Use cases and case studies focus on the real-world application of a product or solution, and both are important tools in the B2B content strategist’s toolkit. But don’t confuse them! They are distinctly different content types, and deploying each of them at the right point in the buyer’s journey is crucial to making sure they resonate with your audience.
But how do you choose between them? And what separates a good use case or case study from a really great one? We’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we’ll explain:
- The difference between use cases and case studies
- Where they fit into the buyer’s journey
- How to make these content assets compelling—and use them to build a connected content journey
What Is a Use Case? Definition and Examples
A use case illustrates how a product or solution solves for a particular pain point, customer type, or scenario. It frames the product in terms of the customer’s goals and careabouts, which is a powerful way to highlight its value even when customers aren’t familiar with your company or what it does.
Because of this, use cases are best used at the awareness stage, early in the buyer’s journey. They’re especially useful for search, since customers at this stage are looking for a way to solve their problem (and searching for keywords and phrases related to that problem).
Here’s an example: An IT manager is looking for solutions to enable her company’s employees to use their own devices for work. She may or may not know exactly what kind of product she’s looking for; either way, she doesn’t have a specific provider in mind. Searching for “bring your own device” brings up a product page where that’s listed as a use case, leading her to learn more about that product.
What Is a Case Study? Definition and Examples
A case study (sometimes called a customer story) is a real-world story about how a customer successfully used a product or solution to achieve a goal. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 B2B Content Marketing report, 73 percent of the most successful content marketers used case studies in their content strategy.
A case study is typically much more detailed than a use case, and includes information such as background on the customer, pain points, objectives, how they deployed the product or solution, and the results. Unlike a use case, which is a straightforward explanation of how a product addresses a problem, a case study is driven by storytelling.
Because case studies are so detailed, they belong later in the buyer’s journey, typically at the consideration or decision stage. At this point, customers are looking at how other companies have solved the problem they’re having. They’re looking for evidence—quantifiable data; tangible results—and they’re willing to spend more time on an asset that provides it.
Let’s look at an example. A case study about Salesforce customer ENGIE, a group committed to accelerating the transition to a carbon-neutral world, explores how ENGIE used Salesforce products to unify data and build customer relationships—and does so in great detail. In fact, the entire case study clocks in at nearly 1,700 words, plus a video, pull quotes, and statistic highlights.
How to Make a Use Case or Case Study Great
Despite the obvious differences between them, the key to making your use case or case study great is the same: Focus on the customer’s point of view.
For use cases, this means using search data and other customer research to ensure that your content is targeting problems and pain points that your customers actually have, rather than your internal marketing terms or what you think they should be searching for.
For case studies, this means making the customer the hero of the story. Too many marketers focus on the company or product when writing a case study. It’s true that a customer at the consideration stage is more invested in learning about your product, but what they really want to know is how it can make them successful. Instead of focusing on product features, focus on customer results.
The ENGIE case study above is an excellent example. Salesforce and its products aren’t mentioned until paragraph 6, and throughout the narrative, the focus is squarely on the customer and its achievements.
Use Cases vs. Case Studies in the Content Journey
We’ve highlighted some of the differences between a use case and a case study. But they also have commonalities, which you can use to build a connected content journey. One way to do this is to bring the use cases you’ve identified with search data into your case studies. Although your customer’s product knowledge and attitude toward your company evolves throughout the buyer’s journey, their careabouts and pain points remain the same, and this is a great way to call back to content they may have seen earlier in the buying process and create a cohesive experience.
This can also go in the other direction. A common mistake marketers make is to try to position case studies as an awareness asset. We’ve already discussed why case studies should live at the consideration stage, but what if you’ve got a really compelling case study and want to use it for awareness content? The answer: Take a bite-sized chunk, like a quotation or testimonial, and use it in landing pages, social media banners, and other awareness content. A true case study needs lots of background to be effective (and users don’t want to invest that much time at the awareness stage), but a strong testimonial can grab attention all on its own.
And there you have it: all the information you need to create great use cases and case studies—and to place them where they’ll be most effective in the buyer’s journey. In addition to boosting your content marketing efforts, making the most of your use cases and case studies will help you build the connective tissue that leads to a progressive and holistic content experience.
Talk to Tendo
Tendo’s team of experienced content strategists can provide actionable insights on your content journey and help you create use cases, case studies, and other content assets that stand out from the crowd. Explore our content strategy services or get in touch with our team.
Subscribe for Content Strategy Trends and Guidance
Get our monthly e-newsletter with Tendo’s latest thought leadership and content resources for B2B leaders.