How To Write A Case Study
Writing a case study is a fundamental feature of any successful inbound marketing strategy. Your business probably has a blog to attract new visitors, and you probably use email marketing to transform those visitors into leads (or prospects).
However, you need to show those prospects that your business is the best choice. The best way to do it is to show an example of a project you've completed, and that's what a case study is about.
What You Should And Shouldn't Include In A Case Study
Any good case study must have three key components that fully describe all the work that was done:
Data, files, images and any type of objective information about the project.
The opinions and feelings of your client.
Subjective comments from yourself and your team.
It is indisputable that objective information is essential when creating a case study. After all, your prospects will want to see what was done and how it helped your client.
However, including subjective opinions - your client's and your own - allows your prospects to identify with the project. By reading the case study, your prospects can imagine how it would be like work alongside your business.
We wrote an article on the 4 basic questions that you should ask your client before writing a case study. You should read the full article when you're putting together information. Summing up, the 4 questions are:
What was going on in your business that sent you looking for a company like ours?
What made you confident that our solution was a fit?
How has working with us impacted your business?
What are three words that describe your experience working with us?
These 4 questions allow you to get a complete span of the subjective opinion of your client through the entire process of working with you. And sharing your client's opinion can be as important as sharing cold facts about the project.
But what about your own opinion? It's clear that since your business is the one publishing the case study, considering your opinion of the project as an essential part of the process can be risky.
What you should do instead is include comments to sum up the different sections of the case study. For example, as you explain the solution you came up for your client, you could include a flowchart showing what you did, then quote your client on how that solution impacted their business, and finally add your personal point of view of how that solution was the best one.
Think of including your personal opinion as if you were just a consultant for this project. You analyze what was done and you give your expert point of view, independently from the fact that you were the one who did it.
When we write our case studies, we like to limit our personal opinions to just 4 topics, that correspond to the following 4 questions:
What challenges or needs did the client face in their industry that led them to look for a solution like ours?
During the implementation of the solution, what problems developed and how did we work with the client to solve these problems?
How has our solution impacted our client's business?
What are three words that describe our experience working on this project?
As you can see, these 4 questions are directly related to the ones you need to ask your client. The reason for this is that the case study should follow a very precise structure.
How To Format Your Case Study
Once you have gathered all the information, both data from the project and the answers to the questions for yourself and for your client, it's time to organize it in an accessible way for your prospects to read.
What does that look like?
The easiest way for you to classify all the information you have is in three different time slots. First, everything that came before your business was involved in the project. Then, the process of working on the project, until it was completed. Finally, everything that came after the project was completed.
It may seem simple, but you need to be able to separate every piece of information properly. Start with that, and then you can write each section of the case study separately.
You must know that there is no recipe for a case study. Once you have data from your project and the comments of your client, all you have to do is start writing.
Your case study can have any shape you want. In that sense, it's very similar to a blog article. Of course, you need to include titles, images and lists to make it attractive. But the content itself is up to you.
And there's a reason for that: there's no one else who knows as much as you and your team about this project. Whatever you write about it will be original.
The one thing you shouldn't forget when writing about the project is that the case study is a part of a marketing strategy, aimed at prospects who could turn to clients if your case study is convincing enough. This means you should use their language and share the information in the most accessible way.
Share Your Experience In A Way That Others Can Learn From It
So should you just write all you can about the project? Yes. Will that be the final case study? Not at all.
Writing the content of the case study is a way of digesting all the information you have. You are just transforming data and opinions into a text aimed at your prospects. But maybe they don't want to read a 4,000-word report of your project.
Once you finish the first written version of your case study, think if that's the best way to share it. A good advice is to have coworkers read the case study and cut unnecessary parts. Other alternatives you can consider include making an infographic, a video, or even a podcast.
In the end, a case study is just a way to showcase a project you worked on to convince prospects that they should hire you. Provided you include the three stages of the project (pre, during and post) and back your text with data and quotes from your client, it will be a great case study.