A helpful walkthrough of case study videos by costs, types, steps, pros and cons
By Tim Cumming and Helen Pain, updated 20 Feb 2021
A case study video tells your story through your clients' eyes. It's proof. It's holy manna.
It's the attention to detail, you see. The nurturing, the love, the extraordinary skill, with which you've delivered your service or product - the story of all of that told credibly.
Harvest case studies affordably. And in quantity. And it's also faster and more convenient. There's really no excuse for not capturing these stories.
Why Use Case Studies
The most rewarding aspect of putting case studies on both your website and social media is the clarity, the independence, and the customers' eye point-of-view, which is so valuable to your would-be buyers. But there's another reason. Face-to-face selling is changing fast, as the 2020 Gartner report on the decline of the sales pipeline shows. The role of marketing is fast absorbing many traditional sales functions.
You can take almost any angle in a case study:
- Transformation story, with its predominant focus on before and after
- Benefits, core and unexpected, with an emphasis on range of impact
- Process story, with a focus on sequence
- Unfolding live story, with a broad view of variety and recent events
- Consequential historic story, with a considered view of strategy and existential consequence
Case studies bring to life the client's experience. They unfold the story of onboarding, transformation, or the core benefits of what you do. They also help you to remind yourself of the good that you do. This is a substantial aspect of case studies because entrepreneurs, owners, founders, even marketers tend to forget the good their firm actually does. It's easy - you're focused on your job, your day-to-day existence. But prospects need to know the good you do.
2021 Pandemic Opportunity
During the pandemic, the easiest way to produce case studies is by filming remotely. Which is cheaper. In fact, the pandemic has created a phenomenal opportunity to harvest case studies affordably. And in quantity. And it's also faster and more convenient. There's really no excuse for not capturing these stories.
Reveal the Good You Do
A case study video typically ranges between £1.5k and £7k for a remotely filmed, two to three minute piece. And between £2k and £10k for an on-site filmed case study. At the bottom end of the scales, you'll find individual videographers who've adapted to online filming but who may know less about story-telling and interviewing. At the top end of the scale, you'll find the cream, and maybe a little pretension too.
What your money will buy
- Low-end: list of compliments, perhaps lower believability, testimonial-feel, audiences bailing earlier
- High-end: rich story, well-researched, compelling flow, looks pro, audiences watching longer
- Goldilocks zone: some new innovators will give you remote-filmed, high-end videos affordably
The difference in price will show in storytelling, research, and a credible look from remote filming. If you want all of those things, you may need to spend middle to upper end. Remember, what you spend is a reflection on how well your story is told, and your brand.
But look hard enough and you may find mid-priced firms that deliver high-end films.
Types of case study video
There are three main kinds of case study. Your choice should reflect the kind of firm you are and the way you like your clients to see you.
- Client shop floor: choose this type if transparency is a priority for you. This format films your client on their premises or at a location suitable to them. They tell their story in words which describe their challenge, their pain and the remedy that your service or product provided. This type of case study works best with an experienced interviewer that understands dramatic story-telling, and can settle the client quickly to reveal rich story points that they would normally cautiously mask.
- Your shop floor: choose this type of case study if taking clients behind the scenes is most important for you. Or if quantity and speed is important. You can film up to fifteen of these in a day, in near-broadcast quality. This format films one of your team describing a case study story from the perspective of a well-understood client. These are easier to make, although audiences perceive them to be less authentic. To counter this, you can take an angle - such as framing the videos as insights to process or circumstance, or framing them as an expert/insider point-of-view.
- Hybrid: Choose this type if your prime aim is to demonstrate strong partnership, and budget is less of an issue. This format fims both your team members and the client, and it intercuts them. You finish each others' sentences. A richer, more collaborative story is communicated. The idea is not to embellish your own reputation or blow your own trumpet, but to demonstrate your grip of the client's perspective, adding colour and drama to the client's personal story.
- Perception: choose the emphasis that feels right - (1) for transparency, (2) for convenience or going behind the scenes, or (3) for a strong partnership feel
- Selection: Choose your case studies - ideally one for each sector or sales category you serve
- Marketing list: list out the clients' transforming moments you most want to express for marketing and social audiences, to build wow
- Sales list: list out the ROI gains and typical objections that were most emphatically overcome, to build sales wow
Steps to exploiting case studies
- Recruit two candidate case studies from each ideal market segment - for example small, medium large, or each of your five industry sub-sectors. One candidate may reject you, it's a good idea to have two.
