survey (the input) and its results (your output) becomes consumable pieces of content. 

Calculators

In many cases, information itself may not be useful for your audience but rather how that information can be applied to their individual situation. 

Gamified Content

One of the best ways to turn content into an experience is by making it a game. Examples of this include playable game ads or interactive worlds. 

You’re not confined to just these buckets, either. Interactive content is limited only by your imagination.

Interactive Content Examples from Real Brands

Each industry poses its own obstacles and unique characteristics, but share one common denominator: Interactive content works for all topics and audiences.

1. HubSpot’s Website Grader

hubspot-website-grader

This personalized web experience allows users to type in their website and receive a detailed analysis based on different criteria. By pointing out specific pain points and providing actionable tips, the content turns into a lead-generator, getting the conversation between HubSpot and potential users started.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Personalization is key for building relationships with your audience. Pointing out opportunities for improvement and growth in an interactive way increases the trust your readers have that your brand is an expert in this topic and industry, which is easily done through interactivity. Think: “Show, don’t tell.

2. The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal Interactive Content on Venture-Backed Private Companies

Delivering a large amount of information is a challenge for content creators. This example from the Wall Street Journal does so using searchable, visual stats. The facts are arranged in a number of ways, including a recorded timeline for readers to hit “play” and simply watch.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Search is an interactive action on its own and can be easily incorporated into your content. Using search provides readers with a task to keep them engaged while presenting a healthy amount of information in a positive manner. Adding search options very much depends on the content you create, but tools like FlippingBook and Viostream make even PDF and video content searchable.

3. National Geographic

National Geographic Virtual Tour

Some of the most inspiring forms of interactive content match the topics they address. This example allows readers to follow the ancient cave paintings as if they are touring a prehistoric cave, with color-coded topics to provide insights.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Making history come to life can be a hard task. Don’t shy away from numbers and important facts, but don’t skimp on the imagery and engagement, either. Leave the canvas clear for creative imagery and video, while the text wraps the visuals but does not interfere.

4. Information is Beautiful

Movie Trivia Interactive Content

Viewers love trivia about their favorite movies, and this is a visually appealing way to serve it to them. Breaking the movie down into specific scenes clarifies which parts are based on a true story, while color-coding gives readers a broader overview.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? For a more holistic reading experience, allow readers to go back-and-forth between the small details and the big picture.  

 5. CNBC

Interactive Video of Millennial Jobs

Adapting listicles to the age of video can be done by dividing a lengthy clip into Video Snaps. Each snap can be edited from a different video, and is assigned a customized title and color. Once viewed, readers can share the snap (or in this case, perhaps the side job) they enjoyed most on their social channels, or the entire article.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Instead of including full-length videos, cut to the chase (literally) and only include the parts that are truly instrumental to your message. Gone are the days of “skip to 1:32 to view this” video content.

6. The Solutions Project

The Solutions Project Interactive Map

This interactive map presents data when hovering over specific states, and dives into the stats after clicking. This makes information that much more accessible, and gives readers the option to discover more, if they choose to do so.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? For presenting a geographic distribution of data, create a interactive map to help readers visualize the topic. Check out free tools like Mapme and MapMaker Interactive to create your own. Using icons and uplifting design elements makes complicated topics seem more digestible.

7. Crown Courtroom

Crown Courtroom Gamified Lesson

This interactive animation aims (and succeeds) at educating readers about a potentially intimidating experience in a friendly, gamified and comprehensible way. Viewers can choose a character to represent them in a mock courtroom and learn about various court-related situations.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? Simplify complex topics for readers with a combination of gamification and snackable insights. Animate a relevant scenario and personalize the content by allowing the reader to customize their own “character.”

8. Robbi Leonardi

Gamified Resume

What better way to demonstrate interactive design skills than by crafting a brilliantly designed, interactive CV? Designer Robby Leonardi made some noise with his groundbreaking approach to job hunting, creating an animated “game” where his skills and experience are the main components.

How can you incorporate this into your content marketing? If you happen to be looking for your next adventure, Leonardi should inspire you to be creative and daring. If not, notice the clever use of animation and the consistent narrative that ties images and text together. To add animation to your content, try these free tools: PowToon and Animaker.

How to Get Started with Interactive Storytelling

If you’re new to creating digital content, start small with a simple quiz or interactive infographic. These assets perform well at the top of the funnel because they motivate the user to share and see how their peers stack up against their own experience. 

When it’s time to build something more sophisticated, consider working with a developer to determine how to build the user experience and interactive elements you’re looking for.

Experiment with new formats, topics, and which stage in the buyer’s journey your content serves. That means release early and often so you’re consistently collecting feedback and iterating on your interactive content.

Blog - Content Mapping Template

Originally published Jun 9, 2020 2:00:00 PM, updated June 09 2020

Topics:

Content Types

The Ins and Outs of Writing Long-Form Content

Let’s talk about content.

More specifically, long-form content.

Not only that, but why it’s a good idea to have on your website.

Let’s say you’re looking for a resource about how to start an online business. You want a full rundown, concrete information, and actionable tips that will assist you begin a successful company. You’re probably going to want a lengthy resource that’s valuable, right?

This is the glory of long-form writing. It gives you a chance to provide highly motivated readers with a ton of value and context. Long-form content generally has a word count of more than 1,000 words — so, it’s not the shortest read.

→ Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

That doesn’t mean that short-form content isn’t useful for your website. You should have both to serve different purposes. Let’s take a minute to look at how.

Long-Form Content

On the surface, long-form content doesn’t sound like it’s great for user engagement. It might seem counterintuitive to give your audience more to read in order to keep them on your website longer. But it’s true, and I’m going to dive into why below.

I’m here, however, to debunk that myth. Let’s add a definition to the term, first.

The purpose of long-form content is to provide valuable information to the reader. If you write long-form pieces — and make sure those articles are useful to your audience — you can increase the time spent on your site and value to your reader.

