How to make case studies happen  

Case studies are a very effective content marketing tool. But they're not always easy to manage and produce. Here's some best-practice advice.

 How to make case studies happen  

Is there a better format than the case study for demonstrating the value of your products in an interesting, practical way?

Case studies are a powerful content marketing format that should make up a central part of your content strategy, particularly if you’re involved in the B2B sphere and they're also really good if what you do is niche or technical.

Case studies allow you to tell a story about your product, showing the reader how it works and giving practical examples.

Why do case studies work?

UK marketers rate the case study as the second most effective content marketing platform available (70%), according to the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing in the UK 2014 research report.

Case studies are effective because:

  • they show how your products and services work in an interesting, real-world context
  • they position you as a thought leader
  • they improve your brand because external companies endorse you
  • they can win you new business

So we know they work. But that shiny-end product masks the amount of hard graft and complex stakeholder management that’s often needed to produce a good one.

As anyone who has worked on a case study will know, they are not without their stressful moments. A case study typically involves a number of parties, including clients, management and stakeholders.

These are people who are all stretched for time – and some of them might not want to be on board. Why?

Producing a case study – challenges

  • clients can be sceptical – you’ll need to convince them it’s worth their time
  • management and stakeholders will want to review
  • managing deadlines and timeframes can be difficult

Making a case study come together: top tips

So how do you make sure your case study comes together on time and as hassle-free as possible?

Set yourself as the project lead
It’s crucial that a case study project has a central lead to drive everything through. Set yourself up as the go-to person – make it clear to all relevant parties that you’re running the show. Having one central lead ensures too many cooks don’t spoil the broth.

Plan and brief
Send out a briefing pack containing key dates, a brief, contact details and a clear plan showing the development of the case study from origin to finished product

Get buy-in from clients
Getting a client to publicly endorse your product is a massive seal of approval and could help you win new business. So it’s really valuable to you.

But your client might need some persuasion. What’s in it for them? Why should they get involved? Remember that the client will likely have their own concerns around brand compliance.

They’ll probably have a team wanting to take a look over the final draft, so make sure you’re fully briefed on any compliance and branding systems that the client has in place. It’ll make the whole process a lot easier.

Nail down timeframes
Missed deadlines and cancelled calls do not make a good case study. You can’t have a client agree to be interviewed only to cancel a week later, setting your plan askew.

Send out dates and times for any interviews and make it clear that they must be met. Remember, the case study will be beneficial to both you and the client, so remind them that it’ll be good for them too.

Do what you can to make the process as easy for the client as possible. Some people would rather do an email questionnaire in their own time rather than a phone conversation at a specific time. Give them options, be flexible.

Consider working with a content agency
Think about collaborating with a content marketing agency to help develop your case study. They can help you on all manner of things: from managing stakeholders, tracking timeframes effectively and giving you a dedicated editor who can interview and write great content.

You might also want to produce the case study as a PDF – so look for a full-service agency offering data visualisation.

‘Case studies are an effective but often overlooked content platform,’ says our content director Dan Brotzel. ‘They demonstrate your expertise, introduce your products in a practical way, and can illustrate key benefits in an engaging way by telling a story.’

‘But remember that some businesses have lengthy approval processes, meaning case studies require a lot of planning. Always put in place a clear plan – and always be respectful of your client’s time.’