Whether you handle sales in person or do most of your selling online, you’ve probably heard that a case study can be a powerful piece of marketing collateral. That’s true. But what are case studies? What can they do for your business? How can you write some good ones?
A Case Study Is a Story. Tell it Right
The purpose of a case study is to give a prospect a simple way to visualize themselves in the role of a client and to anticipate having an amazing outcome like the one described in the story. A case study recounts a journey that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has a hero (the client), a villain (the problem), and a supporting character (your company). The story should always be about your client so that your reader identifies with that role. That may seem hard to do when you’re trying to use a case study to demonstrate the awesomeness of your business. But it’s what makes the magic happen.
Components of a Case Study
When you write a case study, follow this simple template. If you can’t use this template, that means there are missing elements and you’ve probably chosen the wrong story to tell.
#1 Overview: Introduce the client including who they are, what they do, their position in the market, what sets them apart from competitors, etc. Ideally a case study should be a marketing tool for your participating client as well as for your company. They should want as many people to see it as possible.
#2 Challenge: Describe one or two top problems the client was facing. Don’t talk about your company yet. Keep the focus on the client and let the reader identify with their pain. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just say what was going wrong, explain how it was impacting their business.
#3 Solution: Introduce your company and the solution you provided. Be specific about how it solved their problem. If relevant, note how your company was able to do this when competitors could not. Don’t overdo it with the superlatives. Simply tell what happened. Don’t talk about features. Describe the results/outcome.
#4 Key Benefits: Create a bullet list of 4-6 top benefits/outcomes of the solution. Statistics and numbers are excellent. But if you don’t have stats, that’s OK. Just try to be specific instead of overly generic. Talk about benefits both for now and those the client will enjoy in the future. (Put this list in a call-out box for greater visual impact in case the reader is scanning and not reading in detail).
#5 Testimonial: This is a brief quote from the client—just one or two sentences. Make sure it is focused on the theme you are trying to convey in your case study. For example, if the transformation was about preparing the client to scale their business, don’t have the testimonial focus on the quality of your customer service.
Sample Questionnaire 12 Questions to Ask in a Case Study Interview
Your client can complete this questionnaire in writing, or you can conduct a phone or video interview. Start by thanking the client for their participation and letting them know the interview process will only take about 15-20 minutes of their time. Then, proceed with these questions. Don’t assume you know the answers—you might be surprised by your client’s perspective. Take detailed notes or record the interview for accuracy.
1. Would you give me a brief description of your company in your own words—who you are, who you serve, and what makes you different?
2. What problem were you facing? (or what opportunity you were trying to capture?)
3. How was it impacting your company?
4. Did you research or try other solutions before deciding on this one? If so, please explain why you chose us instead.
5. Can you describe how this product/service resolved your challenge?
6. How is your business better now that this problem is solved?
7. How are your customers positively impacted?
8. What was it like to work with us?
9. How do you anticipate working with us will help your company going forward?
10. Do you have any statistics or numbers that show a measurable improvement as a result of our solution? (If not, that’s OK.)
11. I’d like to quote you in a brief testimonial in this case study. Could you describe, in one or two sentences, the best thing about working with us and the benefit for your business?
12. What title should I use for your job position when I quote you in this case study?
Finally, ask your client if there was anything that could have been done differently to improve their experience or your product/service. These suggestions won’t appear in the final case study, but the feedback is very helpful for continuous improvement behind the scenes.
Once you get answers to these twelve questions you will be able to craft a story using the simple case study template provided earlier. You only have your prospect’s attention for a short time. Keep your case study short and to the point. Telling the story in one page is better than telling it in two.
Additional Considerations in Crafting Case Studies
Should you have more than one case study? Probably, because different stories resonate with different target audiences. Those audiences could be divided up based on industry, but it’s even more powerful to create a case study for each type of major problem you resolve. Think of pain points as plot lines for different “hero journeys”.
What about companies that won’t let you publish their name?
Why are you writing the case study? Are you just trying to name drop to impress prospects? That’s not a good enough reason. If your case study is designed to clearly illustrate how your business solved a significant problem, being able to use the client’s company name is a secondary concern. Anonymizing the client is a small price to pay for being able to tell a great story. It’s always about the magnitude of the change you brought to their organization. Completely transforming a smaller client makes a better story than offering some slight benefit to a major enterprise.
How should you use case studies?
Case studies should be available on your website for credibility, but you shouldn’t lead with this information right out of the gate with prospects. People should be in the mood to hear a story—you need to have already earned their attention. That’s why case studies are typically used in the middle or end of the sales funnel. This might be in the consideration/evaluation stage when the prospective buyer is asking, “Can anyone solve my problem?” or it might be a little later on when the buyer has moved into the ‘intent to purchase’ stage and is asking “Can YOU solve my problem?”
Who should you ask to participate in a case study? Focus on clients who:
• Have good rapport with you
• Experienced a significant transformation
• Are similar to other clients you want to have in the future
It’s that simple. Make a list of five clients right now and personally call or individually email them to ask if you can tell their story.
Daisy McCarty helps business owners gain exceptional clarity on their brand message and engage their ideal clients with ease. If you want to end the confusion and frustration of trying to figure out your marketing message, contact Daisy today.