More than that, if you optimize your website for search engines and add calls-to-action in the body of your piece, you can improve lead generation. Your articles will have a higher chance of showing up on the first page of SERPs, and you can guide readers to offers that relate to the topic of your work.

Sounds pretty great, right?

But wait — if there’s content that’s long-form, there has to be a short version, right? It’s important to know the difference between the two so you know how to best serve your audience.

Long-form content vs. short-form content

Short-form content can be extremely helpful to readers who want a quick answer to their queries. For instance, you can offer short-form content to provide a simple definition or explain a product in small portions. Short-form content gives your reader the information fast so their attention doesn’t wane.

This type of shorter writing is generally under 1,000 words. It provides a general overview and saves readers time. Long-form content, on the other hand, goes deeper into topics.

In addition to diving deeper into topics, long-form content can aid with ranking highly on search engines and build your website’s reputation.

For example, this article, about how to write a blog post, has earned thousands of views. Additionally, the average time spent on the page is about four minutes. From these metrics, we can guess that this 17-minute read, well over 1,000 words, was successful in providing value to the reader.

This doesn’t mean that you should fill your blog with 17-minute reads. But it can be useful to start thinking of how long-form content can be effective for your audience. How can you provide ample writing that’s actionable for readers?

If you build an archive of long-form content that’s valuable for readers, you can create a reputation as a source people look to first to help them solve their questions. It’s kind of like ordering a product online. You’re probably more likely to order from a site you’ve used many times before, that has proved to be reputable, instead of trying out a brand new ecommerce option.

Let’s look at another reason why long-form, valuable writing is successful: page rank on Google. Backlinko found that websites with a high “time on site” are more likely to rank highly on search engine results pages (SERPs).

When a search query is typed into Google, the search engine crawls websites for content that will help solve that user’s query. Web pages that have a longer time spent on site than others suggest to Google that browsers found that information important enough to stay on that page.

As a result, Google is more likely to suggest that page above others. (Don’t forget that a page optimized for SEO is also a huge boost to improving rank).

So now you know why long-form content is important to have on your site: It provides values to readers, can earn you a reputable reputation, and brings more eyes to your site. But what does successful long-form content look like? Let’s take a look at some examples.

Long-Form Content Examples

Before we talk about how to write long-form content, let’s look at some effective examples. These examples show how long-form content can be optimized for the reader’s comprehension.

1. Hayley Williams Isn’t Afraid Anymore by Rolling Stone

This long-form profile about solo artist Hayley Wiliams, written by Brittany Spanos for Rolling Stone, does a great job of performing other content produced by Rolling Stone about the same topic, or those that are similar.

Within the profile, other works previously done by Williams or her rock band, Paramore, are featured and hyperlinked to previous RS articles that are applicable. For instance, the word “Paramore” was hyperlinked to an internal tag of the same name, showing all previous RS posts that mentioned the band.

A particularly intriguing mention of past works related to the topic, Williams, comes up in the sidebar of the feature. There, you can find previous music reviews of the singer/songwriter’s releases. This is a visual way to promote past content, and one that catches the attention of readers.

How Rolling Stone includes relevant content in long-form articles

Image Source

If you want to include other works in your long-form content that relate to the article, consider an approach similar to this one. You’ll give the reader a break from reading the piece to queue up similar posts for later. Additionally, you’ll provide more value to the article by offering up supporting ideas.

2. Getting Started with Google Remarketing Ads by Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a marketing software platform. This post is a guide to navigating setting up Google Remarketing Ads. Complete guides about a topic that pertains to your industry are a wonderful example of a long-form content piece that you can add to your blog.

What’s great about this article is that it shows off a table of contents, different languages to read in, and social sharing options.

How Mailchimp utilizes personalization elements in long-form content.

Image Source

Adding in a table of contents helps the reader easily navigate through a longer piece if they are only interested in one section. And international readers are able to read in their native language with the opportunity to translate the text.

3. Delivering Emails with Litmus by Litmus

This long-form content is a transcription of a podcast episode that was embedded into the post. I get it: Even with software available, it’s taxing work to do a transcription. Even this short, 18-minute episode was not an easy feat to transpose.

Litmus transcription of a podcast episode as an example of long-form writing.

Image Source

However, if you create YouTube videos or podcasts, a transcription can make your audio/video content accessible to audience members who are hearing impaired.

If for some reason, the embed of the audio file doesn’t work or a quote doesn’t come through clearly, the non-hearing impaired listeners can identify what was said without having to mentally fill in the blanks. I would find a transcription helpful if I were writing an article and wanted to pull a quote, or if I wanted directions on how to use software and didn’t want to keep rewinding.

4. 77 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2020 by HubSpot

Data is great material for a long-form post, like this one from HubSpot. This post is classified as a long read, but because the statistics included are short and formatted in a comprehensible way, readers are able to get through the post easily.

HubSpot long-form content that utilizes sectioning-off important items.

Image Source

When you section off stats, for instance, “General Social Media Marketing Statistics,” and “Facebook Statistics,” you make it easier for readers to jump to the section they’re looking for. Additionally, the words are sectioned off for organization.

Now that you’ve seen some examples, you’re probably stoked to get started writing your long-form content. Before you do, take a look at the tips below to make sure your work is actionable, comprehensive, and accessible.

How to Write Long-Form Content

Outside of concrete grammar rules, like subjects and predicates, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write. That said, there are ways to create content that’s digestible and useful to readers. I’m going to be referencing using HubSpot, but feel free to use similar software to format your post.

1. Form your paragraphs in comprehensible sections.

When you sit down to write your long-form piece, take note of paragraph structure. To optimize your piece for readability, keep paragraphs short. Ideally, paragraphs shouldn’t be longer than three sentences, unless it makes sense to add more.

