A Simple Case Study Format
If you're a business owner, you know that case studies are a vital part of client attraction. Not only do case studies allow you to showcase projects, but they also give your company a chance to reflect on things that have been done right (or possibly, not-that-right) and decide where you can improve for future projects.
I was recently on a mission to create an impactful case study format for an inbound marketing client. Though there are plenty of case study templates available, it was a challenge finding any that would stand out from the rest-- or at least provide a structure to better deliver quality information. It eventually got to the point that I wondered how hard it would be to just come up with one on my own. So, after a bit of research and careful consideration, I realized that a proper case study consists of three simple things:
- Research and Planning
- Strategic Execution
- Presentation of Information
Let’s move forward with a breakdown of the three steps.
Step 1 - Research and Planning
Before you can explain a concept adequately to another person, you have to make sure that you understand that concept more deeply than the level that you are teaching. A good case study format will require the same process-- explaining sometimes complicated business results in an easy to understand format. Before beginning any of the research, it is important to identify the people from both teams that will be able to deliver the best assessment and analysis of the relationship. You should also be sure to identify the industry environment for context. Some other key points to focus on during the research and planning phase are understanding the nature of the relationship and length of engagement.
After you solidify a strong research foundation you will then need to organize these thoughts on paper. This is where things like campaign templates, project plans, interview questions, and flow charts will come in handy. Produce as many of these as you feel necessary to guide your team and your client to success. From my experience, the better the documentation, the better the end result will be.
Step 2 – Strategic Execution
Ideas are nice... in theory. Unless you have the wherewithal to see them through, they usually go unnoticed. Allow your plan to come to life through surveys, interviews, or workshops. Build a core plan and then execute what you conceptualized. Some of the key things I like to review when building a case study include:
- Key Statistics
- Candid Analysis/Response
- Notable Achievements
Step 3 – Presentation of Information
Case studies are one of the best business to business (b2b) tools out there. They are relatable, tangible, and (hopefully) a well-organized representation of what it is like to work with a company like yours. Get them designed, printed, framed, digitized, distributed, or bound and they will continue to serve you through various marketing channels. Where you distribute this information depends largely on your target audience or persona (Some of my favorite: Pinterest, Slideshare, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn).
As a final tip-- when you go to create your case studies, remember that the best path is not to talk solely about your company and the great things that it has done. Rather, put yourself in the client’s shoes and try to envision what their perceived experience was, and how to best turn that into a story that is both intriguing and makes sense.
For help getting into the mind of your personas download our free workbook: How to Create Buyer Persona's for Your Business.
Business case studies can have a massive impact on your marketing, done right.
While they cost time and effort to create, they can be a stellar tactic to draw new customers to your business and help you earn new clients.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t sure how to start when it’s time to write copy for them.
If you’re one of the many individuals who wants to learn how to write a business case study, but just aren’t sure where to get started, my simple guide is here to help you step-by-step – another installment of our #howtowrite series!
What is a Case Study?
A case study is a piece of content, published by a company, that outlines their success or effectiveness in dealing with a client. It’s commonly used as a piece of marketing content and can be incredibly useful since it helps would-be clients understand how the agency or professional has excelled in the past.
Virtually every successful online company uses case studies, and Express Writers is no different! Earlier this year, in fact, we published a case study that showcases how we helped a client boost their revenue by 77% after creating some product descriptions for them.
Case studies are more than just a piece of self-congratulating marketing material (this is an incorrect assumption that many people hold about these unique content types), though. In fact, they’re meant less to stroke the company in question’s ego than they are to help would-be clients understand how a given company can assist them.
The Top 4 Benefits of Why You Should Learn How to Write a Business Case Study
So, why go to all the time to create your own case study? (It IS a ton of time and effort!)
If the “what is” didn’t argue in favor already, here are key reasons to spend your time finding out how to write a business case study, and putting one of your own together.
Business case studies have many advantages. The top four are as follows:
1. Case studies allow a company to use storytelling to bring their product to life
Whether it’s a service or a hard-and-fast consumer product, a case study is an excellent way to illustrate it and help bring it to life for new customers. Just like any great novel, a good case study has a beginning, a middle, and an end, with a conflict and a resolution. It’s a wildly effective way to make somewhat complex products real and can go a long way toward improving the way your clients perceive your offerings.
2. Case studies provide peer-to-peer influence
Peer-to-peer influence is a massively important thing, and case studies are wonderful at fulfilling it because they offer the view of a customer rather than a company. While it’s a company that publishes a case study, the entire thing is dedicated to recounting a customer’s experience. Direct quotes, statistics, and more are standard, and these things are fantastic for helping would-be clients to see the value in a company.
3. Case studies offer real-life examples
We’ve all heard about how critical customer reviews are for conversion rates, and case studies take this one step further. By providing real-life examples of your product at work, paired with glowing customer reviews, they can help new customers feel more confident in your company and take the leap to convert.
For an example, check out this case study excerpt (from our own clientele based case study):
4. Case studies are powerful word-of-mouth advertising
Because a company must ask permission from a client to use his or her data in a case study, the inclusion of a customer in a case study often leads to some brand evangelism that can help boost your company’s visibility and improve your conversion rates.
How to Write a Business Case Study: Your Complete Guide in 5 Steps
So, you want to write a case study, but you’re not sure where to begin! This guide will help you get started.
1. Identify your best possible avenue for data
When it comes time to write a case study, you might have multiple cases to choose from. The first part of being successful, though, is narrowing these things down. For your case study to succeed, it must contain just the right information, and it’s critical to ensure this from the get-go. To determine which of your various cases would be the best fit for a study, look at them and evaluate whether or not they contain the following elements:
- A significant challenge. This could be a tight timeline, a complicated issue, low sales numbers, or even a need for entirely new software integration.
