Elements Of Case Study

Case studies are a great way to tell the world how valuable your products or services are. They go beyond simple testimonials by showing real-life examples of how you were able to satisfy your customer’s needs and help them accomplish their goals. With great case studies, you will be able to highlight your successes in a way that will make your ideal potential customer become your customer. The following are some tips on how to make your case studies a powerful asset in soliciting business.

1. Write About Someone Your Ideal Customer Can Relate To

Do you know who your ideal customer is? If it’s someone in the education industry, then make your case studies about your university customers. If it’s someone in the automobile industry, then make your case studies about auto parts and accessories manufacturers.

The goal is to ensure that once your ideal customer has read your case studies, they will feel:

  • You are comfortable in their industry.
  • You know their industry’s specific needs.
  • You know how to give their industry targeted results.

Think about it on a smaller level, such as when you’re reading a how-to blog post. Most of them are geared toward average readers. But when you come across a how-to post specifically designed for your needs (such as online marketing for the healthcare industry), then you are more likely to understand and apply the information. The same goes with case studies – people who read about results attained in their industry will feel like the same products / services will work for them as well.

2. Tell the Story from Start to Finish

People enjoy reading a story. A great case study will allow someone to really get to know the customer in the case study including:

  • Who is the sample customer and what do they do?
  • What were the customer’s goals?
  • What were the customer’s needs?
  • How did you satisfy those needs and help the customer meet their goals?

A final thing you could do is simply follow up with the customer in the case study and update your case study a few months down the road to show how your products / services are continuing to have long term benefits for the customer. This would give readers the opportunity to see that your goal is not only to help with immediate needs, but also to ensure long term results.

3. Provide Easy to Read Formatting

No one really likes to read one huge chunk of text, no matter how interesting and informative it might be. Be sure to use good content formatting elements like you would with articles, blog posts, and copywriting on your website including:

  • Headers
  • Images
  • Bulleted lists
  • Bolded & italicized text

In addition to providing great SEO value for your case studies page, these formatting elements will help your readers (especially those that like to skim) find the most important parts of your case study and get a great impression about what your business could do for them.

4. Include Real Numbers

Have you ever read case studies where a business states that they “doubled traffic” for the customer in their case study and wondered if that meant they went from 100 to 200 visits or 10,000 to 20,000 visits? Certain ways of displaying numbers can have an ambiguous meaning. You will want your case study to be as clear as day. So instead of just saying you doubled their traffic, show them real numbers and (if possible) real proof.

Of course, remember that not everyone is as familiar with the technology as you are, so be sure to highlight what they should be noticing.

This way, the reader can see where the customer began and where the customer ended up with your help. They can see real, tangible results. Plus having the picture proof can help the reader envision exactly what you might do for them, making the case study that much more powerful.

5. Talk Specific Strategy

So you doubled a website’s traffic or sales, right? How did you do it? This is where you sell your products or services simply by saying which ones you used and how they led to the desired result. You shouldn’t just say “our online marketing services led to these results.” Instead, you should say “it was a combination of a three-month dedicated social media campaign focusing on Facebook & YouTube and five months of link building that led to an increase in rankings plus brand exposure that led to these results.”

6. Try Different Formats

While people like stories, case studies do not have to be fit into story form every time. You could try different types of case studies, such as an interview format where you have your clients answer the same questions mentioned earlier about what they do, their needs, their goals, and how you met them. Quoting your customer in their own words will make the case study even more relatable to your ideal customer than you telling the story.

7. Appeal to Different Types of Learners

While some people enjoy reading, others may prefer audio, video, or visual representation of your case study. So consider taking your text-based case studies and re-purposing the content as:

  • A podcast
  • A YouTube video
  • Or even an infographic (such as the one below)

The bonus with YouTube videos and infographics is that they are easy to share. This means that your case study may go further than just your own site, leading to more of your potential customers finding out how they could benefit from your products or services.

8. Make Them Easy to Find

What’s the point of having great case studies if no one will ever read them? Be sure that your case studies are organized and easy to find. Some great examples of how to do this include the following:

Amazon Web Services

Microsoft’s Business Hub

Drupal

Have any case study best practice tips or examples of case studies you have enjoyed? Please share them in the comments!

About Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics combines behavioral analytics with email automation. Our software tracks actions of your users across multiple devices allowing you to analyze, segment and engage your customers with automatic, behavior-based emails in one place. We call it Customer Engagement Automation. Get, keep and grow more customers with Kissmetrics.

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.

Everyone loves a good story, especially when that story has a happy ending. What can make a great story even more compelling? When that story is true.

As marketers, we’ve been taught to eloquently boast about features, benefits and results. In some industries, the marketing rhetoric and jargon has become so commonplace that it often loses any power it may have once had, no matter how true the claims may be.

We so easily forget that some of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time never talked about performance or product; they talked about people. From the Marlboro Man to Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, they all tell a story.

Seth Godin said it best…

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

B2B companies need to tell their stories. Even better is when they can let their customers do the storytelling for them. Enter stage left…the case study.

Elements of a Case Study

It’s been argued that most epic movies have the same plot. If you think of your favorite films and really analyze the storyline—from Finding Nemo to The Lord of the Rings—you’ll likely find that they all have many themes in common: great characters, conflict and some form of transformation. Building a case study won’t require a Hollywood studio, but it will require adopting some of the same principles. Let’s dive into the three main elements of a successful story to help you tell yours and develop a compelling case study.

1. Characters

The best storylines have characters that are highly relatable and have some endearing qualities that make the reader or viewer “feel” for the character. When it comes to crafting your case study, introduce your characters in a way that others can relate. You may be tempted to position your company as the main character — the hero that swoops in to save the day. But customers should always be the main focus. Why? Because readers want to engage and empathize with a character they can relate to, and they need to be able to put themselves in their shoes.

When sharing about characters in your case studies, help readers understand who they are and what they do. What are the goals and aspirations for their company? While facts and statistics are needed to measure success, don’t forget to introduce the characters in a real and relatable way.

2. Conflict

People don’t necessarily want to know what your product or service can do; they want to know what it can do for them. Epic stories have some form of adversity — some problem needs to be overcome. So spell it out. Does a manufacturer have inefficient processes? Is an insurance company trying to compete in a high-tech market with ancient legacy systems? Is a service company losing money because they aren’t attracting sales leads?

Conflict also conjures up emotion. That’s what truly connects us with a story, isn’t it? Don’t be afraid to include information in your case study about the frustrations, fears and anxiety that your customers experienced before you came on the scene. People can relate to what it feels like to stay awake at night worrying about a problem.

In addition, true conflict has high stakes. In the cinematic world, the stakes usually involve the risk of losing something…a kingdom, a relationship, a life. In business, it might involve losing money, customers or opportunities for growth. At first glance, the storyline may not appear as though it will keep people on the edge of their seats, but for the business owner who is wracking his or her brain trying to figure out how to streamline processes to turn a profit and stay afloat, the struggle is real and the stakes are high. The characters in your case study need to have something to lose.

3. Transformation

Every great story has a hero. As mentioned previously, many companies want to position themselves as the hero, but are they, really? When looking at great story plots, it’s often the character with the most to lose who ends up being the hero because he or she rose to the challenge, figured out the solution and transformed a situation into a happy ending.

Position your customer as the hero—the character who figured out that he or she had a problem and had the know-how and courage to tackle it head on. In their storyline, they discovered a solution (that would be you), and saved the day.

This is the fun part of the story where you get to share the results of your hero’s good decision to involve your company and how everything fell into place. Provide measurable results, before and after statistics, sales figures, and/or cost savings and other meaningful data. Be specific and give your audience an idea of the results they can potentially experience if they choose to become the hero and invite you into their own story.

Beyond the quantifiable results, talk about those that involve emotion. Talk about how employee morale has skyrocketed, how customer service has noted a marked decrease in the number of complaints they receive, and how relieved the characters in your story feel now that their problem is solved. Use your customer’s own words to tell how thrilled they are with the transformation by including a quote and, when appropriate, include a photo, too.

While writing a case study for your company may not result in a box office hit, using a storytelling approach and these techniques can help you draw readers in and compel them to involve you in their story—their own happy ending. Before you know it, you’ll be writing a sequel that tells of another great success story…and another.

Read other tips we’ve written about developing compelling case studies, and use our Case Study Template to get started. Just click the link below.

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