Let’s talk about that exception. If you’re writing a paragraph where the impact is best presented in rhetorical questions, for example, it might look better to keep those questions in the same section.

Does the paragraph have an effect on the reader? Do you effectively get your point across? How will you use paragraphs to make content digestible? Are you pulling the reader in with your formatting?

In some cases, it’s alright to ignore the three-sentence rule if, like above, each sentence flows together. Adding an entire new paragraph just to fit that extra question doesn’t provide the same effect and does little for formatting.

2. Section off your main ideas.

Headers are your friends. H2s, H3s, and H4s can be found in almost every writing tool, such as Docs, Word, WordPress, HubSpot, and other software programs. Headers help you guide the reader through the main ideas of your piece by breaking off your content into sections.

For instance, in this piece, the main idea of this section is “How to Write Long-form Content,” so I made it the H2, which is generally used for titles and main ideas. The list items underneath this section are formatted into H3s, which support that main idea. If I were to add subsections underneath any of these list items, they would be H4s.

Headers split up long sections of your text and assist with organization. If this piece lacked these items, it would be pretty difficult to navigate. Additionally, when I’m outlining a long-form post, planning headers in advance supports me in writing effective content — I can visualize what I need to add to make each portion effective.

3. Make sure your thoughts are organized.

It’s crucial for long-form content to make sense. So, before you press “publish,” read over your piece for organization. Ask yourself if your piece has a beginning, middle, and ending that readers can follow.

Your sections should have a logical format. For example, in this piece, I wouldn’t have jumped into providing steps to writing long-form content without first explaining the definition. Think about if Cinderella started with the royal wedding, then circled back to Cinderella cleaning the house — that wouldn’t make much sense.

Readers could get confused if your work isn’t organized in a logical way, so be mindful of formatting.

4. Describe the ‘so what?’ of each section.

Long-form content has an added difficulty of keeping readers engaged throughout the piece. To combat this, make every paragraph count. This will do two things: Avoid unnecessary added length, and keep readers compelled.

When you write a longer piece, you don’t need to add extra information that doesn’t serve the purpose of the post. This can lead to convoluted, intricate paragraphs or sections that don’t make much sense.

To keep readers interested, get to the point. End sections with why the readers should care. This ensures they get the most out of your article.

5. Keep a conversational tone throughout your piece.

This tip circles back to keeping the attention of viewers. Instead of taking an extremely formal tone, it’s okay to lighten up a little. In college, whenever I read academic textbooks, it was hard to keep my focus. The highly technical language couldn’t keep my interest.

Unless your article is an academic journal, you don’t have to use complicated language to seem like an expert on your topic. If you give well, researched, thoughtful, and actionable content, readers will find your post useful. Trying to sound “too” formal could actually have the negative effect and leave your readers feeling like they don’t have any takeaways.

6. Hook the reader with an engaging introduction.

Depending on the platform you use to post your long-form article, the estimated read time is given to the reader. For instance, on the HubSpot Blog, when you click on an article, you can see the read time underneath the title.

Some people might see that read time and immediately feel compelled to skim, especially if it’s something like 18 minutes. To hook the reader, make your introduction something that grabs their attention.

One of my colleagues is great at this — he will present an anecdote in the beginning of the piece and continues to use that anecdote to illustrate points throughout the rest of the article. It leads to gripping posts I’m sad to finish.

If you can’t think of a story or life experience to use to pull the reader in, give a relevant statistic in the above-the-fold information. What you present above the fold is what’s going to make that reader think, “Oh, I have to keep going!”

7. Add visuals to break up long sections of text.

In addition to breaking up long sections with short paragraphs and headers, eye-catching visuals are another way to break up long sections and keep the reader engaged. Personally, if I’m skimming an article and see a picture or graph included, I’m immediately drawn back into the piece.

You don’t always have to use images or videos. Blockquotes and anchor text are also amazing tools. Blockquotes are those huge quotes you see highlighted in articles, and anchor text directs your reader back to sections you reference earlier in the piece.

Generally, you can find these tools within the software you’re using. In HubSpot, blockquotes can be added by going to the header tab, and anchor text can be found by opening the “Insert” category.

Remember to have fun with your long-form content. Writing is a creative process, and readers can tell when something was a drag to write (It’s probably a drag to read).

Long-form writing has its own advantages over short-form content, even though the latter might be the quickest way to beef up your archive. It’s so valuable to have longer pieces on your site, and readers will definitely find them useful.

Originally published Jun 9, 2020 4:00:00 AM, updated June 09 2020

Topics:

Content Types

How To Master Writing Advertorials

I’m a huge fan of food magazine Bon Appetit. I love the brand’s voice, messaging, and content, so when I found the corresponding YouTube channel for the publication last year, I was immediately sold.

When you dive into Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel, you’ll find a cast of chefs. They either host their own show, make a recipe video, or both. For instance, my favorite Bon Appetit chef, Carla Lalli Music, hosts “Back to Back Chef” on the channel, but also has a few recipe videos.

Recently, I went to browse the official website to purchase merchandise. (Hey, I have to represent my favorites!) What I found, in addition to the merchandise, was one of Music’s recipe videos for ragu, using a specific brand of sauce from Barilla:

“So, cool,” I thought to myself. “Even though this is an advertorial, I love the content, so I’ll keep watching.”

→ Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

An advertorial is, like the name suggests, an advertisement. But they are unique in their own way. Let’s define what an advertorial is, and how it can be an excellent marketing choice for you and your team.

A good advertorial doesn’t clearly state that an advertiser made the post in the copy, but it also doesn’t hide that fact. An advertorial should provide the same high-quality content as a blog post or video, but give a spotlight to the product being advertised.

For example, let’s say I’m on the marketing team for a company that offers social media services, and I’m in charge of writing an advertorial. I might write a listicle that talks about the top social media tools in the marketing industry, and include my company’s software somewhere in the list.

