How to write a powerful case study

How to write a powerful case study POST

When it comes to showing how your business can help people, one of the most effective ways to do this is by using a case study. Before your eyes glaze over, don’t think that this is some boring dissection of a client project. Your case studies should be presented in a way that inspires people and converts prospects into paying customers.

After all, you can bang on forever about how good you are. You can list your company’s achievements till the cows home come. And you can talk ad nauseam about all the qualifications and skills your team possesses. However, while those factors are great, often a powerful customer case study can be the very thing that gets a potential customer across the lines. This aim of this case study is to showcase how you can help people.

You can use these case studies on your website, brochures, and marketing materials. This is often presented in written form but, these days, an increasing number of case studies are being presented via online video. There’s no rule that decrees that one medium is better than another; the key is to pick the delivery that’s going to best resonate with your target audience.

So what are the key components of a powerful case study? Obviously, you need to pick the right customers/clients to showcase. You want to find the best success stories – the ones that have seen the biggest impact on their lives since working with you. If you’re wondering how to tell this story, I recommend the following approach.

The basics:
Establish basic information first. This includes: the name of your client, a one- or two-sentence description of their business, how long it’s been in business, where it’s based and the name of your key contact in the company. This information is essential so that readers have the right context for the rest of your story.

The situation:
We all love “before” and “after” stories. The weight loss industry has used this marketing tactic to great effect for decades. The same can be said for businesses. But instead of showing “before” images of unfit people to compare with their ripped “after” images, you’re painting your readers a picture of your customer’s situation before they began working with you.

This section is your equivalent of the “before” photo. To this end, you need to provide readers with a clear idea of the situation your client was in. Try to illustrate this with useful statistics. This might include turnover, sales, profitability or rate of growth.

The challenges:
Next, outline the main challenges faced by your client. What did they want to change in their business and what were their biggest obstacles? Every compelling story has an element of challenge or conflict. If you want to maintain your readers’ interest, make sure this is included in your story.

Perhaps the challenge was a slowing economy, onerous government regulations or the increasing dominance of a new competitor in the market. Describe the impact of this challenge on the client, why they wanted to overcome it and the consequences of not being able to. This hooks your reader in because, like watching a movie unfold, they want to see if the main character (in this case, your client) will come out a winner!

Your role:
Describe your role in helping your client to navigate the obstacles in their path. This is your chance to shine. But remember that your main character in this story is your client. Showcase your talents by outlining your recommendations and strategy, but let your client remain the hero of this story. Don’t try to hog the credit or the limelight. After all, people want Luke Skywalker to battle the evil empire and save the day. But when you tell the story right, they’ll also know that he couldn’t have done it without Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The outcome:
Finally, describe the outcome. This is your “after” photo. Provide readers will a clear idea of what was achieved. Again, this is going to be more powerful and credible if you can provide statistics or meaningful numbers. Use comparative figures where possible: that is, your client’s sales numbers now versus when they began working with you. In the same way that the weight loss industry show how many inches have been lost from hips, waist and thighs, your comparative numbers provide a measurable benchmark of your success.

Call to action:
Finally, remember to conclude your story with a call to action. Hopefully, you’ve inspired prospective customers to consider using your services. Make it easy for them to determine the next step. What do they need to do? Is there a specific number for them to call? Guide them in the right direction.

Ultimately, your case studies aren’t just a marketing tool that show off what you can do with clients, they should be inspirational stories that celebrate the achievements of the people you do business with.

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About Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is founder and national director of the Australian Writers' Centre, the country's leading centre for writing courses. She is a journalist, blogger and author. Her latest book is "Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business" (Wiley). Valerie is a keynote speaker, small business commentator, and investor and mentor to startups and businesses in Australia.