If you’re thinking of buying a product or service, the first thing you probably do is research it online. Nine out of 10 people are doing the same thing. Alongside the reviews that your customers post online, a case study is a useful tool for establishing your business’ credibility, experience, and proof of performance.
Here are some tips for writing a great case study that cements your position as a go-to provider and attracts new customers.
Identify the Kinds of Customers You Want to Bring in
As a rule of thumb, try to shoot for a shortlist of customers based on the kinds of projects that you want to bring in more of. Consider your marketing goals too:
- Are there specific products and industries that you want to focus on in the coming months?
- What gaps are there in your current marketing toolkit?
- Are there particular areas where you need to demonstrate credibility, a strong track record, or proof of performance?
Look for Good Numbers or Proof Points
What about proof points? If you want to provide evidence of the value you bring try to shoot for customers and projects that provide tangible data points—cost savings, productive gains, time savings. We’re talking numbers, not just statements: “ABC Company Reduced its IT Management Costs by 45% with Our Solution”.
Good Relationships Matter
Once you have an initial list, start to narrow it down to customers you have good relationships with. Talk to your team and identify those who are happy with your service. Even if there were problems along the way, if you can demonstrate how you were able to resolve these to create a successful outcome, even better! Also, don’t forget to reach out to customers who have given you glowing reviews online.
Ask for Quotes
Ideally, you want to get your most satisfied customers to offer up quotes that you can use in the case study. These help tell the human side of the story and make the case study more relatable.
The secret here is to ensure that those quotes fit with your goals for the piece. For example, if you’re an accountant and want to use the case study to show how great your financial problem-solving skills are, explicitly ask your client to comment on those skills. You could even write the quote yourself and simply ask your client to approve it and agree to have it attributed to them.
Tell a Great Story
If you want prospects to read your case studies, they need to be compelling—you need to tell a story. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. The key to storytelling is ensuring you address the three essential components of any case study:
- The customer’s challenge or pain point
- How you worked with them to address it
- The result or outcome
Now, there may be several angles at play in this story, but try to avoid focusing on too many elements or you’ll send mixed messages. If the overarching message is how you helped your client realize cost savings in an area of their business, introduce that as a challenge for them early in your piece, then talk specifically about how you addressed it (even why they selected you as their chosen vendor), and finally attribute a dollar value or percentage to those actual savings. Then use your headline to summarize that angle.
Keep the Case Study Engaging
Instead of starting your case study with a direct statement like: “Acme company wanted to realize productivity gains in these areas,” talk about why this was a problem for them. Did they want to grow their business in other areas and needed to be more efficient to do so? What would have happened if they didn’t realize those gains?
Use customer quotes to elaborate on these points. At a minimum, have one quote for each element—the customers’ problem, how you helped them, and what the outcome was. Here’s an example of how a quote can help elaborate on a particular client problem:
“Improving production times was a critical factor underpinning the Acme Company’s plans to expand into new markets; however, doing so was easier said than done. As John Doe, Production Manager with Acme explained: “We were under daily pressure to realize time savings in this critical area of our business. Yet, our existing software was slow and error-prone, which delayed output and our ability to meet demand.”
Shoot for an Appropriate Length
The length of your case study really depends on the industry you’re in and the products and services you provide. For example, a software development company may need to convey complex technical information and how the solution was put to work for the customers. For these case studies, a minimum of two pages is common. If you need to include graphics, then you can shoot for 2–4 pages.
On the other hand, if your services are fairly clear-cut, for example a landscape gardener, you could aim for anything from 2–3 paragraphs to a page—with plenty of room for images of your work.
Be Flexible in Your Format
Many organizations like to stick to a standard case study template, but it’s not necessary. Some stories are better told through visuals or even in an infographic format, while others lend themselves to more traditional long-form copy. You could even position your case study as a Q&A interview with your client.
Whichever way you go, spend some time on your design. Make it easy to read, introduce lots of white space, use bullets, break up long paragraphs, and add visuals to complement the story.
Add a Call to Action
The goal of your case study is to help attract new business. Don’t forget to include some blurb at the end about how the reader can contact you for more information or get started. Add clickable links where possible to point the reader to your website or a specific landing page—and
don’t forget to have a dedicated case studies page on your website!
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