This approach accomplishes promoting my company’s services, but also provides valuable information to readers about other tools, like an editorial piece. Advertorials can be used as a valuable marketing technique for visibility and conversion, so let’s explore that, next.

Benefits of Advertorial Marketing

When you use an advertorial, you’re using a marketing technique that’s often used for brand exposure, conversion, and lead generation. In this section, we’re going to talk about how.

1. You can convert leads.

First, if you have blog post ideas that relate to your industry, you might consider sourcing out a publication that is interested in advertorials for your industry. For instance, if you run an ecommerce technology business, a publication like The New Yorker might not be a viable option — instead, you might want to consider a publication like TechCrunch, which specializes in all things technology and commerce.

Your advertorial would be shown to audiences that are the most interested in your industry, so you can increase exposure to the right audiences. You might be able to convert quite a few leads from this method.

2. Advertorials build brand awareness.

Next, let’s say you want to build brand awareness with paid ads, but are looking to advance your efforts past social media or TV ads. An advertorial might be a good alternative. The post, unlike ads, is paid for less often, but has the potential to be found by readers long after the publish date.

For instance, let’s say you pay for an advertorial tomorrow. Generally, you won’t have to keep paying to boost the visibility of your ad, like you would have to with other ads. You can earn organic traffic continuously with an advertorial.

3. Retarget your existing customers.

Lastly, if you’re thinking about advertorial marketing, think about how you can retarget your advertorial on your end. When the advertorial is posted, how can you fit it into your content plan to provide value to your existing customers?

Maybe your advertorial is a filmed interview with an industry thought leader, and your customers respond really well to video. You can post the advertorial on your social media accounts, and boost the fact that you partnered with a publication to bring a new video to your audience.

Similarly, you can embed the advertorial into your email list. Your email subscribers are likely devoted customers, so sharing the post with that audience is most likely going to earn you some traffic.

Encouraging your customers to share the post on social media and tag your company is a great way to increase brand awareness online, promote your advertorial, and gain user-generated content from your audience. User-generated content is a fantastic content idea that gives a voice to satisfied customers to market your product from their point of view.

Does all of this sound like an opportunity that can’t be missed? If your answer is, “Of course!”, you’re probably wondering what goes into an advertorial to make them stunning. So, let’s talk about writing an advertorial, next.

Advertorial vs. Editorial

Including company software among a listicle is just one of the ways to write a successful advertorial. Just like there are multiple ways to market products, there’s multiple ways to create an advertorial.

Ultimately, how you structure your advertorial is dependent on the brand voices of your company and the publication for which you’re writing.

If your brand voice is more formal, but you’re writing for a publication like BuzzFeed, which is known for its less-formal tone, blend the two harmoniously so your advertorial can speak to both audiences. (Alternatively, perhaps your target audience for this campaign supports a change of tone, which is 100% okay).

To make sure you write an effective advertorial that doesn’t sound too much like a blog post or too much like an ad, we’re going to analyze what makes editorial content, like a blog post or product page, vs. what makes an advertorial. These tips will help guide your writing process.

1. Write for value, not to promote.

Your advertorial should include valuable copy. You don’t need to write a blatant ad for your product or company. Instead, advertorials should take the tone of a blog post.

Blog posts are meant to provide information that audiences can find value from. So, when you sit down to create the concept of your advertorial, think about how you can serve your target audience with educational content, first.

Maybe your campaign goal is to increase visibility of your new product. If that’s the case, think of writing a listicle that mentions competitive products and include yours at the top. This provides valuable information to audiences you’re interested in, as well as the other way around.

2. Stick to what your title says.

When your advertorial pitch gets accepted by a publication, or after you’ve written a draft, read it for continuity: Does your advertorial accomplish what you said it would in the title?

For instance, if your post title is, “Marketing Tips for a Team of One,” but you spend the advertorial talking about how wonderful your marketing agency is at building brand awareness, your post is going to sound more like a product page.

It’s important you align the information in your article with your title, so readers know what they’re getting into when they read the title of your advertorial. Additionally, you won’t lose credibility for false advertising, and you can be sure you’re serving your audience.

3. Solve for the customer.

Serving audiences should be one of your top priorities with an advertorial. Yes, advertorials help your company out, but ultimately, solving for the customer generates new ones.

Advertorials aren’t a chance for you to shout out how your company solves all of the challenges presented in your advertorial. Instead, this is a chance for you to reach a new audience with high-quality content.

If you want to place an ad for your company in tandem with an advertorial, discuss the possibility with the publisher. You may be able to purchase ad space that will separate the purposes of your content.

4. Inspire action.

Remember, your advertorial should still be some sort of an advertisement, even if it’s not as visible as others. And, with all ads, you should inspire action by the end of the post.

Instead of including a huge, shiny CTA button that looks amazing on your product pages, weave action into the narrative of your advertorial. For example, if you are going to write one about your latest data report, include a link to read it, or a screenshot of a compelling part of the report that links to the content offer for it.

Similarly, you can make an interactive advertorial, like a quiz, that tests your readers’ knowledge about the subject, then provide a resource where they can learn more about the subject by accessing one of your offers.

5. Avoid only talking about your company.

This is a huge rule of thumb. To ensure your advertorial doesn’t take the form of a long-form ad, avoid only talking about your company in the advertorial.

It’s common to think that this point only applies to listicles, but it’s something to think about regardless of the type of advertorial you’re writing. Even if your content includes a quiz, you can have a couple of the questions mention competitors, and how they fit into the lives of your customers.

Similarly, if you’re writing a “How-to” guide, when you include your company as a resource, be sure to mention another option or two. To diversify your content, add value to the reader, and show your knowledge of the industry, mentioning other brands in the post is key.

6. Delight your readers with exceptional content.

If you’re writing an advertorial, it’s a good chance to try something new to delight your customers — for instance, maybe include animations instead of photos, emojis instead of text, or even a different style of writing that’s different from your typical brand voice.

