How to Write Case Studies That Make Customers Actually Trust You
Let me tell you a little secret that will help your marketing career immensely. People don’t trust marketers. They don’t “buy” the stuff you say in your blog posts about how great your product or service is. They are suspicious and they have the right to be. This is why you need to show them real, hard proof that what you offer really works and it is not snake oil. Which is why you need to know how to write case studies and include them in your content strategy.
Case studies, just like customer reviews and testimonials, are a great way to verify that your product or services are valuable and useful to your customers and that they can help them fulfill their goals and needs. They are the social proof that what you offer really works. But case studies do it even better than testimonials as they show not just the satisfaction a previous customer has, but also how your product or service actually solved a problem they had or satisfied their needs.
With this real-life proof, you can confidently go to the next client and tell him, “Look what I can do for you. Can others you talked to say the same?”
However, writing a compelling case study is not the same as writing a blog post. There’s a lot more involved in it, so if you want your case studies to have an actual effect on your customers and use them to generate quality leads, so here is a step-by-step guide on how to write case studies.
Step 1: Identify the Case Study Subject
Before you start writing anything (and that goes for every type of content), you should know what and who you are writing about. This can be your clients, customers or organizations. Let’s say it’s a client. In that case, you want to know:
- What problem did they have before they turned to you and your product or service?
- Did your product or service helped them?
- How much did it help them? You want to show actual numbers, not say “doubled their sales” (doubled their sales from what)?
- Do they still use your product or service?
- Have they used your competitors’ products or services before?
- Have they considered your competitors or negotiated with them before deciding on you?
You can obtain this information from your sales team and customer support if you ask them whether they know any prospects that would be interested participating in your case study.
Step 2: Ask for Permission
Don’t write case studies without permission from the clients. Perhaps they contain sensitive information about their company that they would rather keep secret and not reveal to public.
One way to ask the client if you can write a case study about them and what you can include in it is to send them a permission letter. This letter should, in addition to the customary introduction, also include:
- What information you need from them? You especially want their stats before and after they used your product or service.
- What’s in it for them? Always create value for your customers.
- What the process involves? For instance, phone calls, emails, person-to-person interviews.
Step 3: Create and Send a Questionnaire
If the client agrees and gives you permission to write a case study, the next step is to create an introductory questionnaire.
The questionnaire should serve to obtain the information that will be necessary for writing a great case study.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
- What problem did the company have? Why they needed a product or service like yours? For example, if you are offering data security solutions, did they had a data breach? How did this affect their data? Did they lose any customers?
- Did they use a competitor’s’ product or service before? For how long? Can they tell you why it didn’t work?
- Why did they decide to use your product or service? Why not your competitors’?
- How did your product or service helped them solve the problem they had? Again, you want to get actual numbers, not something like “it increased our sales”.
Based on the answers you get from these questions, you should be able to draft a questionnaire. Without asking the right questions, you won’t be able to get the answers you need to write a compelling case study.
I won’t get into details about specific questions you might want to ask as this can depend on your company, client, industry and a lot more factors, but to know following:
- What was their problem?
Why did they ask your organization for a solution? Try to put this in a context for your readers. For example, you can say:
Our client experienced a massive power outage on X date that resulted in a temporary suspension of their services to clients between X and Y date and the loss of critical customer information. As a result of this and the inability to retrieve this information, the client lost X% of their total customer base.
You also want to know what led to the problem. Is it something that happened suddenly (like a lighting striking their data center) or did it happen gradually and over time?
- Why did they decide to ask you for help?
What criteria did they use? What was their decision process and who was involved in making that decision? Did they considered your competitors’ as well? What competitors did they consider? Why did they decide on your solution?
- How did they implement your solution?
Some prospective clients will be unsure on how to implement your product or service to their work process. You can allay their fears by showing them how another client successfully and easily implemented your solution into their work process.
- What were the results of implementing your solution?
The more data you can get here and showcase in your case study, the better. Still, be prepared that the client might not want you to reveal absolutely everything. The most important thing is to ask them “what positive results have you experienced after using our solution?”.
Now all that is left is to schedule an interview. You have three options:
- Meet the client face-to-face. This is the best way to do an interview, but may not be an option if your client is not local.
- Conduct a phone interview. You can call the client on the phone and then record your conversation with a phone recording app such as TapeACall.
