A Guide to the 4 Types Of Case Studies

Megan Smith
Published: Mar 05, 2024
Table of Contents
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The four types of case studies have one major thing in common: the power to help you connect with your audience and turn prospects into customers. The trick is to find the approach that fits your primary marketing objectives.

Whether you're new to the genre or an experienced content marketer looking to refine your approach, everyone can use more information and inspiration. We'll review some case study examples, best practices, and the most common formats — everything you need to unlock the full potential of marketing case studies for your company.

What Are Case Studies in Marketing?

Case studies are real-life success stories that showcase how your product or service has helped your customers overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

These narrative-driven pieces often center around a single instance or scenario. A compelling case study turns its examination into a story, detailing the problem, solution, and outcome.

Customer stories are powerful testimonials that demonstrate the value of a company's offerings in a tangible and relatable way. They allow a reader to share in the subject's triumphs and visualize the potential benefits your brand can offer their company.

What Can Marketing Case Studies Do for Businesses?

While traditional marketing tools like brochures, advertisements, or sales pitches focus on promoting the features and benefits of a product or service, case studies go one step further by showing these offerings in action.

Real-life examples spotlight your effectiveness in a way that abstract descriptions or promises cannot. They also help clients understand potentially complex offerings outside of their areas of expertise.

Build Trust and Credibility

In 2022, an international survey revealed that 60% of online consumers ranked trustworthiness and transparency as a brand's most important traits.

Case studies contribute to building trust because they are authentic. They revolve around real experiences and present a balanced narrative, presenting the challenges and setbacks as well as the solutions.

Readers tend to find case studies more engaging and credible than overtly promotional marketing content. By making the customer the protagonist of the piece and telling their journey, you also show prospects that you're not solely interested in selling to them. You're committed to solving their pain points.

Demonstrate Expertise

Certain types of case studies, particularly explanatory narratives, are an excellent platform to show off your hard-won expertise. They allow you to demonstrate your understanding of your customers' needs, your ability to devise effective solutions, and your skill in implementing these solutions to deliver positive outcomes.

This demonstration of knowledge and competence can position your brand as an expert in your field and help establish you as an industry leader. That's one reason the genre is so popular in business-to-business (B2B) content marketing, where authority is crucial. Case studies are the third most popular type of content, used by 67% of B2B content marketers.  

Inspire and educate your audience with case studies that show why you're the best in the business.

Address Key Issues To Eliminate Bias

Case studies can address potential customer concerns head-on. They offer you a balanced perspective, combating the impression of bias on your part, and allow you to deconstruct customer biases that may be working against you.

For instance, if customers are apprehensive about the complexity of your product, a case study showing its ease of use can help alleviate these concerns. If your price point is higher than your competitors, justify it through the extent of the service provided or the returns generated. If you're newer to the market, show a client that took a chance on you and how that chance was rewarded.

Don't beat around the bush. Address potential issues directly. The goal is to overcome potential reservations and allow readers to envision themselves in the customer's place.

Increase Conversions

Telling a story about your brand in ways that answer customers' questions can influence their ultimate decision and significantly increase conversion rates. Case studies are a form of social proof, the idea that people are swayed by the testimonials of others and the existence of a brand community.

Customer testimonials and stories help both B2B and B2C brands. After all, today's customers are intent on research. Nearly 70% of online shoppers read reviews before committing.

While case studies are less identified with business-to-consumer (B2C) content marketing — only 51% of B2C content marketers use them, making them the sixth most popular type — they still play a vital role. 

Feed Content Marketing Strategies

Case studies are unique, high-quality content that can be used across various channels to enrich your content and engage your audience. You can create blog posts, post on social media, or include them in your newsletters.

For example, a software development firm could use a case study about a successful project to create various pieces of content. They could write a detailed blog post about the project, share key takeaways on social media, develop an infographic highlighting the project's success metrics, and even host a webinar where they discuss the project in-depth.

Your marketing can also use case studies throughout the sales funnel to educate your target audience about brand offerings, demonstrate value, or finally nudge prospects into a decision. They can even improve customer loyalty, reminding current clients why they give you their business.

4 Types of Case Studies With Examples

Different types of case studies have specific focuses and applications. Choose the one that best fits your marketing goal. Who are you trying to reach, and what do they need to hear?

1. Client Success or Client Testimonials

Client testimonials provide third-party validation of your product or service. Reach out to satisfied clients and ask for customer feedback. You can showcase these testimonials in various ways — as quotes within a case study, as stand-alone stories, or as part of a broader narrative.