The chance to participate in something new will engage with those leads. If  you’re writing for the needs of your audience, you want them to feel like their experience reading your advertorial was a delightful one.

You can also try out some new optimization techniques. Maybe you create a content offer that’s specific to a campaign. You can experiment here, and cater to new leads with your piece.

Now that you have some tips about how to create an advertorial, let’s go over some examples you can refer to if you get stuck writing, formatting, or finalizing your post.

Advertorial Examples

If you’re wondering about the effectiveness of your advertorial, we’re going check out these examples to get an idea of how to make one that’s incredible.

1. Cole Haan x Forbes

Forbes runs a series on their website called BrandVoice, which is a series dedicated to expert advice from marketers. This BrandVoice in particular is an advertorial from footwear company, Cole Haan, about exploring creativity:Cole Haan Advertorial Forbes

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At the top of this post is a banner ad for Cole Haan. Putting this ad at the top of the post, rather than the body, reinforces that the post is an advertisement, but doesn’t make the copy suffer for it.This advertorial supports balancing your mind, and moving productively inside your home. While the post itself doesn’t mention the words “Cole Haan,” or promote the company’s products, the content still relates to the concept of moving your feet, which aligns with what the company sells.

If you want your advertorial copy to be a little more low-key, but still include an advertisement for your post somewhere on the webpage, think about adding in a paid ad, similar to Cole Haan’s.

2. Sapphire x Thrillist

Sapphire is a credit card rewards card offered by Chase Bank. Cardholders can earn points and rewards based on how much they spend at restaurants using the card. This advertorial gives a spotlight to must-try restaurants, in efforts to get readers thinking about how to use the Sapphire card:Thrillist x Sapphire advertorial

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This advertorial shows how a listicle doesn’t need to include your product to be successful. Instead, you can write about keywords that reflect your company or industry. As long as the advertorial supports your company in some way, it’s still effective.What’s great about this advertorial is that it takes an intriguing angle. Diving into restaurants that offer unique and futuristic food is an exciting topic. And, in keeping in line with Thrillist’s laid-back, friendly brand voice, the post’s language isn’t as formal.

3. Captain Morgan x BuzzFeed

Similar to the last example, this advertorial for Captain Morgan, an alcohol company, is a listicle from BuzzFeed Germany (Non-native speakers have the option to translate the page). What’s not similar to the last example is that this advertorial mentions the company and its products by name. Even so, this advertorial provides valuable information to the reader, so the advertorial is still effective.

The advertorial’s structure and copy make it an engaging, helpful read, even though it mentions the product more than once. It contains drink recipes that you can make at home, along with pictures to use as a guide:Captain Morgan Advertorial on BuzzFeed

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Recipes, along with guided pictures and ingredients, accomplishes two things. First, it gives plenty of ideas for fans of Captain Morgan, who may already have the products mentioned, but need inspiration for what to do with it. A simple Google query like “recipes with Captain Morgan” would bring the fan to this BuzzFeed advertorial.

This post can also catch the eyes of readers who want simple rum recipes to try out and need inspiration. It gives enough recipe variations to spark inspiration, and capitalizes on the seasonality, since this post went up during a summer month.

4. Love Beauty Planet x The New York Times

Sustainability is a big focus for beauty company, Love Beauty Planet. One of the company’s values is to produce their products ethically and with recycled materials to reduce their carbon footprint. This emphasis on going green is the focus for the company’s advertorial that was featured in The New York Times:Love Beauty and Planet Advertorial

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Creating an advertorial that’s a little more interactive than a text-only blog post is a strategy you could use to make your advertorial more engaging. If your quiz is shorter, like Love Beauty Planet’s, you can provide valuable, actionable takeaways at the end, to keep your brand in the reader’s mind as they implement the tips.This editorial is an interactive one, which first quizzes the reader’s knowledge of recycling and reducing waste. After answering the five questions, the post shares small things readers can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

5. PwC and RYOT Studio x The Huffington Post

For this advertorial, two companies collaborated to make a paid post that mixed copy with video. PwC and RYOT Studio worked together to produce an entry in PwC’s new series for diversity and inclusion for CEOs. The company offers business solutions for customers, so the angle keeps consistent with PwC’s industry:

RYOT Studio x HuffPost Advertorial

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What this advertorial does really well is provide readers with a video to go along with the blog post. The video presents the content really well, so those who don’t usually enjoy interacting with long-form content don’t have to read as much.HuffPost advertorial

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If you have a video that tells the story of your company really well, and want to build some brand awareness, consider submitting it along with a couple of paragraphs of supporting copy for an advertorial. It can expose your company to a new audience, and be awesome for generating leads.

Now, you know how to spot an advertorial and even write one of your own. Advertorials can spice up your content marketing strategy and bring a community of new audience members to your brand, so make sure to put your best foot forward, and good luck!

How to Write a Case Study: Bookmarkable Guide & Template

Earning the trust of prospective customers can be a struggle. Before you can even begin to expect to earn their business, you need to demonstrate your ability to deliver on what your product or service promises.

Writing a case study is a great way to do that.

Sure, you could say that you’re great at X, or that you’re way ahead of the competition when it comes to Y. But at the end of the day, what you really need to win new business is cold, hard proof.

One of the best ways to prove your worth is through a compelling case study.

Download our free case study templates here to help you display your company's success.

Below, I’ll walk you through what a case study is, how to prepare for writing one, what you need to include in it, and how it can be an effective tactic. To jump to different areas of this post, click on the links below to automatically scroll.

What is a case study?

How to Write a Case Study

How to Format a Case Study

Business Case Study Examples

Showcasing Your Work

What Is a case study?

A case study examines a person’s or business’s specific challenge or goal, and how they solved for it. Case studies can vary greatly in length and focus on a number of details related to the initial challenge and applied solution.