- Make a video call. If you’re a Windows user, you can use Skype and for Mac, check out Quicktime. Both are free.
Step 4: Write a Case Study
Finally! The steps up until this point were only a preparation for the actual stuff – writing the case study. However, it was necessary to get all this info as without it, you won’t be able to write a believable case study.
So what does writing a case study involve?
- A good headline
Just like with normal blog posts, the case study headline should entice the user to read the body. Your case study should include:
- Who the client was (or at least what industry are they in)?
- What their problem was?
- Your solution
- What the results were?
- A summary of your case study
The summary should explain, in a paragraph or two, the most important things that the reader should know about this case study. This is here to showcase the story of your client and the results. Try to include some statistics as well to hook the reader further into the case study.
- About the client
Whos is the case study about? Remember, it must have a subject, so use the information you obtained through the questionnaire and interviews to explain who the client is, what industry are they in and how long are they working with you or using your products or services. A lot of times you can get this information from their website (check their About) page or LinkedIn page.
- Explain the challenge/problem
What challenge or challenges did the client faced? How was this affecting them? What were they doing before? Try to summarize this in 3-4 paragraphs, explaining their previous tactics and why they needed a new solution for the problem they were facing.
- What did you do to help? What were the results?
This is the part where you highlight your solution and what positive changes did it bring for the client. Of course, you shouldn’t say anything that is not true, so say it as it is and don’t embellish anything. Your readers, and hopefully future customers, will likely be impressed with your results as it is. Include relevant data and statistics (before and after implementing your solution) and, if possible a quote from the client themself.
Don’t forget to include a link to your website and the product or service for the reader to look at. After all, the whole point of writing a case study is to use another client as an example of how your product or service works to get another customer interested in using them.
Step 5: Promote Your Case Study
Just like any other content, you need to promote it. Let the world see your work. For example, you can include the case studies you worked on in your website. This way, anyone already visiting your website will have the chance to see your solution at work. Or, you can include your case studies in your email marketing campaigns. Perhaps they are just what you need to convince a client you have been wooing and negotiating with for a while.
Tips for Writing Great Case Studies
Writing a great study is a bit of an art. You have to know the best way to present it to the reader. If you want your case studies to have the desired effect on them, try using some of these tips when creating case studies:
- Make it about something the reader can related to.
For example, explain how you solved a problem for another customer in the same industry they are in. People don’t read case studies because they are incredibly interesting, but because they have an itch to scratch.
By making the case study relevant to the reader, you can show them that you can swim well in their industry.
- Include real data
Compare these mock case studies:
Our solution doubled the client’s sale numbers
Our solution increased the client’s Q4 sales 26.7% compared to the same period in the previous year
Which one is more compelling? The one that includes actual numbers as they serve as proof, unlike simply saying “doubled their sales”.
- Make it easy to read
A case study shouldn’t be difficult to read. In fact, no content you write should be difficult to read. The same formatting rules you would use for other content applies for case studies as well. In other words, include:
- Bullet points
- Bold important things
- Images or videos even
- Easy-to-read paragraphs
- Try different case study formats
A case study shouldn’t be all text-based. You can, and probably should, use some imagery throughout as well. Break the text with some visual content. Graphics and charts work the best to show data, but you can also include an infographic or a video. In fact, consider who you will present the case study to. They might even appreciate a completely visual case study, perhaps in the form of an infographic or a video, instead of a primarily text-based one.
- Tell the whole story
Your reader will want to hear the whole story, warts and all. Explain in the case study what problem the subject had, their challenge, your solution, how it was implemented and what the results were. What was the specific strategy you used? How long did it take to get these results?
- Take a look at what works for others in your industry
If you’ve been writing case studies for some time, but haven’t been seeing much results from them, perhaps you are doing something wrong. Take a look at what your competitors are doing. How are they creating their case studies? How do their case studies look? Of course, keep in mind that every case study is different. Your product and theirs may look similar, but will have different features, the client will be different as well as the challenge and finally the results themselves. But, as long as there are similarities between you and the other company, you can still take a lesson or two from their successful case studies.
With this, you should be able to create your own, amazing case studies, that will convince future clients to work with you and use your solutions. They are well worth your time and are a vital part of your content marketing. If you’re still not sure how you should create case studies, you can download and use templates from CoSchedule.
Do you have any questions about how to write case studies that I didn’t cover in the post? Let me know in the comments below.