Peer-to-peer influence and third-party validation has always been critical to building client trust. Nearly 70 per cent of buyers “give the most credence to peer reviews” and, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 report, case studies are the second most effective content tactic for B2B marketers. Real-world success stories validate your brand from a human perspective. They help prospects empathize with your happiest clients and visualize how your brand can help them solve their problems too. But how do you actually blend an emotive narrative with cold hard data for a compelling story? The key to showing your value proposition in action is positioning your client as the hero.

Your client is always the hero of the story

Case studies can position your business as more than just a vendor. They can frame you as a partner. Develop a client-centric story with measurable metrics. Put your client at the narrative’s heart — as the hero — and show your brand as the Robin to their Batman.

Document your client’s “heroic” journey and their “dynamic duo” relationship with you, by painting a vivid picture of their challenges and detailing how your brand supported them in overcoming each obstacle. Create an inspiring and relatable story that resonates through an emotive and data-driven narrative with actionable insights — from client challenges to strategies, turning points and successes. Think with Google is a marketing research resource which structures case studies around goals, approaches and results. More specifically, their brand marketing case studies are broken down into market and industry insights, based on their clients’ biggest achievements (like Beats by Dre’s online-only Tom Brady #BeHeard campaign during the 2017 Super Bowl).

It’s also important for the clients you interview to understand how sharing their stories will bolster their brand as much as yours. Ultimately, developing quality case studies is about building relationships that are truly reciprocal, from prospects to clients, and equally critical, from clients to brand advocates.

Take a journalistic approach

Before you start looking for cases to share and clients to approach as subjects, carefully profile your ideal prospects and their biggest challenges. You need to tell the right kind of stories based on real market pain points. Moreover, you need to ask questions that focus your client’s perspective on these sorts of problems and their solutions.

According to Erin Brand, managing editor of Content Writers Group, it’s ideal to take a journalistic approach and “interview investigatively.” She explains that asking questions and listening like a journalist can “uncover deeper insights that give a brand nuance.” Conversational research encourages “questions to flow out of the conversation” and opens up “fertile ground for further investigation.” Perhaps most crucially, taking a journalistic approach offers your client a true voice. It “gives stakeholders the chance to share their brand experience in their own way and on their own terms.”

A compelling story comes to life by capturing the emotions that fuel your clients. Brand continues, “The feedback from a voice-of-stakeholder interview should be more than a transcription of words — it should take careful note of the feeling beneath those words.”

An engaging narrative also needs an authentic dose of tension and drama. You should dig for points of stress in the story and “ask your subjects to explore things that may be difficult for them to talk about.” This kind of brand storytelling fully embraces the conflict that your client overcame, all the while you had their back.