Case studies are a powerful form of social proof for your business. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate how your product or service works in detail through a real-world example.
Unlike testimonials, which provide a quick endorsement, case studies allow you to dive deep into your relationship with your client and really educate readers on the unique benefits you can offer them.
Case studies can also form an important part of your content marketing strategy. After all, what better way to answer a common client question than with an illustration of how you solved the same problem for someone else?
Of course, case studies take a lot more work than testimonials, and if you’ve never written one, creating a case study from scratch can seem complicated.
Breaking your case study up into discreet steps makes the job much easier and less daunting.
Here are five tips to get your started…
1. Find the Right Client
If you’re going to invest the time in creating a case study make sure you pick someone who is a good example of a typical client.
While brand name recognition can be a plus for your case studies, going for “big name” clients may not always resonate with your average customer. Also, the work you do, say, for a giant multinational may differ substantially from what you offer your bread-and-butter clients.
It should go without saying, but you also want to pick someone who you know is enthusiastic about the work you did for them. You really want to avoid approaching someone for a case study only to find out that they don’t feel like they got what they needed from you.
2. Offer Value to the Client
Once you have selected the client for the case study, the next step is to approach them tactfully. If you’ve done a good job, this shouldn’t be an issue, but always be respectful and considerate when asking someone if they would be willing to be a case study client.
One way to do this is by making sure that the client also gets value out of the case study. If possible, provide a link to their website and hype them when you share the case study on your social channels.
If it’s relevant, they might also be interested in an appearance on your podcast to talk about the case study or another area of interest to your listeners.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Before you interview your subject, think about what your “hook” will be and what you want to get out of the case study.
What were the biggest challenges your client faced when they approached you? What did they think of the solution you presented? What was something unique that they liked about your services? What would they say if they were to recommend you to a friend?
Another important thing to remember is that you want to keep the interview simple. Stick to five or six well thought-out questions. If you spend hours and hours interviewing your subject you’ll wind up with too much information and likely feel overwhelmed when you sit down to write.
4. Tell a Story
If you’ve followed step 3. and asked the right questions, then a narrative should start to emerge at the interview stage. Your job is to tease out the threads and create a compelling story that will hook in your readers.
There’s a real risk that your case study could wind up being dry or boring, that’s why you’ve got to pick a structure that will entertain your readers while you educate them.
Try to think about it like a movie or a short story. Who is the hero? (Hint: it’s usually the client.) What is the struggle or conflict that they are trying to overcome? What is the structure of the story, e.g. is it more like the quest for the Holy Grail or David vs. Goliath? What’s a powerful quote or anecdote that you can use at the beginning to draw your readers in?
Once you’ve figured out the structure, write down a heading for each section. From there, it’s usually pretty quick to fill in each chapter of the story.
5. Use Data to Back Up Your Claims
Using direct quotes from the interview you conducted with your client adds credibility, but if you really want to provide a convincing argument to your readers, try and use data and statistics that back up your claims.
Did your work increase sales or conversions? Did your advice save your client thousands (or even millions) of dollars? Were you able to help them check off an important milestone in their business?
Track down the numbers and add them to your case study to create a compelling “before and after” that anchors your claims in fact and bolsters your narrative.
For more awesome tips on building social proof, check out my interview with Selena Soo on the Marketing Speak podcast.