Part 2: 5 steps to case study success

8th February 2016

Steps to case study successIn part one of our case study blog series, we looked at the art of writing an effective case study. Our Head of Content, Mark Kember advised on three key things to consider – human impact, make your argument with data and results, results, results.

In part two, we look into the process behind creating an effective case study. Case studies have the power to convince potential customers to invest in a company’s product or service – so it’s important to make every case study a perfect one.

The key thing to remember here is consistency. Case studies should always be interesting, informative and easy for the reader to digest. Here are some key tips to get you on your way to case study success:

1. Plan ahead

Steps to case study successDo you have a framework already in place for case studies or do you need to put together a template for the future? If you don’t have one set up, now would be the time to get one in place. This means all case studies will follow a certain format, which can then be shared across the organisation if needed. Having a framework speeds up the process of producing a case study without sacrificing any vital content.

The traditional case study format covers three areas: problem, choice & solution. The problem stage introduces the customer and the issues that the team faced. As part of this, you can discuss why they decided to invest in a new solution. The choice stage goes through the customer decision process. This provides essential insight for the organisation on why this customer decided on a particular product.

The solution stage covers two areas – the implementation and the results.  It’s important to include metrics here so you can clearly show a positive result in the case study. Depending on the implementation the metrics will vary from hard return on investment through to improvements in processes that can be expressed as percentages. Whatever the result, adding metrics is a great way to show how a solution or product has benefitted a company.

As well as considering the case study format, it’s important to think about the design of the case study itself. How will it look? Is the information presented in a way that captivates the audience? The actual design of the case study is a key component to how effective it will be as a marketing tool.

2. Back to basics

Steps to case study successOnce you have your format in place, it’s time to start your case study by interviewing the customer. As part of this, always check with the customer on how to spell their name and ask for dates of implementations. When starting the process of creating a case study these little details can often be easy to overlook, yet have disastrous consequences if not correct. It may sound like the obvious thing to do, but nothing leads to case study suicide more than incorrect information on a basic level.

3. Know the approvals process

Steps to case study successAsk who will sign it off and how long they will need to review it. This can help you plan ahead and generally speed up production in a managed way. Again, this may sound like an obvious point but having a clear view of the approvals process in place prior to case study creation could save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

With larger companies there may be a number of people that need to sign off a case study so it’s vital that the approvals process is clear – particularly on a tight deadline. It can help to include quotes from across the business at different levels – this not only gives the case study a wider perspective, but can help those individuals support signing off the case study.

4. Size matters

Steps to case study successThe case studies themselves should be no more than 1,500 words or two sides of A4 paper. This helps include enough detail, but not make them too weighty that they don’t get read. The case study should be captivating to read, and if it goes on for more than two pages, this probably isn’t the case. Size really does matter!

5. Take your time

Steps to case study successTaking time between drafts and coming back to the document gives you the ability to think more around the key messages that you are putting over. If you rush the content-making process, it’s possible to miss things or concentrate on the wrong issues. After a while, we become blind to our own mistakes – so take a break, think about the message you want to send and then go back to it.

Another set of eyes is always useful to check for mistakes, see if it reads well and get a different perspective. The more the merrier!

Remember that the case study is not just a tool for marketing but it’s also an essential internal tool for the sales team. Creating a compelling case study has never been so easy! We hope these tips help you on your way to case study heaven.

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