Six steps for writing a case study

Case studies should be informative and add value.

Are you good at what you do? Do you have lots of happy customers? If so, perhaps you should write a case study.

As a freelance writer, I am often asked to write case studies as part of my clients’ content strategies. Case studies are powerful; while many other forms of marketing will trumpet how great you are, they describe real-life scenarios that demonstrate why.

In this post I will explain why case studies are so effective and what they should include.

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People remember case studies

In essence, a case study is a story, and we all love stories. In fact, storytelling has been used as a means of sharing ideas ever since the first cave paintings.

A story provides context and enables us to imagine ourselves in a particular situation. It also helps us retain information, and studies have shown that if you load people with facts and figures they’ll probably only remember 5 to 10%. Tell them a story, however, and 65 to 70%  of the information will stick.

Case studies are great sales tools

Case studies are wonderful for explaining how you can help your clients in real-life situations. Ideally you should describe scenarios that your prospects can closely relate to so that they think,”That sounds like me. I should give these guys a call.”

The uses for case studies are endless: your sales people can use them on calls, you can email them to clients, they can be included in newsletters, or you can post them on your website for download (a great way to capture information).

So, now that I’ve explained some of the benefits, here are six steps for writing a case study:

1: A case study should read like a story

Take the reader on a journey.  Start by describing a problem and how it affected your client. Get your reader to feel the pain and imagine themselves in the same situation.

2: Explain the challenges

Every good story needs drama, so outline the challenges you faced along the way. Maybe there was resistance from some of your client’s employees or perhaps risks you needed to mitigate.

3: The solution

This is where you explain the solution provided. Outline the benefits and features and why you felt your solution was the best option.

4: Include testimonials

Testimonials from the happy client are essential and make the case study that much more believable. Don’t limit yourself to just one. Include client statements explaining the initial problem, the challenges as well as the happy ending.

5: Describe the result

This is where you describe the happy ending. Here you can include statistics, graphs — anything that illustrates the benefits achieved.

6: Call to action

Though case studies are certainly not about hard sell, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include a call to action. At the end, make sure to ask the reader to contact you if they too want to enjoy the same benefits.

What do you think? I welcome your comments. If you found this post useful, please share.

  1. You’ve inspired me to do some case studies! Do you undertake the whole project for those with no time on their hands, and (last question!) what would an average case study cost?

    1. Thanks. I think you’ll find them worthwhile. Yes I do undertake the whole project. In relation to cost, that depends on how substantial the case study is. They can be anywhere from one page to 20.

  2. I enjoyed your post, Andrew. I’m a freelance copywriter too, and it’s not just the client who benefits from writing case studies. They’re great to write as well, don’t you think? This is especially true if you have a journalism background because – as you say – they’re all about telling a great story with impact.
    As you’ve said to Justine, case studies vary in size but short, pithy sentences always work wonders. Go on too long and the reader loses interest.

    1. Hi Alison, thanks for your feedback and it’s nice to hear from someone in the UK. You’re right, they are fun to write and also fun for the client seeing their successes documented.

  3. Really good tips Andrew and you make it sound so easy.

    The one thing I’d add is including how this relates to a prospect’s situation – if using the case study in a pitch document or sales situation.

    Thanks again for an insightful post.

  4. Great blog post Andrew.
    I recommend case studies regularly to clients and have used them for creating good content for entries into industry awards (like the Master Builders Assn. House of the Year Awards). I have even worked mini versions into cover letters and CVs for job applications I have written for people.
    Case studies are as valuable as testimonials and can go a long way to show rather than tell a potential client why they should do business someone.

    1. Thanks, Fiona. You make a good point about using them for entry into industry awards. Case studies are not new; it’s a pity they’re not used by businesses more often.

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