Top 10 Tips for Writing Better Case Studies

The value of case studies should never be underestimated. They are one of the best ways in which you can bring to life the work you’ve done for your customers. And, in business, there is no better endorsement than the one coming from a real-life person, your customer, in their own words.

Yet, case studies (especially in B2B) can often be dull, too product-focused and basically not fit for purpose. That’s why I’ve pulled together my top 10 tips for writing better case studies. You know, the kind of case studies that deliver real commercial value and resonate with your customers and prospects.

1: Purpose 

Before writing your case study, think about why? What is its purpose? How will it be used? Where will it be used? By simply being clear at the onset of the who, what, why, when and where, you’re already well on your way to ensuring that your case study focuses on what’s important.

2: Make it easy

People are busy and don’t generally have the time or inclination to fill out a wordy questionnaire so that you can then draft up a case study. Make it easy for them by doing all the donkey work and illustrate how quick and easy the process will be for them.

By interviewing the customer you’ll both also get more out of the experience. Talking directly to your customer also presents a fantastic opportunity to get to know them better and understand the issues and challenges that they are facing – perhaps you’ll uncover how you can help them more or get them interested in doing something else such as joint webinar with you.

3: Be prepared

Before speaking to the customer, speak to the person within your organisation closest to them so you are aware of any potential issues and understand the relationship and the details of the product/service they are using. That way you’ll be able to ask the right questions and be at your most professional.

There is nothing worse than calling a customer expecting positive feedback to be met with a barrage of complaints. If this ever is the case, make sure you handle it well and ensure any complaint is followed-up and resolved.

4: Questions to ask

Our handy PDF template will act as a guide to the kind of questions you should be asking. Although the questions are B2B-focused, and might not all be relevant, you can adapt for your own use.

Where possible, try and get actual facts and figures – real proof points that illustrate the impact of the work you have delivered. Remember, if your prospects recognise themselves, the issues they are facing, and are impressed by the results, they are more likely to pick up the phone to you for help rather than your competitors.

5: Structure

If you check out our case studies such as this one about the Meet the Manufacturer PR campaign, you’ll see they follow the same structure:

  • Headline – to get attention and make people want to read on
  • Quotes – really highlight a great customer quote
  • Headline results – bring out the most powerful results so that people even scanning the case study pick up key benefits of using you
  • The challenge – where you illustrate what the problem or business issue was. Make it recognisable to others
  • What we did – how you addressed and answered the customer’s business issue
  • Results – where you can go into more detail regarding the results of the work
  • Want to know more – don’t forget your call to action so that people know who they should contact
  • Credits – where you can add in extra detail regarding the client.

You should highlight the customer name prominently and use a logo to draw the attention of the reader to the ‘name’ and industry, for example. Imagery also helps to showcase results.

6: Readability

Skip the jargon and make the case study as readable and understandable as possible. Bulletpoints, headings, bold text, and imagery will all add to the case study’s readability, especially online where it is most likely to be scanned.

A photo of the person quoted will also add to the credibility of the case study.

7: Re-purpose

Think where else you can you use your case study, the different audiences, and formats they prefer.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • Video case study
  • Standalone quote for LinkedIn
  • Website
  • Infographic
  • Shared on social media
  • PDF download and hand-out
  • Mailout to prospects and to current customers to aid loyalty
  • Blog post
  • Press release
  • Quote for an article or joint media comment/interview.

8: Permission

No case study should be used until it has full customer permission. Always get your case study checked internally by the customer contact, and signed off in writing by the customer – letting them know where and when it will be used. Send them a final copy for their records, and don’t forget to thank them.

 9: Feedback

Try and encourage the people using the case studies, for example, your salespeople, to let you know how they are using them and when they have worked. For example, have they helped them to secure a sale? When your case study is used in a marketing campaign, measure its success. The more you can understand the benefit of the case studies, the more likely you and your business will commit to doing more and build them into your long-term content and PR strategy.

10: Encourage

Lastly, don’t let your case study be a one-hit wonder. Encourage and incentive your sales people and the people closest to your customers to share with you details of any clients that would make great case studies.

Be selective, and focus on quality, not quantity.

Good luck.

If you’ve found this advice useful, and even acted upon it, please let me know.

If you need help with your case studies, here are some ways you can work with me.

UPDATE

In many industries, getting permission for case studies can be extremely difficult.  But before you throw in the towel, here are some ideas that you might want to give a go first.

  • Look at options to just get permission to (at least) have a logo on your site – great for credibility
  • Do group case studies based on client feedback/satisfaction surveys or interview a group of customers with anonymous results
  • Look to alternatives to case studies or ways to collaborate – inviting your clients to submit a guest blog, contribute to a press article or be a guest on one of your webinars focusing on a particular issue that will also benefit the client in terms of their own PR
  • Be less rigid in your case study structure i.e. if a customer voluntarily provides positive feedback by email, social media etc. ask if you can use their comments
  • Ask new customers questions so you can then go back to them to see the difference after so many months – asking permission to use the feedback in an anonymous case study
  • What about personal recommendations via LinkedIn?
  • Let me know if you have any more tips I can add.
Ellen Carroll

PR champion with a passion for profitable PR and newsworthy content. Setting up Nellie PR in 2007, Ellen has over 20 years’ experience in the PR and marketing industry.

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