How to write a winning case study
- 28 Aug
Not such a hard case after all
Case studies are the kings of content. An in-depth look at how your business has helped a customer can add valuable credentials to your claims about expertise and service and will always be read by a serious prospect. Angela Ward looks at how to create a case study that sells.
What makes a good case study?
A good case study needs three basic elements: a business challenge faced; the solution found; and, most importantly, the benefits gained.
But you must also engage your readers and tell a story with a strong angle. Maybe you can combine a business interest with a human element, such as overcoming adversity.
There are two things that you want to achieve: either a reaction along the lines of 'if they can do that for them, maybe they could do the same for me' or PR.
If your case study is going to work as PR, it needs to be closely tied to a topical issue or bigger story, for example, how you helped a client weather the recession or start exporting. Marketing case studies are often too self promotional for the media. Editors like a subtle approach that links to the current news agenda with the story tightly focused on the customer’s experience.
Having decided on your ideal customer and story-line, ask if your customer is happy to co-operate and explain the mutual benefits, such as free publicity and website links.
Who should write the case study?
Of course, if you want to write your case study yourself and have the ability to do so, you can. There are lots of tips from professional writers in our Resource Centre and we've summarised a few of them here.
The alternative is to hire a freelance copywriter or a journalist who knows your field. A journalist will know how to interview you and your customer and find the story. They may cost a few hundred pounds, but it will be money well spent. We also strongly recommend engaging a professional photographer. You need interesting content in your photograph, not just boring head-shots and handshakes. Good pictures makes people want to read on and they make your business look professional too.
To find your writer and photographer, ask for a recommendation and always ask for samples of work to check their style.
Once you've chosen both, give them a clear brief. Tell them the expected word count (typically 500-750 words); the product or service you want promoted; and the benefits you want highlighted. Fix a deadline for the first draft and then introduce the writer and photographer to your customer and work on agreeing dates.
Make sure you go along on the day, not only is it courteous to your customer, but you want pictures of you engaging with the person who hired you. (Believe it or not, we have had camera-shy clients who have wanted to leave it all to us!).
- Case studies can be in the first person (I) or the third (he/she), but if you use he/she, pep it up with quotes from the customer, to make the story easier to read.
- An alternative style is using a question and answer format.
- Give it a strong headline that grabs attention such as: “Profits doubled in three months — here’s how”.
- Sub headings matter too, as do bullet points - apply the usual rules of smart business writing and make it easy to scan and read.
- Use statistics to show the difference the service has made and the benefits gained. Ballpark figures are fine.
- Avoid jargon and superlatives such as “market leading” and “unique” – no one believes them!
- Write out any acronyms in full the first time followed by the abbreviation in brackets, for example, Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Where to publish your case study
Case studies are normally in written format, but they can also be created as a podcast or video. Once done, they can be used on your website, newsletters, brochures, social media and more.
Case studies bring your website and social media to life and will always be clicked on by a serious potential buyer. Getting coverage on other websites, blogs and social media is a bonus and a fantastic way to generate leads and improve your search engine optimisation.
Next steps? Go out and find a satisfied customer — one who’s happy to talk about the benefits your product or service has brought.
- 07 Feb
Comparing the different marketing automation systems can be difficult. I mean, where do you start? There are a more than a few to begin with. Some have features that others don’t, some of those...
- 09 Jan
A New Year brings with it new resolve and if you want to move beyond the business equivalent of promising to do more exercise and drink less, and really want to kick your sales and marketing into...
- 23 Feb
Advertising your product or service on social media is becoming ever more popular. The format allows small and medium-sized businesses to reach their target audience through a detailed array of...
- 15 Jan
B2B buyers often need a nudge to move them from the marketing process into the sales pipeline. This is where outbound calling fits in. James Harvey, Managing Director at Bluestone B2B, looks at how...
- 29 Oct
With Halloween around the corner, you will probably be asked: Trick or Treat? When it comes to fiddling around in your website’s HTML, that is more often than not going to be TRICKy....
- 31 Aug
Following the recent post in our Resource Centre on Google's latest Panda update, we've had a few people asking what good content actually is....
- 13 Aug
The good thing about August is that there is generally a little more time available to look around and investigate new things....
- 18 May
Traditionally, a Periscope is a ‘Z’ shaped object containing mirrors to allow you to see objects previously out of sight; they were commonly used in submarines to see above the water. So what use...
- 07 May
We are always looking for engaging ways to present and repurpose content and, this week, want to highlight Animoto....
- 10 Apr
Today, the increasing demand for unique and fresh content can make creating your online presence feel like walking across a hot desert - the mirage being your desired Google rankings and quality...