Why do case studies work?
They provide real examples of how you were able to satisfy the needs of a customer. They work because:
- they feel more credible to customers than marketing speak
- they help people understand your products or services
- they show how your products or services work practically
- they demonstrate a real return on investment
- everyone loves a good story
What makes a good case study?
The key to creating a good case study is choosing the right example to start with and then telling the story well.
When you look for a case study:
- pick a situation that your customers and clients can relate to – someone facing the same kinds of issues and problems that they are
- think about what you’re trying to show or prove about your company. The case study should reflect this in a positive way. For example, how your software solved a problem or how your training improved customer service
- find a clear example of how you provided a return on investment
What are the benefits of a case study?
For the client featured in the story, the case study can:
- show they’ve addressed critical business needs
- demonstrate how they’ve responded to potential business threats or have listened to customer feedback
- show they’ve chosen a trustworthy supplier
For the company, the case study:
- shows they can deliver results
- demonstrates expertise and deep industry-specific knowledge
- introduces products and services to potential clients by sharing lessons learned from previous customers
Putting together your case study
Decide what type of company you want to use
When deciding what to use as a case study, think about what types of customers you want to attract. Using a big name in your case study can reflect well on your business. But if your more typical customers are SMEs or individuals, picking a big company could make your services seem beyond their aspirations or too expensive.
Also, big companies might have very long approval processes which could delay the publication of your case study.
Get permission before you start
Once you've decided who you'd like to feature in your case study, make sure they are on board. Explain that the case study will frame their experience in a positive way, for example by explaining how they’ve resolved important issues, increased their growth or boosted customer satisfaction.
It will help to explain the process of putting together the case study to the client being featured, and if you've already done some case studies, send them some examples.
Ask at the right time
You can ask a client if they’d mind being featured in a case study when the job begins. If you haven’t done this, ask as soon as possible after the work is completed while they are still basking in the success of a job well done. Occasionally, companies offer a discount or other incentive for being allowed to use a project as a case study.
Build in approval time
Your client will probably want approval rights on the final copy and any quotes or metrics used. So you'll need to build this into your process and timelines.
Think about your audience
Before you start, think about who you are targeting and why. This will help you frame what you want to say. Think about what your audience needs to know and what they will consider a credible source of information. If what they want is the perspective of an accountant or chief information officer, it won’t be helpful to get a quote from an HR manager.
Case studies may take some time to pull together, particularly in getting approval from the client. When planning your online content strategy and your marketing plan, work out when you need your case studies – for example for a new brochure or a big trade show – and make sure you get them written ahead of time.
Send your customer a completed copy of the case study. And make sure you say a big personal thank you so they know just how much you appreciate their effort and co-operation.