Writing Your Case Study

Okay, so you’ve decided to write a case study or two, to show how you have helped people with your business. What goes into the thing, to make it most effective?

A Happy Customer

This is essential! Write about a person who you genuinely helped, and who is genuinely very happy with the results. The person should be happy to allow his or her story to be told, so be sure you get permission before putting anything out there into the public.

And by the way, the case study should indeed focus around a person rather than on a company. The happy client may be speaking on behalf of the company, but a case study is a personal thing. It’s designed to answer a reader’s question, “What’s in it for me (personally)?”

Write a short (50-100 words) background of this person, to allow the reader to get acquainted. The case study is meant to be something of a story, rather than a dry report. So this person is the main actor in that story.

A Problem and Your Solution

VAR cone wrenches

How did you Fix Things? (Photo courtesy Flickr user periwinklekog)

What was going wrong for your main character? What was happening in their business that was preventing them from being effective, getting work done, or doing what their business was supposed to do? That was the problem you were asked to help them solve. Maybe use 100 to 150 words to describe what it was.

You might want to include a quote from your customer here, but don’t overdo it. The person describing their frustration or difficulty in their own words can have a powerful impact. But as always, keep it as short as you can. Perhaps put the quote in a sidebar in this section.

Make your description of the problem as interesting as you can. Remember that this is a “story,” so if you can make it seem dramatic or even suspenseful, you will keep your readers interested.

Then use another 100-150 words to describe your solution to that problem. Great tool, procedure, service, or software saves the day! Well…maybe not quite that melodramatic. Be sure the customer is kept in the spotlight, with you and your solution as supporting characters.

A Great Result and Good Future

How did it all work out? Was there a great return on investment (ROI) for your customer? Did he or she whittle a regular four-hour job down to two hours, thanks to your way of streamlining the work? Is that person or company better able to serve their own clients, thanks to you?

Here’s where you can use another quote or two. Now your readers can see the tangible results of your intervention, in the real life of a real client. This is what your product or service exists for. Let the reader see, in the most interesting way possible, exactly how good it really is.

Make this section about 200-250 words. Don’t sink into market-speak or dry facts and figures, though. Remember, this is a story, and the result of your coming into the client’s life is a happy ending.

Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Remember that this is not just one big advertisement. You are telling a story, and highlighting your customer. You will automatically look good (and your services attractive) in the success of that customer. So talk about him or her — not about yourself — except as your product or service produced the result that made them happy and more productive.
  2. Remember that you need this customer’s permission to use their story. Do not just assume that they want their name and reputation put out there in this way.
  3. Don’t use a lot of industry jargon. Again, you are writing a story and not a technical report. If someone enjoys the story and feels encouraged to contact you for information, that’s the appropriate time to get a bit more technical.
  4. If you can do a few case studies from different industries, showcasing different problems you’ve helped solve, that will be a plus for you. You don’t have to have a lot of case studies, but the chance to show some versatility won’t be a bad thing.

Keep your case study lighter and more personal than other types of reports. That way, you’ve got a real human element that lifts your service out of dry technicality or blaring advertising. If you can write the case study so a potential customer feels like you’ve just pulled up a chair and chatted about a story, it will be very effective. It could be the best customer testimonial you’ll ever have.