A case study is a story you tell your customers about an occasion when you successfully helped a client with a problem. The client needed something, you did it for them, and now you tell new customers about it – simple.
They’re an essential tool for selling your products, and a key part of an impactful promotion and marketing campaign. They’re an opportunity to simultaneously show your successes and reach new customers.
Let’s look at five reasons you’d commission a case study, and five ways to go about writing one.
There are several reasons to write case studies, here’s our top five:
Product or service descriptions are all well and good, potential customers can read what you offer and decide if it’s right for them. But they’re not as strong as case studies.
Case studies let you show potential customers what you’ve done, and what you could do for them. Crucially, they show that what you’ve done has been a resounding success.
It’s one thing to claim your service may ‘improve output by 100%’, but it has more impact to give an example of a time that it happened.
Case studies not only show you’re good at providing solutions to problems, but also that you’re good at listening to your clients and understanding them.
You can use a case study to highlight a specific problem your client had. You can show that you provided a solution to that problem, and often that may be a bespoke solution.
This all goes to show potential customers you’ll be a partner, someone who works with them. Not simply a vendor supplying a product.
Case studies give you the opportunity to showcase who you’ve worked with. If you’re working with other large or reputable brands, then some of their kudos will be transferred to you.
Think of it like this, if people see that you’re providing a good service to a company they think is impressive, then they’ll assume you’re impressive too. It’s a bit like a Royal Warrant – if the Queen uses that jam, then it must be good jam!
Case studies are one part of a customer journey and having them will help you move prospects towards a sale.
If you’re in a saturated market, you want to keep your prospects’ attention and gradually navigate them along the sales journey. What started as interest could lead to something more substantial.
Case studies are one step in that journey, and if they’re well written, they’ll encourage people to take the next step.
As well as being invaluable marketing tools, case studies are often called for in RFPs, bids and tenders and awards.
Writing case studies gives you a record of how you’ve solved pain points for customers in the real-world. So, when you’re called on to include examples of how you’ve tackled similar problems for proposals or tenders, you have a pool of customer success stories you can draw on without having to scrabble around for info.
There’s a formula and a format that case studies tend to follow. Firstly, start with the client, the problem they faced, how you solved it and finally the results you helped them achieve.
There are variations on this structure, of course. But the ‘challenge, solution, results’ approach is tried and tested. It’s entrenched and people recognise and follow it. If you move away from it, you risk confusing your audience.
Here are five tips for successful case study writing:
Be sure to focus on your audience and what they want. Aim your case study at them, tell them what they need to hear, and do it in a way they’ll relate to.
Different audiences require different information. A CTO will want to hear about the efficiencies a solution delivered to their competitors. Whereas the head of sales will want to hear about how conversion rates may have increased. And a CFO will want to know how much money it saved.
Write in a way that doesn’t alienate anyone. Make your case studies easy to read. But make sure you’re talking your audience’s language. Pay attention to how your audience talks and try to incorporate that into your case studies.
After you’ve gathered the information to write your case study, you’ve got to be selective. A case study can’t be War and Peace, it’s got to be short and easily readable.
Having your audience in mind will help, as that’ll keep you focused on the type of information they need. If you can keep the length short and focus on the key information that your customer and audience need, then more people will read the whole case study.
Don’t unnecessarily butcher your writing though. There’s no need to write in note form, or bullet everything. Just use your words wisely – and if you can’t do that, ask an expert.
Using your words wisely also means telling a strong story. After all, that’s what a case study is: a story of a time you successfully provided a solution to a customer’s problem.
This means your case studies need an arc. Which, as we said above, follows the same format: the client, their problem, your solution, the results. But you should still aim to make it interesting – each section should compel someone to read the next.
This is where it’s important to clearly convey the jeopardy involved. The problems are rarely life or death, but there may be substantial risks and costs involved. If your audience appreciates those risks, then your solution will shine through.
When you’re explaining the solution or the benefits, always use a quote from the client. It’s a form of social proof that will help strengthen your case study.
In addition, it’s an opportunity to introduce some hyperbole. It’s not cool if you inflate the benefits of your product too much. People see though it and stop reading, but, if someone else said those things about your product, then that’s great.
This is especially true if your customer is a well-known brand. If you can get a quote from them, then that will give you even more kudos. Again, think the Royal Warrant – if the Queen said, ‘That’s great jam. I have it on everything – and I mean everything!’, then people will buy the jam.
Variety maintains interest, so why not embrace different content formats? You don’t have to stick to a PDF. You can make video case studies, infographics, and short audio clips too.
Don’t shy away from different formats. A single case study can be repurposed into multiple formats. By all means use it in a blog post, but include a case study video in the blog too. Likewise, having a slick, professional looking PDF that you can attach to emails is great.
These alternative formats provide different ways to consume the same content, increasing your chances of reaching more people. For example, it might be hard for someone to look at your case study on a moving train, but they can click ‘play’ and listen to a two-minute audio version instead.
Case studies are integral to good marketing. You can structure some of your marketing strategy around case studies. You can post about them on social media, you can link to them in your newsletters, and you can write blog posts about them.
So, if you’re not using them, start. To see how we can help you create a case study strategy and library, check out our case studies – we practise what we preach.