15 April 2024

Case Study Insights and Trends You Need to Know – with Emily Amos

Updated April 2024: Case studies, customer stories, customer success stories … no matter what you call them, most SaaS marketers agree that these are their most valuable pieces of marketing content. And today we’re going to dig into case study insights.

B2B storytelling is a dynamic, ever-evolving landscape. Keeping on top of the latest trends and innovations is critical to crafting case studies that entice readers and drive sales. 

That’s the topic of this conversation. 

Read on as I’m interviewed by Liz Richardson and Deena Zenyk for Talk Advocacy to Me, a podcast series by customer advocacy consulting firm, Captivate Collective. We discuss the value of customer stories, why they work, the latest trends, and what the future holds (yes, we talk about AI).

I also share first-hand case study insights we’ve gathered through our work with our many customers over the years and through our annual case study survey.

Interview with Emily Amos, Founder and CEO of Uplift Content

Name: Emily Amos
Job title: CEO and founder
Company: Uplift Content
Hometown: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Degrees: BA, Linguistics; MA, Language Teaching

Fun facts about Emily:

⛱️ Vacation you’re dreaming about: European backpacking trip with my 13-year-old son
📺 The show you’re binging right now: Below Deck
👪  You’re a parent to: 2 kids and a golden retriever
🐼 Your favorite animal is: Hedgehog
⛸️ Your top 3 hobbies: Piano, jigsaw puzzles and driving my kids all over hell’s half acre

Liz: Let’s start here: what is encompassed by ‘customer story’? Some of the nomenclature has been shifting. 

Emily: I have always said ‘case studies.’ A big part of that is because I need to get my business found through SEO. ‘Case study’ is a term people search for—they don’t search for customer story. That said, I think ‘customer story’ is much more descriptive of what we’re creating. 

Last year, we did a survey and found that 45% of SaaS marketers use the phrase ‘case study’— that’s the most popular term. But larger companies with 20 or more case studies tend to prefer ‘customer success stories.’ The least used term is ‘customer stories.’ 

Liz: What is one of the strongest trends you’ve been seeing in case studies this year?

Emily: At the beginning of the year, we conducted a survey on case studies (customer stories)—I’m going to use both terms interchangeably. We had 123 SaaS marketers complete the survey, we crunched the numbers and we came up with 3 main takeaways. 

Takeaway #1:

For the third year in a row, SaaS marketers ranked case studies as the #1 most effective marketing tactic to increase sales. And this is ahead of general website content, SEO, blog posts, social media and other tactics. 

How effective case studies are for increasing sales

Takeaway #2:

Case studies are a growing priority. All of our survey respondents said that case studies are a growing priority. On average, SaaS companies plan to produce 19 new case studies this year, as opposed to 14 produced last year and 12 the year before that.

How many case studies do SaaS companies plan to produce this year

Takeaway #3:

Case studies need to be better. People aren’t happy with the case studies they currently have. We found that only 12% of SaaS marketers are very satisfied with their case studies overall, so there’s lots of room for improvement. 

How satisfied are SaaS marketers with their case studies overall

One of the key areas that marketers want to improve is their metrics. Marketers say metrics are a very important component for case studies. But they are rather dissatisfied with the metrics in their current case studies. 

How important are various case study components?

Deena: What are the blockers to getting those case study metrics? 

Emily: I think the biggest blocker is the software company itself. Companies need to take more time while they’re onboarding new customers to clarify goals and KPIs—to be clear about how the customer is going to measure success. And record the benchmarks in terms of numbers for those goals, so that 3 months down the line, 6 months, a year down the line, you can go back and look at the new numbers for those goals or KPIs.

Liz: I wonder if there’s a trend that it’s getting harder to get those stats. There’s so much software now, so going through that process with all of those vendors is quite heavy. But also, for some organizations, it’s very difficult for them to get permission share their results externally.

Deena: People aren’t buying tools with their eye on telling that vendor’s success story. It’s like ‘We’re going to bring this tool in, and we’re going to use it for whatever we need to use it for.’ 