In professional settings, it’s common for a case study to tell the story of a successful business partnership between a vendor and a client.

Whether it’s a brief snapshot of your client’s health since working with you, or a long success story of the client’s growth, your case study will measure this success using metrics that are agreed upon by the client you’re featuring. Perhaps the success you’re highlighting is in the number of leads your client generated, customers closed, or revenue gained. Any one of these key performance indicators (KPIs) are examples of your company’s services in action.

When done correctly, these examples of your work can chronicle the positive impact your business has on existing or previous customers.

To help you arm your prospects with information they can trust, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to create effective case studies for your business — as well as free case study templates for creating your own. Get them using the form above, and then get creating using the steps below.

1. Determine the case study’s objective.

All business case studies are designed to demonstrate the value of your services, but they can focus on several different client objectives.

Your first step when writing a case study is to determine the objective or goal of the subject you’re featuring. In other words, what will the client have succeeded in doing by the end of the piece?

The client objective you focus on will depend on what you want to prove to your future customers as a result of publishing this case study.

Your case study can focus on one of the following client objectives:

  • Complying with government regulation
  • Lowering business costs
  • Becoming profitable
  • Generating more leads
  • Closing on more customers
  • Generating more revenue
  • Expanding into a new market
  • Becoming more sustainable or energy-efficient

2. Establish a case study medium.

Next, you’ll determine the medium in which you’ll create the case study. In other words, how will you tell this story?

Case studies don’t have to be simple, written one-pagers. Using different media in your case study can allow you to promote your final piece on different channels. For example, while a written case study might just live on your website and get featured in a Facebook post, you can post an infographic case study on Pinterest, and a video case study on your YouTube channel.

Here are some different case study mediums to consider:

Written Case Study

Consider writing this case study in the form of an ebook and converting it to a downloadable PDF. Then, gate the PDF behind a landing page and form for readers to fill out before downloading the piece, allowing this case study to generate leads for your business.

Video Case Study

Plan on meeting with the client and shooting an interview. Seeing the subject, in person, talk about the service you provided them can go a long way in the eyes of your potential customers.

Infographic Case Study

Use the long, vertical format of an infographic to tell your success story from top to bottom. As you progress down the infographic, emphasize major KPIs using bigger text and charts that show the successes your client has had since working with you.

Podcast Case Study

Podcasts are a platform for you to have a candid conversation with your client. This type of case study can sound more real and human to your audience — they’ll know the partnership between you and your client was a genuine success.

3. Find the right case study candidate.

Writing about your previous projects requires more than picking a client and telling a story. You need permission, quotes, and a plan. To start, here are a few things to look for in potential candidates.

Product Knowledge

It helps to select a customer who’s well-versed in the logistics of your product or service. That way, he or she can better speak to the value of what you offer in a way that makes sense for future customers.

Remarkable Results

Clients that have seen the best results are going to make the strongest case studies. If their own businesses have seen an exemplary ROI from your product or service, they’re more likely to convey the enthusiasm that you want prospects to feel, too.

One part of this step is to choose clients who have experienced unexpected success from your product or service. When you’ve provided non-traditional customers — in industries that you don’t usually work with, for example — with positive results, it can help to remove doubts from prospects.

Recognizable Names

While small companies can have powerful stories, bigger or more notable brands tend to lend credibility to your own — in some cases, having brand recognition can lead to 24.4X as much growth as companies without it.

Switchers

Customers that came to you after working with a competitor help highlight your competitive advantage, and might even sway decisions in your favor.

4. Contact your candidate for permission to write about them.

To get the case study candidate involved, you have to set the stage for clear and open communication. That means outlining expectations and a timeline right away — not having those is one of the biggest culprits in delayed case study creation.

Most importantly at this point, however, is getting your subject’s approval. When first reaching out to your case study candidate, provide them with the case study’s objective and format — both of which you will have come up with in the first two steps above.

To get this initial permission from your subject, put yourself in their shoes — what would they want out of this case study? Although you’re writing this for your own company’s benefit, your subject is far more interested in the benefit it has for them.

Benefits to Offer Your Case Study Candidate

Here are four potential benefits you can promise your case study candidate to gain their approval.

Brand Exposure

Explain to your subject whom this case study will be exposed to, and how this exposure can help increase their brand awareness both in and beyond their own industry. In the B2B sector, brand awareness can be hard to collect outside one’s own market, making case studies particularly useful to a client looking to expand their name’s reach.

Employee Exposure

Allow your subject to provide quotes with credits back to specific employees. When this is an option to them, their brand isn’t the only thing expanding its reach — their employees can get their name out there, too. This presents your subject with networking and career-development opportunities they might not have otherwise.

Product Discount

This is a more tangible incentive you can offer your case study candidate, especially if they’re a current customer of yours. If they agree to be your subject, offer them a product discount — or free trial of another product — as a thank-you for their help creating your case study.

Backlinks and Website Traffic

Here’s a benefit that is sure to resonate with your subject’s marketing team: If you publish your case study to your website, and your study links back to your subject’s website — known as a “backlink” — this small gesture can give them website traffic from visitors who click through to your subject’s website.

Additionally, a backlink from you increases your subject’s page authority in the eyes of Google. This helps them rank more highly in search engine results and collect traffic from readers who are already looking for information about their industry.

5. Draft and send your subject a case study release form.

Once your case study candidate approves of your case study, it’s time to send them a release form.

A case study release form tells you what you’ll need from your chosen subject, like permission to use any brand names and share the project information publicly. Kick off this process with an email that runs through exactly what they can expect from you, as well as what you need from them. To give you an idea of what that might look like, check out this sample email:

Case study permission email template for sending to a client or subject

You might be wondering, “What’s a Case Study Release Form?” or, “What’s a Success Story Letter?” Let’s break those down.