- A satisfying solution. For your case study to fall into the realm of storytelling, it needs a solution that customers can relate to.
- A series of substantial benefits. The final component in a case study is the benefit. An excellent case study should feature several benefits that your customers can relate to deeply. The benefits will be even more compelling if they’re solid statistics like we used when we say we boosted the client’s sales by 77% year-over-year. The more granular, the better in this case.
2. Write your case study (5 key tips)
Now comes the tough part – the writing! While it’s true that writing a case study requires a different set of skills and a different voice than everyday writing, it’s far from impossible.
To ace your DIY case study, follow these tips:
- Choose your voice carefully
Depending on your brand and the content of the case study, you can write it in either the first or third person. Either approach will work, and most case studies use a mixture of both.
EXAMPLE: Our client-based case study at Express Writers does this, and it flows quite nicely. If you’re going to use a combination of both the first and the third person, though, be sure that you’re enhancing the third-person parts with direct quotes from the client, as straight third-person voice can sound overly narrated after a while.
- Make your title specific and attention-grabbing
The title is a critical component of the case study. To make it as attention-grabbing as possible, include percentages and strong action verbs. Here are some good examples from real-life case studies:
Remember: titles perform better when they are as accurate as possible. That’s why phrases like “by 1,000%” and “doubles yearly revenue” appear in these wide-ranging case studies.
- Keep your language simple
Many people think that learning how to write a business case study involves incorporating jargon and corporate-speak into the writing. Fortunately, this isn’t true. In fact, writing a business case study requires you to keep your language simple rather than making it more complicated. The more you can avoid corporate jargon in your case studies, the better.
In addition to making them more natural and approachable, this will also allow non-customers to approach your case study without being intimidated away by overly complicated case study language.
- Add real numbers to your case study
When you look at the case study titles above, most people would agree that “increased webinar sign-up rates by 1,000%” is the most memorable phrase up there. In addition to the fact that this is a shocking number, it’s also so precise that it grabs reader attention.
With this in mind, follow KISSmetrics’s lead and include real numbers in your case studies. While phrases like “doubled this” or “tripled that” are powerful, they just don’t have the added oomph they need to take your case study to the top.
- Write from the beginning to the end
A case study is not the place to leave out critical data. Instead, write from the beginning to the end and keep it as accurate and chronological as possible. This will help flesh out the entire circumstances surrounding your interaction with the client and allow your readers to understand your impact more effectively.
3. Finish the case study with all of your relevant contact information
Since a case study is designed, at least in part, for press distribution, it should be outfitted with your contact information and details. This will allow other companies, customers, and more to contact you regarding the case study, and will help to make the information within it more accessible to other people.
While there are different standards for which information you “should” include in a case study, most sources recommend including your phone number, website, email, and one or two social profiles, along with a short bio. This will provide enough information for interested parties to contact you and can help boost the ROI of your case study down the road.
4. Hire a designer to finish the product
Don’t forget that every good case study needs a great design, and it can be helpful to bring in a designer to add some visual interest to the piece. Simple things, like using text boxes to pull out key facts, statistics, and quotes, and inputting related graphics and charts can make all of the difference in your case study and should be used liberally to enhance its value and interest.
We can help – our lead designer is familiar with how to take copy and create custom, beautiful designs in Adobe to match! Check out our case study service here.
5. Publish the case study
Publishing your case study is the final step in creating it. To get the most success from your case study, you’ll want to post it in the places your real audience and prospective customers frequent. This may mean publishing the case study on your blog, reaching out to relevant publishing platforms, or gating the case study and using it to drive email sign-ups for your company.
Alternately, KISSmetrics recommends appealing to different types of learners by breaking your case study into unexpected formats, like a podcast, a YouTube video, or an infographic!
We published ours in a few different forms.
First, as a blog post:
Then, as a landing page.
What About Hiring a Specialist to Write the Case Study?
Writing a case study requires a very particular voice, and if you don’t have the time or confidence to do it yourself, it’s in your best interests to hire someone specifically who knows how to write case studies and has done it before. In addition to making your case studies more efficient, this will also help you create the best possible case study and not drive yourself into the ground as you do it.
No matter how good the writer you hire is, you’ll have to provide them with some specific information about your case study.
Ideally, you should give the author a very clear overview of what you’d like from the case study. This should include the following components:
- Word count
- The products, goods, or services you’d like the case study to promote
- The benefits you provided for the client
- The struggle the client faced
- The specific way you went about resolving it
- The result (percentages, direct quotes from the customer, and facts are helpful here)
- The deadline for the case study
These things are critical for helping your writer create the best possible case study, and they’ll go a long way toward making the process more lucrative and enjoyable for you, as well.
The Case for Case Studies
Case studies are an incredibly useful tool and can have a massive positive impact on your content marketing.
While most companies don’t think they can create case studies, learning how to write a business case study is simple, as long as you’re willing to put in some time and work.
In addition to helping your customers understand the benefits of your services, case studies also provide an essential platform for new clients to see your products at work, which can be all they need to convert and become brand evangelists.
By following my tips above, you can learn how to write business case studies from scratch. Simple, effective, and critical for your company, this is one ROI-boosting move you simply will not regret.
Don’t want to D-I-Y? Trust our marketing team of experts: we’ve crafted successful case studies for businesses of all types. Talk to us today about your case study writing & creation needs!