7 Tips for Writing Successful Case Studies

Case StudyYou probably already include testimonials on your website…but they’re only the beginning. You also need case studies, if you want to validate your business credibility.

They’re a fantastic way to tell the world how valuable your products or services are. Case studies deliver real-life examples of exactly how you have been able to make and keep your clients’ (or customers’) happy. With well written case studies, you can highlight your successes in a way that will make your perfect potential client become your client.

Case studies work…big time! They persuade prospects that your products and services are trustworthy and fit their needs. But to work they have to be well researched, thought out, and executed. So if you’re thinking of throwing any old thing up on your website, forget it. That’ll do you more harm than good by boring your prospects with instant “tl;dr” (meme for too long; didn’t read) or turning them off with your unprofessionalism. That’s why we’re providing these “Lucky 7” tips and tricks for writing great case studies.

1. Write about someone your ideal customer can relate to

Do you know who your ideal customer is? If it’s someone in the financial industry, then make your case studies about your insurance or bank customers. If it’s someone who is looking for marriage counseling, then make your case studies about couples you have helped. The goal is to make sure that when your ideal customers read your case studies, they will feel that: you are comfortable in their industry or area of concern; you know how to deal with their specific needs; and you know how to deliver targeted results.

2. Interview a real, live person

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “A good customer interview is the lifeblood of a good case study. Before you write a case study, do yourself a huge favor and actually talk to a real, live customer.” I admit that over the years, I’ve been asked to put together case studies based on quotes taken from blogs, videos, testimonials, emails from sales teams, and just about anything and everything but a real customer interview.

Clients tell me that it’s difficult to find customers willing to set aside time and get sign-off. But, using second- or third-hand resources make writing case studies hundreds of times harder…and they don’t come out nearly as well as the ones based on real customers’ experiences. You should consider dropping a proposed case study if you can’t get a one-on-one interview.

3. Tell a story from start to finish

Case studies are stories, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The reason is simple: people are used to reading stories in newspapers and magazine and their brains are wired for them. People enjoy reading a great story that tells them: who the sample customer is and what they do; what the customer’s goals and needs were; how you satisfied those needs and help the customer meet their goals; and if possible, include a follow-up update to show how your products/services are continuing to have long term benefits for the customer. This would give readers the opportunity to see that your goal is not only to help with immediate needs, but also to help guarantee long term results.

4. Use real quotes…and edit them

You’re writing a case study, not a news story or PR release. Sure, you should use quotes from real people. So don’t make up Franken-quotes, that put randomly sewn quotes together from spare or old quotes. (This sounds like marketing-ese, delivers fake information, and destroys credibility.) On the other hand, be sure to carefully edit your quotes, to make or embellish your point, as long as you make them plausible and retain the spirit of what the customer is saying. A few small and completely okay tweaks can make a big difference (as long as you get the customer’s approval).

5. Provide context

“The first sentence of your case study should always speak to a broad business issue and provide context for the reader.” states the Content Marketing Institute. This helps readers to identify with the broader challenge, even if they are not in the study’s specific wheelhouse. For example you could say, “Operating a small, local health club is fraught with challenges, from gaining members and traffic to razor-thin margins. Mary Jones, owner of ABC Health and Exercise Club, thought she could rely on her meager marketing knowledge (one course in college!) to get and keep members, but that just didn’t do the trick.” This shows a problem common to many industries (marketing) that many readers can identify with and makes case studies easier to write.

6. Include real numbers and specific strategy

We’ve all read case studies where businesses say that they’ve “tripled sales” and wondered if that meant from $30 to $90 or from $10,000 to $30,000. So instead of vague numbers, try to use specific ones, like the customer increased visits to his website from 10 per day to 200 per day with the help of your company. And be specific about how the client was able to do that with your help. That way, the reader can see where the customer started and where they ended up and exactly how it was done, which makes the case study more believable and powerful.

7. Appeal to different types of learners

While some people enjoy reading, others may prefer audio, video, or graphic images of your case study. So consider taking your text-based case studies and re-purposing the content as: a podcast, a YouTube video, or even an infographic. These are all easy to share and that means your case study may go well beyond your own website, leading to even more customers finding your products or services.

Why case studies are so important

A good case study explains how you apply your expertise in the real world to potential customers that can relate to the problems you describe and understand the value of your solutions. Rethinking the Case Study says that, “It does this in detail—without seduction or marketing claims—covering:

  • The kinds of problems you are good at solving
  • How you probe and diagnose those problems
  • Your ideas for solutions
  • How you test those solutions
  • How you evaluate their performance
  • How you execute the ones that hold up
  • How you handle setbacks
  • How you preserve forward momentum
  • How you manage your relationships”

When want case studies that really get potential customers and clients enthusiastic about working with you, give us a shout.

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