Lead and Demand Generation

Are Case Studies Good for Lead Generation?

Case studies are a must-have marketing asset. They help immensely in the marketing funnel to nurture leads and throughout the sales process. Unfortunately, they are not great for lead generation except in two specific ways.

What makes a good case study?

A standard case study, produced by a company, usually has the following key elements:

  1. Brief description of the organization (provider type, location, size, patient mix)
  2. Clear definition of the problem they were looking to solve
  3. Concise description of the solution and how it was deployed
  4. Accurate (and realistic) benefits the organization has realized
  5. A quote from the organization

Case studies are functional assets and I have rarely found that making them more graphically appealing makes them any more valuable. Keep it simple, make it easy to read and don’t clutter it with too much marketing fluff.

Gating case studies

If someone is interested enough to want to read about how a customer of ours solved their challenge or implemented our solution, I want to know who they are! They must be ready to buy, so why wouldn’t I try to capture their contact info before allowing them to see a case study?

On the surface it sounds like a good argument. However, it ignores a buyer’s journey. There are three specific times in a buying journey when prospects are most likely to want to read a case study: early –  when they are researching how to solve their challenge, middle – when they are preparing a short list of companies that they want to investigate further, and late – when they have already met with your sales team.

Early in a buyer’s journey, they are unsure of what they need and they don’t have a clear idea of what solutions are available.  Buyer’s at this stage use case studies to see if the problem being solved matches their situation. Because they are doing research and don’t know if you’re solution is even a fit, they are not likely willing to give up their contact details just to read your case study. Instead they will simply move on to your competitors until they find a case study that isn’t gated.

In the middle of a typical buyer’s journey, they are looking to create a short list of companies to investigate further. At this stage case studies serve to validate the buyer’s choice. They want to see if a company has solved a similar problem for a similar sized organization. Gating a case study makes it more difficult for them to make this decision and it is far easier to just move on to the next company on their list.

Finally, at the late stage of the buyer’s journey, your internal champion may be looking for case studies to forward to their colleagues and superiors. Here, they have already met with your sales team and are feeling good about your solution but now they need help to gain buy-in to push things forward. They may not want to seem too eager so rather than reach out to their salesperson they go to your website looking for case studies that will help their cause. In this case, a gated case study is an annoyance for your champion and of course you already know this buyer.

In all of these situations, putting your case study behind a form, creates an unnecessary barrier that at best annoys potential buyers, but more likely will drive them to your competitors.

Lose more than you gain

A while ago, I was hired by a company to help them improve their lead generation. During the project, I noticed that they had gated their case studies. Initially, I could not convince senior leadership that this was a bad idea (they believed it was a great source of leads and prevent competitors from downloading their ‘proprietary’ content), even though I pointed to several of their competitors who had case studies freely available.

After a few weeks, I managed to convince them to try an experiment: we ungated their case studies and used a combination of tracking cookies and IP address reverse lookups to determine who was downloading these documents. When we looked at the results after 2 months, the data clearly revealed three things:

  1. The number of downloads was 3x higher than any 2-month period in the prior year
  2. 75% of the downloads were from companies that were already in the sales funnel (ie: the sales team had met with them)
  3. Less than 1% of the downloads had come from identified competitors

Bottom line: the upside of a few new leads is dwarfed by the downside of driving prospects away and annoying prospects already in your pipeline.

Don’t gate your case studies.

Case study as a webinar

So if you shouldn’t gate case studies does that mean they are useless for lead generation? Not necessarily. There are two ways case studies can be leveraged that will generate leads: webinars and earned/paid media articles.

One way to use your case studies to generate leads is to turn them into educational webinars. Prospects enjoy learning from peers and even existing customers find it useful to hear how other organizations are using your solutions.

Making your customer the star of a webinar is a successful formula and when promoted properly can attract new leads. People have to register to attend the webinar (something that is expected) and you will get all their contact details.

Pro tip: Don’t just regurgitate the printed case study. Printed case studies only tell the “happy path” – how everything went perfectly. That makes for a boring webinar. Instead, tell everyone you’re going to talk about a couple of things that went wrong and how you recovered/learned. Don’t be afraid to talk about how some executives weren’t convinced at the beginning and what you had to do to bring them around.

Case study as earned media

Another way to use a case study to generate leads, albeit early stage Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), is to have your customer stories published as articles by a third-party, like a media outlet [Disclosure: HITMC.com is run by Healthcare Scene which is a media outlet].

Media outlets are always on the lookout for interesting stories. If you have a case study that has something unique then shopping it around to media outlets could earn you a placement. But it HAS TO BE unique. Saving an organization $50,000 per year is impressive but hardly unique. Similarly, helping your customer get 500% ROI is amazing, but doesn’t make for an interesting story. Think about it, when was the last time you read a news story about how Microsoft saved someone $1,000,000 a month?

Look across your customers and see if there is one or two that have something unique to the way they have deployed your solution. If you can’t find anything notable, don’t despair, you can always get that customer’s story published as paid content (you write the story or have a professional writer craft it and the media outlet publishes it as a sponsored article).

Case studies are a fantastic market asset and useful in many ways. For lead generation purposes, they aren’t the best, except when turned into webinars and articles.

End Note: Case studies in healthcare are notoriously hard to get from provider organizations. For tactics on how to get case studies approved, check out these HITMC articles:

About the author


Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at HITMC.com. Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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