A case study is an analysis that 1) showcases a problem, 2) demonstrates critical thinking and problem-solving, 3) provides a sustainable solution and 4) details the accomplishments.
Case studies are one of the most effective business development tools for a company, especially B2B businesses. Here are important facts on case studies:
- 92% of customers prefer that media messages sound like a story. That’s because nobody wants to be sold to.
- 55% of B2B marketers find case studies to be the single most effective content format.
- One of the Top 3 most influential assets for B2B marketers as the chart below shows.
Effective storytelling plays a key role in the success of case studies. Here are 8 steps in storytelling to write a great case study.
#1: Do research and analysis upfront
The evidence for a case study may seem like it speaks for itself, but it doesn’t. So take the time to identify and examine the facts. What was the problem? Why did it exist? Where did insights come from? Who was responsible? When did the change occur and why? What resulted and the key takeaways? Do this research first. And you might find the story actually starts to tell itself.
#2: Define the relevance of the case study to your audience
A case study is not going to achieve its objective unless it is relevant to its intended audience. While it helps to choose an industry, business, and situation that has the same problem as your audience’s, the match is usually never exactly the same. So consider a title that might speak to a problem your audience is experiencing. Example: “How a small company capitalized on a major competitive threat.” Or, even be direct at the start by stating: “Relevance of this case study to your situation.” Without this connection at the start, the story loses a lot of its potential effectiveness.
#3: Establish a beginning, middle, and end
“Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Not necessarily in that order” says both Jean-Luc Godard and Tim Burton. While the order may change to suit your audience, the case cannot be made without these sequences. People like to hear a story because it takes them on a journey. And a journey is described as the act of traveling from one place to another. A case study can’t succeed without a beginning, middle, and end.
#4: Make the case study easy to follow
The beginning, middle, and end of a story equate to a case study as follows:
- Beginning – Requirement or Situation. What was occurring at the start that required a change?
- Middle – Approach or Solution. What did you discover and how did you rectify the situation?
- End – Results or Success. What occurred, why and the lessons learned?
Consider subheads, pictures or chapters to set up the beginning, middle, and end of your case study to make it easy to follow.
#5: Demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving
You might think great results make great case studies. But this is not true. It’s critical thinking and problem-solving. These are the key ingredients that differentiate a case study and make it unique.
They show how you think, act and behave. This is where a customer connection is most likely to occur. So be simple and clear in your explanations. For example, “we discovered…, this led us to believe…, we saw that..”. This is what going to be distinguishing.
#6: Show a solution and strategy
Like the progression in a story, your audience expects progress and solutions occur in a case study. In describing the positive change, go the extra step to show how the solution revealed a strategy that is sustainable.
For example, “by segmenting customers into high, medium and low, we saw that high-value customers bought twice as often as medium, annually. Rewards strategy was implemented. It increased purchase frequency to 3X as often and sales by 25%.”
#7: Use real, quantified numbers for results
The end of a case study presents results. What changed? Why? Where does it go from here? So keep it real. Use real brands, describe results with measurements any business should be able to relate to (sales, profits, new customers, cost per acquisition). The clarity in the results you choose is as important as the numbers. And remember to finish with the key takeaways or lessons learned from the case.
#8: Publish and promote your case study
Given the effectiveness of case studies, make sure to promote them. The case study would do any good unless you do. Publish them on your website. Conduct a webinar to make them interactive. Send an email to your email list. Make hard copies available through downloads.
By taking all these steps, you’ve built one of the most valuable assets a company can have. And the promotion of it is all within your grasp.
We believe in the power of case studies. That’s why there is a tab on our website of case studies. As well as a category of our blogs relating to case studies in many areas relevant to what we do. And a free, downloadable ebook.
Would you like to talk with us about case studies?