How to Write a Great Case Study
How to Market Your Business by Telling Someone Else’s Story
Copywriting is a catch-all term for content that is designed to capture the audience’s attention in order to provide them with a product or service they otherwise may not have realized they needed. It takes on a bunch of different forms, one of which is case study copywriting.
Case studies are designed around the psychological principle of social proof. The idea is that if others are using a product or service, and they have been happy with it, then you are more likely to use that product or service as well. Copywriters that specialize in case studies create that narrative that draws people in, shows how the company was able to eliminate the pains the protagonist was feeling, and ultimately builds credibility with the reader.
Today, I am going to walk you through how I write a case study. I’ll show what is involved, talk about the processes, and how I ultimately end up with a case study that a business can use over and over again.
Finding Case Study Clients
Like finding clients for any service, there are a variety of hurdles to overcome before the right client will come along. Fortunately, there are ways to weed these out. To get started, we have to look at who would need a case study. What business is ideal for this type of work?
The answer is pretty simple; it’s any business that would say, “The public doesn’t fully understand what it is we do.” People can read a list of specifications and performances until their eyes fall out. They will still be unsure if this is they are in the right place. But if they read a case study, they can read about a person that is just like them. They can see how their needs were met. The reader doesn’t really care what or how the business operates; they care if the desired results occur.
Going through this, it’s a matter of narrowing down businesses that are ideal. Those with a marketing budget, a network where the studies can be posted, and the finances to pay for them are going to pan out much more quickly than others.
Once a client is in place, that’s when the fun starts.
Collecting the Information for the Case Study
Now comes the time when you can let the creativity come through. And it all starts with gathering a lot of information.
- Interview the business
Before you can describe how the business was able to solve the customer’s problems, you have to understand how the business operates. This includes knowing their “why”, knowing their mission, vision, and values, and knowing their services.
Talking to the business owner or manager, you’ll want to ask a lot of detailed questions. Here you can “steal” my questions and modify them for your purposes.
- Interview the customer/client
After speaking with the company, and after you feel that you have a really good understanding of them, now you have to talk with the customer. Similar to the business, you have to find out what drives them. What is their motivation for going to the business? Again, you can “steal” my questions and add to them as you see fit.
- Interview the business again
After the first round of interviews, you will likely have to go back to the business to get a full understanding of how they tweaked their systems to meet the client’s needs. Throughout this interviewing process, you should have discovered some hurdles that were required, and some obstacles that the business had to overcome. Now is the time to relay those back to the business, asking pointed questions on what they did specifically for this particular client.
- Outline the process
Three rounds of interviews later, and you can almost begin the process of writing the case study. Now here’s where a lot of people try to rush through things. In school we are taught to do outlines; they help to keep us on track, especially for longer essays and papers. In a professional setting, however, and often with the more casual flow of a blog, this is neglected. It’s faster to write without one.
In your case study, however, you absolutely need to outline the process. It’s not necessarily to keep your thoughts in order, but to create a nice narrative that follows the overall intention of the study: to show how the client’s problems were solved.
- Fill in the gaps
Now. Now you can start writing. There are themes to keep in mind while you write the study though. The biggest one: it’s not about the business!
A case study is all about the customer. People don’t want to read about how great a business is; they want to read about how that business can solve the problems they can’t solve on their own.
As you write, keep that order in mind: what was the problem, how did the customer find the business, how did the business customize their product or service to the customer’s needs, how is the customer’s life better now that they have a relationship with the business.
Bonus points: if there is a way to put hard numbers with the result, it’s going to resonate much better with the audience. So if you can prove that the business saved the customer money, saved them time, or reduced their effort/energy/output, then you have a much more compelling case study.
- Proof read and change so it follows the flow
All done! Right? No, not quite. Now is the time to go through your case study with fresh eyes and make sure that everything goes with the flow. Make sure it all makes sense, look for grammatical and spelling errors, and try to read it as though you have never read it before. You may want to enlist the help of a team member, family member, or hire an editor to get this part done.
Note: proof read and edit are not the same thing. Editing involves more than just checking for errors. It involves checking for flow, determining what can be said better, and ultimately the document will change drastically. Proof reading is simply making sure nothing… sucks.
- Send to business for tweaks and edit suggestions
If this is the first case study that you have written, then this part can be nerve wracking. You get to send the document over to the business to make sure they agree with what you wrote, and determine if there are any tweaks necessary.
You will almost certainly have some editing to do.
- Edit and tweak
There is a chance that the business will want to completely change the tone of the case study. Some may even make all of the changes for you. There are times when they will entirely destroy what you have written, and turn it into a pandering load of garbage.
You have a choice here. Take the payment; let them do with it what they will. Or make suggestions on how to keep your original tone, not make it sound like a puff piece on the business, and hope that they agree.
If you take the money and run, and the case study flops, you can likely kiss your relationship goodbye.
- Resubmit to the business
When the business makes suggestions, or corrects some of the facts that you may have slightly wrong, it’s an easy process to move forward.
Make the edits, and resubmit.
- Edit and tweak again
Normally, I allow for two revisions (unless I screw something up in the second round). After that, there is an additional charge due to the increased amount of time that was originally allocated.
- Send finalized copy
After the second round of revisions, send the finalized version to the business with a note that says it is complete.
Send an invoice with the final product if you haven’t invoiced them already. To make sure that there is no delay in payment, I recommend collecting payment on the front end instead of the back end. There have been times when a client has simply refused to pay (collections was of no use) and I lost out on thousands of dollars that I had worked for.
Do You Have Time to Write Case Studies?
Case studies sound easy. After all, you are simply telling the story of how a business or a person used another business’ service and experienced success.
In reality, they’re not that easy. Not only do you have to be able to exercise creativity to weave factual data into storytelling, you also have to deal with people. People can end up being picky, stingy with their details, and finicky about how they are portrayed in the story.
Case studies, however, are a highly important piece of marketing that your business absolutely needs.
Do you have time to write them yourself?
If not, we should talk.