Case Study Release Form

This document can vary, depending on factors like the size of your business, the nature of your work, and what you intend to do with the case studies once they are completed. That said, you should typically aim to include the following in the Case Study Release Form:

  • A clear explanation of why you are creating this case study and how it will be used.
  • A statement defining the information and potentially trademarked information you expect to include about the company — things like names, logos, job titles, and pictures.
  • An explanation of what you expect from the participant, beyond the completion of the case study. For example, is this customer willing to act as a reference or share feedback, and do you have permission to pass contact information along for these purposes?
  • A note about compensation.

Success Story Letter

As noted in the sample email, this document serves as an outline for the entire case study process. Other than a brief explanation of how the customer will benefit from case study participation, you’ll want to be sure to define the following steps in the Success Story Letter.

The Acceptance

First, you’ll need to receive internal approval from the company’s marketing team. Once approved, the Release Form should be signed and returned to you. It’s also a good time to determine a timeline that meets the needs and capabilities of both teams.

The Questionnaire

To ensure that you have a productive interview — which is one of the best ways to collect information for the case study — you’ll want to ask the participant to complete a questionnaire prior to this conversation. That will provide your team with the necessary foundation to organize the interview, and get the most out of it.

The Interview

Once the questionnaire is completed, someone on your team should reach out to the participant to schedule a 30- to 60-minute interview, which should include a series of custom questions related to the customer’s experience with your product or service.

The Draft Review

After the case study is composed, you’ll want to send a draft to the customer, allowing an opportunity to give you feedback and edits.

The Final Approval

Once any necessary edits are completed, send a revised copy of the case study to the customer for final approval.

Once the case study goes live — on your website or elsewhere — it’s best to contact the customer with a link to the page where the case study lives. Don’t be afraid to ask your participants to share these links with their own networks, as it not only demonstrates your ability to deliver positive results, but their impressive growth, as well.

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6. Ensure you’re asking the right questions.

Before you execute the questionnaire and actual interview, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. A strong case study results from being prepared to ask the right questions. What do those look like? Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • What are your goals?
  • What challenges were you experiencing prior to purchasing our product or service?
  • What made our product or service stand out against our competitors?
  • What did your decision-making process look like?
  • How have you benefited from using our product or service? (Where applicable, always ask for data.)

Keep in mind that the questionnaire is designed to help you gain insights into what sort of strong, success-focused questions to ask during the actual interview. And once you get to that stage, we recommend that you follow the “Golden Rule of Interviewing.” Sounds fancy, right? It’s actually quite simple — ask open-ended questions.

If you’re looking to craft a compelling story, “yes” or “no” answers won’t provide the details you need. Focus on questions that invite elaboration, such as, “Can you describe …?” or, “Tell me about …”

In terms of the interview structure, we recommend categorizing the questions and flow into six specific sections that will mirror a successful case study format. Combined, they’ll allow you to gather enough information to put together a rich, comprehensive study. 

Open with the customer’s business.

The goal of this section is to generate a better understanding of the company’s current challenges and goals, and how they fit into the landscape of their industry. Sample questions might include:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many employees do you have?
  • What are some of the objectives of your department at this time?

Cite a problem or pain point.

In order to tell a compelling story, you need context. That helps match the customer’s need with your solution. Sample questions might include:

  • What challenges and objectives led you to look for a solution?
  • What might have happened if you did not identify a solution?
  • Did you explore other solutions prior to this that did not work out? If so, what happened?

Discuss the decision process.

Exploring how the customer arrived at the decision to work with you helps to guide potential customers through their own decision-making processes. Sample questions might include:

  • How did you hear about our product or service?
  • Who was involved in the selection process?
  • What was most important to you when evaluating your options?

Explain how a solution was implemented.

The focus here should be placed on the customer’s experience during the onboarding process. Sample questions might include:

  • How long did it take to get up and running?
  • Did that meet your expectations?
  • Who was involved in the process?

Explain how the solution works.

The goal of this section is to better understand how the customer is using your product or service. Sample questions might include:

  • Is there a particular aspect of the product or service that you rely on most?
  • Who is using the product or service?

End with the results.

In this section, you want to uncover impressive measurable outcomes — the more numbers, the better. Sample questions might include:

  • How is the product or service helping you save time and increase productivity?
  • In what ways does that enhance your competitive advantage?
  • How much have you increased metrics X, Y, and Z?

7. Lay out your case study format.

When it comes time to take all of the information you’ve collected and actually turn it into something, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Where should you start? What should you include? What’s the best way to structure it?

To help you get a handle on this step, it’s important to first understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ways you can present a case study. They can be very visual, which you’ll see in some of the examples we’ve included below, and can sometimes be communicated mostly through video or photos, with a bit of accompanying text.

Whether your case study is primarily written or visual, we recommend focusing on the seven-part outline, below. Note: Even if you do elect to use a visual case study, it should still include all of this information, but presented in its intended format.

  1. Title: Keep it short. Develop a succinct but interesting project name you can give the work you did with your subject.
  2. Subtitle: Use this copy to briefly elaborate on the accomplishment. What was done? The case study itself will explain how you got there.
  3. Executive Summary: A 2-4 sentence summary of the entire story. You’ll want to follow it with 2-3 bullet points that display metrics showcasing success.
  4. About the Subject: An introduction to the person or company you served, which can be pulled from a LinkedIn Business profile or client website.
  5. Challenges and Objectives: A 2-3 paragraph description of the customer’s challenges, prior to using your product or service. This section should also include the goals or objectives the customer set out to achieve.
  6. How Product/Service Helped: A 2-3 paragraph section that describes how your product or service provided a solution to their problem.
  7. Results: A 2-3 paragraph testimonial that proves how your product or service specifically benefited the person or company, and helped achieve its goals. Include numbers to quantify your contributions.
  8. Supporting Visuals or Quotes: Pick one or two powerful quotes that you would feature at the bottom of the sections above, as well as a visual that supports the story you are telling.
  9. Future Plans: Everyone likes an epilogue. Comment on what’s ahead for your case study subject, whether or not those plans involve you.
  10. Call to Action (CTA): Not every case study needs a CTA, but putting a passive one at the end of your case study can encourage your readers to take an action on your website after learning about the work you’ve done.

