Why should you have case studies on your website?
Every case study and testimonial you publish is evidence of a happy client. That helps overcome one of the major challenges of service marketing – the fear that the service will be substandard, but it will be impossible to get money back.
Case studies also meet one of the key requirements for content marketing strategies. They are by their very nature unique, original content. You just need to make sure they’re good content as well!
Because not all case studies are created equal. Some are more compelling and persuasive. Make sure yours are. Here’s our guide to how to write a case study which really stands out.
1. Choosing the right clients for your case studies is key.
Do you have a clear idea of your target market? Your ideal customer? Use that knowledge and select similar clients for your case studies.
People are most interested in case studies featuring ‘someone like me’. So choose clients who match your ideal client profile as closely as possible. Consider factors like:
- company size
- company structure (public sector and not-for-profits in particular can find it hard to relate to ‘a bottom-line focused business’.)
- the job title and role of the chief decision maker(s) who will feature in the case study
For example, at NoBull Marketing:
- We work with small to medium-sized businesses. A case study about a global marketing campaign with a $20 million budget wouldn’t help us.
- We work across a wide range of industries, but our target is for service businesses. So we feature a fulfilment business, not a shoe shop!
Now you know which clients you want to feature in case studies, there’s two more essential rules.
Get the client’s permission before you write your case study.
If you’re dealing with the owner or CEO, this is straightforward. If you’re dealing someone less senior, they may need to get permission from higher-ups. You may need to justify what’s in it for them. (Weblinks, promotion, more publicity and profile….)
Get your client’s approval before you publish your case study.
Sure, they said they’d do it. But they also need to see exactly what you’re saying about them, before you say it!
Remember, before they used your service, your client had a problem. So your case study could be seen as washing dirty linen in public. You need to present information in a way which makes them look good.
2. Structure your case study
So you need to:
Introduce the hero.
That’s your client, not you! Although if you follow the slightly more complex structure from shesnovel.com (click on the image for the full article), there’s room to include your company as the ‘mentor’ helping your hero get to a new, better normal.
Explain the challenge.
Usually there’s a problem causing your client headaches. On rare occasions, you may have a client without an actual problem, but with a vision of something better. But most people have a problem. And remember, when you explain the problem, you need to do it in a way which doesn’t make your client look bad. Not ‘the IT was hopelessly outdated and slow‘, but ‘they’d outgrown their initial IT investment and needed to update their network‘.
Describe what happened.
What actions did you and the client take to tackle the challenge?
Common actions include:
- reviewing current status and past activities
- getting feedback and input from everyone involved
- setting goals and objectives for the change you’re about to implement
- planning how to implement changes
- actual implementation
- training and fine-tuning
- measuring results
Provide a happy ending.
Sure, there are stories with tragic endings, but they don’t usually make good case study material!
Positive results are great. Quantifiable results are even better.
- Growth in revenue
- Great ROI (return on investment)
- Improved productivity
- Reduced cost
If you can’t get a quantifiable result, at least state what kind of benefit your client has realised
- ‘Jenny’s coaching has increased my confidence so much I can now speak up and put my view across in meetings’
- ‘Everyone loved the event, it ran so smoothly and we’ll be using you for all our functions in the future.’
- ‘It was a tight deadline but they worked night and day to deliver on schedule.’
2. Focus your case study on business results, not actions taken
The ‘happy ending’ is the payoff.
It’s what persuades anyone reading the case study to consider using your services. So that’s what you want to focus on.
And just because it’s the ending, don’t think that means you need to leave it languishing at the end.
Use the results in the headline or title.
Here’s an example from Backlinko:
SEO Campaign Case Study: 1,117 Social Shares and 15% More Organic Traffic (In 2 Weeks)
Concrete numbers, growth statistics. Even a timeframe – a good one!
Use the results in boxes and graphics
Images, inserts and text boxes draw the eye. Put what matters where people look.
3. Ensure your case study is credible
How does a visitor to your website know your case study is real? That it’s not just something you made up? Here are some ways to make it real.
Include the full name, job title and company name.
‘Bridget from Sydney’ could be anybody.
‘Bridget Holland, Director, NoBullMarketing’ is far more specific and real.
You could even include a photo. Make sure your client looks happy in it!
Of course photos are almost as easy to fake as words (I know, I used to run an online dating site!), but they are ‘real’. Your case study now has a human face. And if you can caption the photo with a positive quotation, you are streaks ahead.
Include a logo.
Link it to the client’s website for even more credibility. Plus your clients will usually be keen to have extra links. It helps their marketing and promotion!
Let the client tell the story, not you.
Maybe you have a lovely, generous client who’s willing to spend time writing an entire case study.
If so, lucky you!
Much more often, they say ‘Can you draft something up for me to look at?‘
Which is fine, of course you can, but it will make the case study sound and feel like the rest of your site. Whereas a different tone sounds like a different person, and increase credibility.
So what are your options?
- Ask for a few quotations ‘in your own words‘ which you can then insert into the case study. (If you know what you want this particular case study to highlight, ask them to comment on that aspect specifically.)
- Opt for a Q&A style case study. You have to prepare the questions, and your client may well want to see them in advance. Depending on the client’s personality and the level of company control required, you may get the answers in written format, or you may schedule a phone call or meeting.
- Use video or audio as the medium for the case study. This works really well. It’s much harder to fake, so it feels real and credible. (Just be sure to include a transcript, or key points, so that you get some SEO juice.)
Invite the reader to verify the case study
‘I’m happy to have a phone chat with anyone who’d like to know more‘.
If your client agrees to this line, it’s one of the most powerful things you can put in a case study.
Chances are, no one will ever ask to chat with your client. They just need to know that they can.
That’s the key points in how to write a case study. So what’s stopping you?
Are you short of time? Low on confidence? Worried about approaching clients?
If you’d like some help, just drop us a line.