Sheila is an international marketing specialist with particular experience in the market research software marketplace. She has worked for over ten years in high-tech multinational organizations – including SPSS, Toshiba and Xerox. Sheila has been a meaning associate since 2003.

 

Case studies are real-life examples of how you or your products have helped customers reach their business goals. They build trust in your offering and thus support you in your goal of winning more customers. But too many case studies fail to deliver because they lose sight of the six key objectives listed below that should form the backbone of a case study.

Tell a good story

Make sure your case study is interesting and draws the reader in from the start.  Nobody will read it if it is does not tell them something new. Focus on facts and outcomes: cut the hype and let the facts speak for themselves. Always tell the story from the customer’s perspective and describe clearly and concisely how they overcame a business critical problem with your assistance.

Follow a clear, simple structure

Define a simple structure for your case studies and use it for all of them. The ‘narrative arc’ of any case study should be: “we had this problem, we applied this solution and this is how it turned out’.

A simple heading structure can bring this out and give each element the right balance, for example  ‘Problem’ (what issue did the customer present you with?), ‘Solution’ (what did you and the customer do to address the issue?) and ‘Results’ (what were the outcomes, after adopting the solution you provided?) A short  ‘About’ section at the end can also provide some context, such as to explain who the customer is.

Present metrics

Metrics provide objectivity which in turn builds credibility. Work with your customer to tease out several quantitative measures that describe the improvements they have enjoyed. You may be lucky enough to find a customer willing to go on the record that their sales increased by $x million in 12 months. But comparative measures are almost as powerful, such as a 30% increase in sales, or a task that took three days can now be completed within a day.  Qualitative outcomes can be equally powerful, such as eliminating errors or allowing non-specialists to do what only specialists could do before, or the reactions of your customer’s customers.

Include incisive quotes

Often, case studies make the mistake of talking up the product by surrounding it in a mist of hyperbole. The trick is to keep your narrative lean and your prose sparse, so that it is the quoted words of your customers that stand out. Don’t ask them to write something  – call them, interview them and write down what they say. Qualitative endorsements are good, such as “we knew we were in safe hands from the start”, but those with objective facts are even better, such as “they came to us with a plan which pretty much covered everything we needed”. A quote is always more credible if you can give the person’s name and company name.

Choose a customer who your prospective customers can relate to

If you are looking for new customers in a particular industry or country, then it is best to show them a case study from their industry or region. It is simply because they are more likely to identify with the case study and gain confidence that you understand the issues they face.

Get the length right

Make the story long enough to be informative and do justice to the subject, but keep it short enough that it can be read in two or three minutes. That means you need to be ruthless at the editing stage (keep in mind the mantra “less is more”). Around 600-800 words seems ideal for most technology products.

 

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