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How to Write an Effective Case Study

By Deborah Kurfiss, Umbrella Communications & Content Director on May 24, 2024

It’s a marketing maxim, “Show them, don’t just tell them.” Solid case studies (also called success stories) offer your audience vivid evidence of the superiority of a product or service. They explain in detail how your service (or your client’s product or service) helped a specific client achieve success and include accolades from that client. It’s been established that testimonials have an extremely strong influence on customers, but when you combine that with showing how it was done and objective proof of success in the form of a case study, the allure is almost irresistible.

Today we are going to discuss how to determine the focus of your case studies, how to choose the clients to demonstrate what you want to prove and what information to include. You will want to write case studies for your marketing agency, but also for your clients, especially your B2B clients.

Why Should I Write Case Studies?

We’re going to be honest with you. Writing case studies is a lot of work. You need to gather data, organize it and get client approval. That can mean a lot of back and forth between you and the client.

But case studies are an extremely powerful marketing tool that you cannot afford to ignore. There’s a reason that the Content Marketing Institute tells us that in a recent survey 73% of the most successful content marketers indicated they use case studies.

Following are how case studies can serve you and your clients.

Paint a Picture

It’s not always easy to explain how a solution can solve problems for a customer. Some solutions require complex marketing technology, techniques and strategies. But once you explain a concept, a real-world story of how the solution saved the day for a customer can cause the light to dawn.

Demonstrate Expertise

It can be hard for a prospect to decide who to hire or what product to buy given the state of intense competition in many industries today. But case studies can show your clients that you know what you are doing and have helped others.

Prove Your Case

Case studies don’t just tell a nice story of a happy client. They offer proof that your (or your client’s) solutions work and work well. If at all possible, you should present before and after data that objectively proves your success.

Before You Start Writing

Decide on the Objective of Your Case Study

It’s often the case when writing a case study that you can use it to demonstrate a number of benefits you or your client company can bring to customers. But don’t try to be all things to all people in one case study. Remember, you can always write more case studies.

You will usually want to focus on one factor or at least limited factors of a product or service. For example, by using a product, a customer might be able to increase their ROI, get more customers, complete work faster, become a more visible brand and an additional laundry list of investments. You will want most of the focus to be on one of these benefits.

Address the others in additional case studies. Also, if you want, you can always put a more general testimonial at the end of a case study where the customer says how your agency (or your client company if you are writing the case study for them) helped overall.

Choose the Subject of Your Case Study

After choosing the primary benefits you want to demonstrate about your product or services, think about what companies could best exemplify success in those areas. Perhaps Company X has been able to reduce their costs by a significant margin while Company Y has significantly increased their sales in a way that a direct line could be drawn to the products or services provided by your agency (or your agency’s client).

Don’t just sent out email will-nilly asking your clients to participate. Think about

  • Companies where you can show demonstrative, measurable and impressive results
  • Client companies that are well-known at least in their industry. It’s going to be more impressive to show how you doubled conversions for a household name company than for the local repair shop down the street. But work with what you have.
  • What industries you want to feature. People can relate better to case studies that feature their same industry.

Not every company is going to want to be the subject of a case study, because they must reveal some of the challenges they faced even though they are now resolved. But it’s worth finding companies that will let you use not only their data but their names. We cannot stress enough that case studies that feature actual companies as subjects are much more convincing than a case study that just talks about Company X. A case study that does not name the client company seems made up even though every word and number in it may be true.

Get Permission from Your Subject Company

You will need a client’s (or if you are writing on behalf of a client, their customer’s) permission before writing the case study. You need permission to write it, their approval of all quotes and approval of the final piece. It is not going to do you any good to have what reads like a good case study but that the client complains about or even takes legal action to squash.

Set the Tone

The tone of your case study should be consistent with your branding and appeal to your audience. Though every case study should be data-driven, some will have a formal tone and some will be light and conversational. But whatever kind of tone you use, don’t forget that you need to present proof that your agency’s (or client company’s) solutions delivered significant results for the customer.

Structure Your Case Study

Though you can set up your case study with different headings and subheadings, what follows is the general structure of case studies.

Short Introduction

Write a short paragraph, maybe just a couple sentences about what you plan to show in this case study so people immediately understand what they are about to read bout and its focus.

If you have hard data, such as that conversions were increased 300%, include some eye-catching figures in the introduction.

Company Description

Describe the company. Your audience may be made up of various segments, and they will relate more to companies that are similar to them. In other words, professional service companies are going to be more interested in a case study about a law firm than an international high tech company.

So, you will want to discuss the company’s industry, size, audience, place in the business life cycle (startup, growth, maturity, etc.), overall products and services (very briefly), the product or service that is the topic of this case study, and anything else we would want to know about this company before proceeding to their challenge and the solution.

Don’t make this too long. We are talking a paragraph or two.

The Challenge

Now no doubt your subject company has various types of challenges, but this is where to address the challenge that you have decided is the focus of this case study. Perhaps despite having good web traffic, the company was not happy with its conversion rate. You will want to indicate what the conversion rate was at the beginning along with any other relevant numbers and measurements. Obviously, this is just an example, and you will want to use the relevant metrics for whatever the challenge was before your agency put your solution into effect.

The Solution

The subject company may have tried various solutions before you came along. You may want to briefly describe what they were and why they did not work. This part could also go into the “Challenge” section.

Now we want to describe in as much detail as possible the solution put into effect by your agency or client. How was this different from previous solutions? Why did this solution a good fit for the challenge faced by this company?

The Results

You want to show how something stood before the solution/ campaigns were implemented and how they stood after. Give us the actual numbers.  For example, before your agency put your solution into effect, web traffic was X but conversions where only Y. After the solution, web traffic was X but conversions hit the roof at Z. Show how this is much higher than industry average if you can.

Once you offer actual numbers, bring it home by converting it to a percentage. Did conversions increase 300%?  Did they get even better over time? What is the time frame in which all this happened?

Customer Quotes

Quote the subject company executives or other relevant players throughout the article to make various points. At the end, place a customer testimonial that can stand on its own. As already stated, you need to get approval on all quotes as well as the article as a whole from the subject company.

Call to Action

Now that your prospect (or your client’s prospect) has read the case study, what do you want them to do? If you want them to call on the phone or reach out through a website, give them the information they need and make it easy for them. Offer a free initial phone consultation (which is really an opportunity to set up a more formal appointment or to sell them right there).

Don’t Go It Alone

You don’t have to do all your marketing or your client’s marketing alone. Umbrella can provide you a platform for technology, training, lead generation and white label digital marketing services. For a free consultation, contact Umbrella by heading to our website or calling (866) 760-2638.

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