Since 81% of shoppers research before they buy, you need to give customers what they're looking for before they buy. What are they looking for?

With high-dollar decisions on the line, they're looking for proof (i.e., ROI).

Customers have two questions when researching your company before they buy:

As a business owner, your challenge is to prove that it does.

The 2016 B2B Content Marketing Report surveyed 600 marketers and found that "case studies" were the most effective content type (55 percent) for their businesses. Case studies beat out "best practices" (53 percent) and "how-to guides" (47 percent).

Why case studies work

Case studies prove to customers that your product or service will work for them by using three psychologically potent persuasion tactics: stories, social proof, and data.

1. Our brains are wired for stories.

Studies of storytelling show that a well-constructed narrative can release oxytocin, the bonding hormone that helps form trust, in the brain.

E-commerce giant Shopify hires full-time storytellers to write longform case studies for its brand. An analysis of one of their endearing case studies shows an in-depth profile of the business owners accompanied by fourteen photos. Four. Teen. Photos. That's a lot.

You come away from the case study feeling as if you were just standing in the shop and having a conversation with the owners, Lichia and Christopher.

2. Our brains crave social proof.

Ever wonder why, on nearly every website, you find a band of logos spread across a section of the homepage?

Companies do this to leverage the multiple source effect, an important principle of social proof which states that our minds are more likely to believe a proposition when it is stated independently by multiple sources.

Uber for Business, Box, and Salesforce all use recognizable logos and real faces of well-known clients to deploy the multiple source effect on their websites.

3. Our brains like logical numbers.

While words can be bent or generalized to prove a point, numbers can't lie. Because they're either 100% true or 100% false, they're the building blocks of mathematics and the sciences. They're irrefutably logical and plain.

The dueling blue whales of tech, Facebook and Google, rely on numbers more than anything else for their case studies.

An exploration of Facebook's case studies demonstrates how important numbers really are. Sitting prominently at the top of every success story are three numerical data points of results, in large font, relating to money, time, and reach.

Google's marketing case studies are similar. Each case study opens with "Results" in the form of numbers and closes with them again, reinforcing quantifiable success.

Why do they do this? Because numbers are concrete and universal demonstrations that the product or service worked.

Build your case studies with these 4 crucial parts

When researching how big brands like Snap, Inc. and Amazon write case studies, I noticed a pattern. They all had four similar parts. You can follow the same format to create a case study that uses the psychological principles above to convert.

Background
Problem
Solution
Results

Follow this science-backed formula for your case studies and use the same effective copywriting strategies as Facebook, Google, and Shopify to tell your customer success stories. Do this and it will prove to your prospects that your product/service works and that it will work for them.

TLDR; Tell a story using numbers and faces to leverage psychology in your brand's case studies.

Published on: Jun 27, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.