A good case study is like sales gold dust. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to one of your satisfied customers going around and telling all your prospects how great you are. In just one short document, you can evidence that you understand your customers’ issues AND know how to fix them.
So why do so many case studies end up as dry, underwhelming documents that do nothing to win business?
A case study that lacks impact is often the result of poor planning and execution. The good news is that there is a winning formula: follow our four key steps to make sure your case study brings in the business.
1. Find the story
Creating an effective case study is all about telling a story, complete with a plot that sees the hero facing and triumphing over a challenge. Ideally, there’ll be some element of struggle in it before moving on to a happy ending. If you find what you intend to write about doesn’t have a story to tell, cut your losses and find a different topic for your case study.
Your customer must be the hero of the story. Make your customer’s main challenge the villain of the piece and remember that your company, product or solution must only ever be a supporting character. As with any good story, your plot will centre around your hero, and will take them on a clear journey. And maximise the reality, believability and relatability of your story by mentioning any hitches that you and your customer had to overcome along the way. Making your customer the hero has three main benefits:
- A customer is more likely to sign off a case study that shows them in a good light.
- It creates a story experience that the reader is most likely to identify with.
- It stops you focusing the piece on your product or service. This means you’re less likely to get side-tracked into listing features that detract from the story and are better suited to a datasheet.
Wondering how we could tell your customers’ stories? Take a look at some of our case study examples.
2. Let your customer’s voice shine through
Wherever possible, conduct interviews with key players in your customer’s company to capture the human angle for your case study and let the personality of your customer’s business shine through. By talking through their experiences you’re more likely to extract genuine responses that your reader can relate to; written inputs tend to be more clinical and can slip into industry jargon that sound stilted, significantly reducing readability. Prepare thoroughly for your interviews by speaking to the person that has the closest relationship with them in your company:
- Get the background to the events you’ll be exploring and your colleague’s side of the story so you can make sure you cover every aspect in your interview.
- Prepare open questions beforehand and work logically through the story journey.
- Seek out the transformation story. Explore the position of your customer’s company before and after your actions so you can draw out the contrast.
Listen out for good quotes to incorporate into your writing and use them liberally. The way your customer expresses themselves will be far more effective than your reportage of what they said. Don’t be afraid of a natural-sounding quote; think of it as one peer talking directly to another.
3. Maximise layout and design to make your messages easy to absorb
Boost your chances of your messages coming across loud and clear by making the most of imagery in your case study. The right images embody your customer’s industry and help to draw your reader into the story. Images also create more of a magazine feel, so reading the piece feels light and easy. Design your case study with the skim reader in mind:
- Include call out boxes containing headline results and key benefits.
- Use subheadings to signpost the main points of the story.
- Consider including graphics to illustrate products or services mentioned, or design mini infographics to draw attention to key stats.
4. Work your case study hard
Creating a great case study is not enough — you need to get it noticed by the right people, and that can take some work. Start by customising your core story into the right formats to suit a variety of channels. Begin by creating a short, two-sided version for a quick read, and a succinct couple of paragraphs to get across the key points in presentations. Could it work as a video case study? Plan how you’re going to promote your case study:
- Consider promoting it across your social channels using custom-designed images.
- Think about how you can feature it on your website with a call-to-action banner.
- Make sure your sales teams know about it and have strategies for using it to best effect.
Once your case study is up and running, keep an eye on its performance. Check back in with your sales teams to get feedback on how your case study has been performing so you can incorporate their opinions into your ongoing case study strategy. Find out the reach of your case study on social media, and website views, too. All measures of effectiveness will support your overall case study programme.
Sell your success with a story
Never underestimate the power of a good case study. Sharing your customers’ stories is a sure-fire way to convince prospects to choose your business. By explaining their journey, your satisfied customers help others to visualise how they could achieve a successful outcome with you, too.
At asabell, we create case studies that win business. To talk through how we can help you share your customers’ stories, get in touch.