Emily: For sure. In the survey, we also asked: What’s the best way to gather strong metrics for your case study? 88% of respondents said: Ask the customer during the case study interview. 

I strongly disagree with this. Ideally, you need to gather benchmarks during customer onboarding. But if that doesn’t happen, you need to ask your customer about their metrics BEFORE the interview so they have time to do their homework, dig into their various tools, and find those answers so that they can come to the interview prepared with some really strong metrics. We want to make the customer the hero of the story. We don’t want to set them up for failure by surprising them with questions that they can’t answer on the spot.

How do SaaS companies get metrics to use in their case studies?

Deena: I just had a bit of an a-ha moment! With case studies, we tend to be reactive: ‘Oh, this customer is doing good things, we should write a case study.’ But what you’re suggesting is that companies need to be proactive. Right from onboarding, we need to figure out how to tell the story and really help that person to get to those metrics, to curate the path. 

Emily: There’s a nurturing piece for sure. But we want all our customers to be successful. And to be successful, you need to know what the goals are from the get-go.  

Liz: How are customers measuring the impact of their case studies? 

Emily: I think everyone has struggled with the question of how to measure the success of case studies. People measure a wide variety of things. If they keep them gated, which I don’t recommend, they measure downloads. They measure pageviews and time on page. 

If they’ve got fancy software, they can measure influence on pipeline and influence on deals closed. Even anecdotal feedback from sales folks like ‘Oh, yeah, we really liked this customer story.’ It’s honestly a real mishmash.

How do SaaS companies measure the performance of their case studies?

Read how 8 customer marketers measure case study success.

Liz: Should marketers gate their case studies?  

Emily: The trend certainly is towards NOT gating. When I started Uplift 6 years ago, maybe 50% of case studies were gated and 50% were not gated. But now maybe only 10% are gated. People just aren’t doing it. And there are great reasons for that. We don’t want to put barriers in front of people. The stories are so powerful from a sales perspective that we don’t want any friction—just give readers this content so that they can resonate with it.

Liz: What other case study trends are you seeing? 

Emily: Let’s talk about formats for case studies. The most common format is text; roughly 75% of companies publish their case studies as text, HTML or PDF. 

What case study formats do SaaS companies currently use?

But what are the emerging trends, what are companies experimenting with? No surprise, video is a big one. 56% of SaaS marketers want to try and do more video this year. 

What case study formats do SaaS companies want to use more of in 2024

And one-third of the survey respondents want to do more infographics, more text-video combos and more case study compilations or collections. 

The case study compilation can be different things. It could be that you don’t change the case study at all, but you put 3 case studies for one industry together, or 3 case studies with the same (or different) use cases together. Or you could chop the case studies apart and take pieces that are related and put them together to make a new narrative.

Liz: As someone who does story creation as a living, what are your thoughts about AI?

Emily: I struggle with this. I put the question to Mary Green’s Club CX Slack group because I wanted to hear what others had to say. Those who are experimenting with AI are using it for customer stories in a variety of ways: organizing notes, improving call log transcriptions, putting together meeting summaries, creating outlines, generating interview questions, things like that. 

But we all felt very strongly that humans need to be completely responsible for, or at least heavily involved in, producing a human story. The thought is that AI can make our work easier by doing some of those more mundane tasks, but we still need humans for the nuances of storytelling. That was reassuring for me because that does align with how I feel. 

We also need to be confident that whatever tools we use have sufficient security measures in place, and that they won’t use sensitive data to train their models.  

Thanks for spending time with us!

Thanks to Liz and Deena for inviting me to talk about the latest case study insights and trends—and thank you, reader, for spending part of your day with us. I hope enjoyed our conversation!

Here’s how you can connect with Liz and Deena at Captivate Collective:

Want to read more about customer marketing? 

Check out these related Uplift blog posts: 

P.S. Want more customer marketing insights?

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And just in case you missed it, check out our 2024 Customer Story Trends & Insights Report, where we surveyed 115 customer marketers to gather their insights and experiences with customer stories.

Here’s a preview:

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Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads her team in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies like ClickUp, Calendly and WalkMe. Connect with Emily on Linkedin

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