Case studies are a form of problem-based learning, where you present a situation that needs a resolution. Case studies are a great way to improve learning, gain involvement and encourage immediate use of newly acquired information and skills.
But case studies are also grounded in stubborn facts that must be faced in real life situations. A case study can be a couple of paragraphs or 20 pages or more.
Case studies may differ in length, depth of research and market situation, but great case studies share similarities.
Here are 10 compelling characteristics of great case studies.
- TELL A STORY: Case studies stories are told to make a point or teach a lesson. They explain a journey. One that has a clear beginning and end. In this journey, the audience learns of heroes, villains, obstacles, extraordinary actions and imaginative thinking. In the end, meaningful change results.
- HAVE A LOGIC FLOW: Instead of chapters, case studies follow an outline that establishes a logic flow. The right outline is one that teachs the lesson you want the audience to learn. It can be as simple as: Situation, Solution, Results or Customer, Challenge, Journey, Discovery, Solution, Implementation, Results or one that is more customized to your desired result.
- RESOLVE A PROBLEM: The logic flow explains a problem that is resolved. At the beginning, great case studies provide perspective and context that fully explain the problem. Who is company? What do they do? What is the problem they were facing? How is this situation different for the past? Why is this relevant to your business? This establishes credibility and relevance with the audience and makes the resolution have more impact at the end.
- FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER: The problem and the resolution always has the customer at the core, especially their relationship with the company or brand. In most cases, the company’s relationship with the customer has changed. Maybe the company stopped listening or customer needs changed or they have outgrown the product or service the company offers. But there is something that has been lost that has to found in a new way.
- PRESENT INSPIRING ACTIONS: One of the most important part of case studies is the action the company takes to overcome their problem. It should be logical but profound; smart, imaginative and showld motivate the audience to do something similar for their company.
- AVOID JARGON: Case studies should avoid terms such as “market leading” and “unique.” No one believes them. They diminish credibility and relevance.
- ARE GROUNDED IN HARD FACTS: The conclusion for all case studies is results. They should include statistics to show the difference made and benefits gained. Hard fact demonstrate how the application of the actions produced real-life results. Ballpark figures and/or indexes (if figures are confidential) are fine.
- ARE SKIMMABLE: More than one case study is generally given to make a point and teach a lesson. You may be presenting them or your audience may read them without you. Organize and write case studies so it’s easy for your audience to get the information you want them to take away.
- WORK AS SALES TOOLS: Case Studies are not about praising past work as much as courting new prospects. Whether you are responsible for the case study or merely telling the story, case studies are a reflection of the type of challenge you rise to, thinking you admire and results you recognize as important.
- HAVE A CALL-TO-ACTION: The lessons in case studies are meant to inspire others to action. It’s best to help them take the first step with a call-to-action with what you or your company offers.
If you spend any time on the BarnRaisers website, you’ll see we are big believers in the power of case studies, In fact, we’ve written a book you invite to download our free ebook, 166 case studies prove Social Media ROI.
Were these components of great case studies convincing to you? Are there any other you would include?