You can also post key results of a service or product (with permission). How can you quantify their success? B2C brands might show happy customers achieving personal milestones.

B2B brands can publish improvements in key performance indicators or operational efficiency. For example, digital marketing case studies frequently take advantage of the data-rich nature of the field, highlighting improvements in the metrics that matter.

2. Customer Stories

Client testimonials and successes are end-focused. Customer stories show part or all of the journey.

You can find some of the best customer story case-study examples in the field of medicine. People receiving ongoing medical care frequently suffer setbacks on the way to better health, and their ultimate triumphs can be inspiring. These pieces also help providers prove their attention to the person and not just to the medical issue.

St. Jude's Research Hospital treats children with cancer, and its case studies tell the stories of both the children and their families. It offers anxious parents assurance that their kids will receive the best long-term care and presents the hospital as a source of support for the whole family during a difficult time.

No matter what your industry is, you can focus on the human aspect of customer experience to create an emotional connection with prospects, making your brand more relatable and appealing.

3. Product Implementation

In product implementation case studies, the product shares center stage. They focus on the practical application of your product or service. They provide a detailed look at how your offerings work in a real-world context, demonstrating their functionality and effectiveness.

Help people understand how to use what you sell to solve their problems. This is a chance to highlight power features and address any concerns about ease of use.

Fantasy is a company that helps other brands create better digital experiences. They helped New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art redesign its website, and their Met case study is a highly visual article that shows off the site's new features. They focus on the incorporation of different media and new applications for the website as an improved resource for art lovers both at home and on-site.

4. Explanatory

Explanatory case studies are used to explain complex concepts in a simple, understandable manner. By using real-life examples, they make abstract ideas more concrete and relatable.

For example, financial services can follow the lead of Faster Capital's case studies on successful portfolio optimization. The financial field is both vast and jargon-heavy. Faster Capital's studies detail the process of choosing investments, the reasoning behind each decision, and the impact on the client's financial goals. By collecting these results together, Faster Capital shows different paths to success under their guidance.

Effective explanatory case studies break down concepts into manageable parts and use clear language.

What Are the Most Common Case Study Formats?

The most traditional format for a case study is a written article that details a customer's experience and how the brand helped them, but other media forms and channels can also be effective.

A few different case study format ideas:

  • Videos: Videos are highly engaging and allow you to interview customers or tour their facilities. Let people share their experiences in their own words, adding an extra touch of authenticity.
  • Infographics: This format presents case study information visually, making complex data easier to understand. It's excellent for highlighting key statistics or results and makes a great accompaniment to a written piece.
  • Podcasts: If your brand has a podcast, why not interview one of your most successful clients? If you're not sure what to ask, check out this list of case study questions.
  • Before-after pictures: If you have a case that demonstrates a transformation, before-after pictures can be powerful visual evidence of your brand's impact. They are especially relevant for industries such as fitness or home renovation.
  • Webinars: Webinars are a great way to share information and engage with audiences in real time. A webinar case study can include interviews, live demonstrations, and Q&A sessions with customers.

You can also post case studies on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. These posts are often condensed versions of one of the above formats, focusing on the key highlights and results. Social media posts are highly shareable and can reach a broad audience, making them an excellent tool for raising brand awareness and engaging with your audience.

Each of these types of case studies has its advantages and drawbacks. For example, written articles are comprehensive and don't require specialized tools, but they can be time-consuming to read, drawing less engagement. On the other hand, videos are easy to consume but require more resources to produce.

Choose your case study format with an eye on your target audience and resources as well as the case itself. The best answer may require a cross-disciplinary approach. How can you use digital storytelling to weave together your images, numbers, quotes, etc.?

Unlock the Benefits of Marketing Case Studies for Your Company

Case studies are a powerful marketing tool that can help showcase your product's value, build customer trust, and ultimately drive business success. Customer testimonials, customer stories, product implementations, and explanatory studies all have something to offer the savvy content marketer. 

Start by telling the stories that most contribute to your business goals. If your goal is to increase product awareness, focus on case studies that highlight unique features. If you want to build customer trust, prioritize case studies that feature positive customer experiences and testimonials.

Implementing case studies into your marketing strategy doesn't have to be a solo endeavor. Crafting compelling case studies that resonate with your audience requires time, expertise, and resources you might prefer to allocate elsewhere.

That's where Compose.ly comes in. Our team of professional writers specializes in creating impactful case studies tailored to your brand's needs. Learn more about how our case study writing services can transform your customer successes into powerful marketing tools.


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