How to write a case study - that will blow their socks off!
Case studies are marketing gold. Here are the top reasons -
They give you an opportunity to shout about your successes
They enable prospects to relate to what you're offering and imagine how you might be able to help them
They are evidence that you do what you say and more importantly, that it works
You can demonstrate expertise in a specific industry or of solving a particular problem
If what you do is complicated, it can be easier to tell the story of what you do through a case study, rather than a long, theoretical presentation.
For a couple of years while at a PR agency, I worked on BlackBerry's B2B case study program as part of my job. My whole role on that client was to work on hundreds of case studies showing how BlackBerry was helping businesses around the world improve operations and communications. The fact that I worked on BlackBerry probably dates me a bit, as this was pre widespread smartphone use. But the case studies worked and in general, they can be very compelling. So, how do they work?
First off, what is a case study?
Here is HubSpot's definition, which I like.
A case study is the analysis of a particular instance (or "case") of something to demonstrate quantifiable results as a result of the application of something. In marketing, case studies are used as social proof — to provide buyers with the context to determine whether they're making a good choice.
If you're not already including case studies as part of your content marketing strategy, you're missing a trick. Everyone can write case studies about how their business helps clients or customers.
So how do you write a good one?
Here are my top tips to writing a great case study.
Case studies typically come in three parts:
The challenge/problem/brief - Why help was needed
The approach - What you did to help
The results - What you achieved
Using this framework will help you tell the story from start to finish, without forgetting a crucial part. There's also no harm in using these headings to break up your story - it makes it easier to read.
In this opening section, you should explain what the problem was and why the client needed your services. You don't want to make it seem like the client doesn't know what they're doing - after all, you want them to be happy with you writing a case study - but you should clearly demonstrate the problem you're solving. This will help you precisely detail your customers' pain points, in a way that your prospects can relate to.
Here you get to lay out your process and detail your expertise. This section is very action-oriented. You can take the reader through what you did step by step if you want, or give an overview. Feel free to highlight any special elements of your work. Do try to be precise about what you've done.
This is the most important section. This is what everyone actually cares about. This is where you show what your actions achieved and why they should pay for your services over anyone else's. This is where you want to include numbers and quantitative evidence (if you have it). If you don't have numbers, make sure you still talk about the impact that your services had on your client and/or their business.
Other things you'll want in a case study.
If you can get it, case studies are really enhanced by a quote or testimonial from your client. It's basically a reference and shows that they're not only happy to have you write about the project, but they're happy to have their name and words put to it.
If your work lends itself to it, illustrate your case study with real examples of what you did. Or at least try to find an image that illustrates the outcome.
How to get started with case studies
Don't be afraid to ask - Asking for permission to do a case study or get a testimonial is nothing to be embarrassed about. I know companies that have it written in their contract that they can talk about the project in marketing. Case studies are just part of business.
Ask regularly - Make it a part of your process to ask for testimonials or permission for a case study every time you finish a project. You can do it at the same time as you ask for a review online. And if they give you a review, you can certainly use that as the testimonial.
Anonymous case studies - Some of us work in industries where testimonials are hard to come by. Clients might not always want to share that they have had help, or that they used your services. Anonymous case studies are a great way around this. You just write a case study without the names and with as little identifying information as possible.
Once you have your case study, there are a lot of ways that you can use this material in your marketing. This blog from HubSpot has some nice ideas for inspiration.
Here are a few case studies I wrote earlier. Due to the nature of these projects, I don't have much in the way of numbers, so I talk about the qualitative value of my work instead.
The Clothes Mine - brand strategy and marketing strategy project
Rocky Mountain Elder Law - brand strategy and website content project
Mesa Meadows - brand strategy and website content project
If you have questions about how to write case studies or other forms of marketing writing - I'd love to hear from you - firstname.lastname@example.org.