To help you visualize this case study outline, check out the case study template below, which can also be downloaded here.

Sample case study format shown in a blue case study template

Case study template with sample outline 2

When laying out your case study, focus on conveying the information you’ve gathered in the most clear and concise way possible. Make it easy to scan and comprehend, and be sure to provide an attractive call-to-action at the bottom — that should provide readers an opportunity to learn more about your product or service.

8. Publish and promote your case study.

Once you’ve completed your case study, it’s time to publish and promote it. Some case study formats have pretty obvious promotional outlets — a video case study can go on YouTube, just as an infographic case study can go on Pinterest.

But there are still other ways to publish and promote your case study. Here are a couple of ideas:

Gated Behind a Blog Post

As stated earlier in this article, written case studies make terrific lead-generators if you convert them into a downloadable format, like a PDF. To generate leads from your case study, consider writing a blog post that tells an abbreviated story of your client’s success and asking readers to fill out a form with their name and email address if they’d like to read the rest in your PDF.

Then, promote this blog post on social media, through a Facebook post or a tweet.

Published as a Page on Your Website

As a growing business, you might need to display your case study out in the open to gain the trust of your target audience.

Rather than gating it behind a landing page, publish your case study to its own page on your website, and direct people here from your homepage with a “Case Studies” or “Testimonials” button along your homepage’s top navigation bar.

Business Case Study Examples

You drove the results, made the connect, set the expectations, used the questionnaire to conduct a successful interview, and boiled down your findings into a compelling story. And after all of that, you’re left with a little piece of sales enabling gold — a case study.

To show you what a well-executed final product looks like, have a look at some of these marketing case study examples.

1. “New England Journal of Medicine,” by Corey McPherson Nash

Business case study example on New England Journal of Medicine, by Corey McPherson Nash

When branding and design studio Corey McPherson Nash showcases its work, it makes sense for it to be visual — after all, that’s what they do. So in building the case study for the studio’s work on the New England Journal of Medicine’s integrated advertising campaign — a project that included the goal of promoting the client’s digital presence — Corey McPherson Nash showed its audience what it did, rather than purely telling it.

Notice that the case study does include some light written copy — which includes the major points we’ve suggested — but really lets the visuals do the talking, allowing users to really absorb the studio’s services.

2. “Shopify Uses HubSpot CRM to Transform High Volume Sales Organization,” by HubSpot

Business case study example on Shopify, by HubSpot

What’s interesting about this case study is the way it leads with the customer. This reflects a major HubSpot credo, which is to always solve for the customer first. The copy leads with a brief description of why Shopify uses HubSpot, and is accompanied by a short video and some basic statistics on the company.

Notice that this case study uses mixed-media. Yes, there is a short video, but it’s elaborated upon in the additional text on the page. So, while case studies can use one or the other, don’t be afraid to combine written copy with visuals to emphasize the project’s success.

3. “Designing the Future of Urban Farming,” by IDEO

Business case study example on INFARM, by IDEO

Here’s a design company that knows how to lead with simplicity in its case studies. As soon as the visitor arrives at the page, he or she is greeted with a big, bold photo, and two very simple columns of text — “The Challenge” and “The Outcome.”

Immediately, IDEO has communicated two of the case study’s major pillars. And while that’s great — the company created a solution for vertical farming startup INFARM’s challenge — it doesn’t stop there. As the user scrolls down, those pillars are elaborated upon with comprehensive (but not overwhelming) copy that outlines what that process looked like, replete with quotes and additional visuals.

4. “Secure Wi-Fi Wins Big for Tournament,” by WatchGuard

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Then, there are the cases when visuals can tell almost the entire story — when executed correctly. Network security provider WatchGuard is able to do that through this video, which tells the story of how its services enhanced the attendee and vendor experience at the Windmill Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

5. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Boosts Social Media Engagement and Brand Awareness with HubSpot

HubSpot-Rock-and-Roll-Hall-Of-Fame-Case-StudyIn the case study above, HubSpot uses photos, videos, screenshots, and helpful stats to tell the story of how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame used the bot, CRM, and social media tools to gain brand awareness. 

6. Small Desk Plant Business Ups Sales by 30% With Trello

Trello-small-business-case-study

This case study from Trello is straight forward and easy to understand. It begins by explaining the background of the company that decided to use it, what their goals were, and how they planned to use Trello to help them.

It then goes on to discuss how the software was implemented and what tasks and teams benefited from it. Towards the end, it explains the sales results that came from implementing the software and includes quotes from decision-makers at the company that implemented it. 

7. Facebook’s Mercedes Benz Success Story

Facebook’s Success Stories page hosts a number of well-designed and easy-to-understand case studies that visually and editorially get to the bottom line quickly. 

Each study begins with key stats that draw the reader in. Then it’s organized by highlighting a problem or goal in the introduction, the process the company took to reach their goals, and the results. Then, at the end, Facebook notes the tools used in the case study.

Facebook-Mercedes-Benz-Case-Study

Showcasing Your Work

You work hard at what you do. Now, it’s time to show it to the world — and, perhaps more important, to potential customers.

But before you show off the projects that make you the proudest, make sure you follow the important steps that will help ensure that work is effectively communicated, and leaves all parties feeling good about it.

Want to learn as you write your case study? Listen to an audio summary of this post below.

For an easy way to get started, grab your free case study template below, and go create a case study that makes your subject proud of their success.

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in February 2017 but was updated for comprehensiveness and freshness in February 2020.

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