- Approach the client to ask if they mind participating - most clients are flattered. However, if the client refuses, perhaps a key client that you absolutely must have in your portfolio, you can always sweeten the pill by offering to shoot a film for them at the same time (be aware this will add to cost though)
- Respect the story of your client. It's best if you remain totally hands-off, and try not to influence what the client should say. It's so tempting to suggest key moments or features of your service or product that you're proudest of, but often you'll find that you'll get a less authentic story out of it. Once briefed, the production company will manage all of the filming for you.
- Topic-check Check with your film company the kinds of topics the interviewer is intending to ask. Topics are better than actual questions. Because they help the speakers prepare broadly, and not specifically. Once they start rehearsing answers, authenticity is out of the window. Topics should slot into a STAR story (Situation, Task, Actions, Result). This is a structure which is commonly 30-50% more effective at retaining audiences through to the end of the film. It's a classic three-act structure, repurposed for enterprise. It's best told in a 2:1:5:1 structure.
- Publish the case studies on your YouTube or Vimeo channel, embed it on your website, scale and position it wisely, optimise it for SEO, and share it on social media. Or have your video agency do it for you. There are many advantages to doing this and many modern techniques. If you're doing this in-house, you'll need to keep abreast of best practice in order to get maximum return from your video in this area. Outsourcing here will more likely produce a high response.
- Convert the case studies into meetings, demos, prospectuses or sales assets. In other words make sure there's a CTA at the video's end that doens't say 'call us'. So many firms want this, but our CTA research shows the more specific you make the CTA, the higher the response.
The pros of filming your case studies
Filming case studies for each type of buyer provides:
- Proof: they provide proof that you mean what you say and that you deliver to satisfaction
- Reassurance: they reassure prospective clients that you already have clients like them
- Modelling: they reveal the process which helps buyers imagine their own purchase
- Calibration: they show-case the calibre of your work and of the clients you serve
- Empathy: they demonstrate understanding of and empathy with prospects
- ROI: when they're well-made, they deliver good ROI to marketing and sales
The cons of filming case study videos
There are risks to filming case studies:
- Cost: there's always budget to consider - but limiting expense to one case study per market segment (perhaps four or five in total) does keep costs down
- Risk: set your budget too low, and you may get a poor-quality case, that falls well short of extolling your virtues. Choose wisely.
- Effort: there's your time to think about - if you're under the cosh with everything, best to defer, or just hire a good production company.
- Persuasion: in some instances, you may have difficulty persuading showcase clients to participate, however, these can be offset by rewarding the client with filming of their own at the same time.
Already got this covered?
If you already have case study videos and they're not generating response, there's much above that will help you improve their performance. But what would be even better than your current case study videos?
- Cross-check all your case study videos largely follow the above suggestions, or deviate for good reasons
- Ensure you've used on-site CTAs which match your buyer journey moments
- Ensure your social videos, articles and posts have off-site CTA's that match your buyer journey
- Check your case study videos match the messaging your audience needs to hear
- Check viewing behaviours - if audiences aren't watching to the end, revise your video
What's at Risk here? A one-minute test
The risk of doing something wrong always hinders us as decision makers. And equally, the risk of doing nothing lurks behind that too. Both carry the risk of failure. So why not delay - deferring looks safer. Like a Whitehall mandarin. Is that the kind of decision maker you want to be? Thought not. So here's a helpful checklist for wise decision maker inside you that's aching to be heard.
The One-minute Decision Checklist
- Do buyers want to know what you're like?
- Do buyers want proof of your success?
- Should you provide buyers with the information they want?
- Do buyers want a sense of what will happen to them if they buy from you?
- Do buyers need to find you easily via search and social media?
- Do you need to be seen as relevant and modern?
- Choose: compare and choose the stories that makes your business sing
- Cost: select a package that provides good storytelling, research and credibility
- Type: choose the video that properly reflects you, your primary market sectors, and how your clients see you
- Steps: follow the advice above to maximise visibility and SEO optimisation
- Selection: make an informed choice from the pros and cons listed
If the answer to any three of these is yes, you should almost certainly proceed with this. Or at least be questioning why you have so many no's.
Case studies propel you and your clients' experiences into a form of marketing that proves:
Remember the good you do, and have it tell your story to your audiences.
So, now you've considered case study videos, you've moved towards your goal. Time for a chat about success with video?