A well-written case study works great for the B2B procurement process. Follow our checklist to learn key points to compile a case study that is appealing, inspiring and convincing. See how to use a case study to gain customers.
Table of contents
- What is a case study?
- Why do you need to have a case study?
- How to write a good case study?
- Who should be the protagonist of your case study?
- Biggest problems with case studies
- Case study examples
- Checklist for a successful case study
What is case study?
First, let’s start with the basic question: what is a case study? Also called a business case, this type of content is meant to show that you walk the walk when it comes to your offer.
Case study was first used in academia to showcase how a theoretical concept was successfully applied to real-world situations. In the business world, case studies are stories about how previous customers overcame their problems using your products or services. The readers should basically see themselves achieving their own goals by choosing your products or services. This is how you approach future customers: by offering them a compelling story wrapped around key points.
Why write a business case study?
The results of a 2019 survey revealed that research and case studies are the most trusted content for end users, according to marketers. The chart below indicates up to 60% of marketing professionals recognize that the end audience trusts the content read in a case study the most. Further on the list are photos/infographics (34%), blog posts (31%) and e-mails/newsletters (30%). Webinars/online events seem to be trusted only by 28% of respondents while traditional/digital PR efforts are trusted by 23% of respondents.
How to write a case study that works?
The secret is not in its form: the customer’s story may be short and concise, real life examples provided using an infographic and testable evidence released in a video. Business cases will differ from each other since clients and their success stories vary: by industry, size, specifics of operation. It is particularly true of IT implementations, where solutions and system functionalities are selected or created to match client-specific needs. However, all case studies have one thing in common, regardless of their form: the goal. They help you win new customers.
A case study is like an extended Q&A session. Prospective customers eyeing your product or wanting to engage your team for their project start off with some questions or concerns. Your case study is meant to address them. Think of the business case as a tool that supports nailing down sales objections.
However, your potential client will hardly ever need exactly what has been described in the case study. Usually clients are interested in either a similar business problem, a specific technology, or some other aspect of the project, such as the team’s experience in a very narrow specialization. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a number of case studies up your sleeve, to support every stage of business negotiations. This is how you prove your ability to approach different issues they might face and come up with a wealth of possible solutions.
Who should be the protagonist of your case study?
It is quite obvious that in your case study you want to showcase the client, or project, that in your opinion shows best your offer and strengths. It can be the biggest client served (a recognizable brand), the most interesting project completed (which you are proud of), or the most sought-after technology.
In many cases a project leverages several of your strengths. If so, choose one leading theme with a maximum of two side threads. Do not overwhelm the readers with all the details or harp on about how great your company is. If you want to prove something, you can’t lose the main thread. Case study is a data-driven and objective resource for potential customers to gain confidence in your business. It is not a report about your business. It is about your customer’s success.
There is one more important thing that can ruin the whole project – your client’s responsiveness. Agreeing to participate in the case study is just the beginning. Before you start writing, you should make sure your client is really your ally and will dedicate staff to provide important details and figures in a timely manner. Also, make sure that statements are authorized by key individuals in the company.
What are the right questions to ask?
Gathering information is a key stage of compiling a case study. You should definitely ask your client about their company’s business goals and the challenges they faced before buying your product or service. It is also extremely convincing to highlight what made your service stand out from the competition. It might be a good idea to briefly touch on the decision-making process. This is exactly the part where the reader of your case study, aka prospective customer, will see themselves.
The course of the project, although extremely important from your side, most often will not interest potential customers enough to devote too much headspace to it. To turn the downside into an advantage, you can use the “course of the project” section to list possible surprises and difficulties, and tell a story of how you have handled them.
Actual use of your product/service is best shown using tangible data and quoting specific customer statements. Avoid general statements like ‘automation of the process significantly reduced process execution time’ or ‘the implemented solution eliminates problems. You need to quote relevant facts and figures and provide clear evidence: by how much time was the process reduced and what specific problems have been tackled! Your solution was chosen for a reason – say it loud in each and every case study!
Biggest problems with case studies
To be an effective content marketing tool, and a powerful leverage in the sales process, case studies must feature specific data, exact figures and relatable stories. You will not get far with a text riddled with ‘a lot of’, ‘significantly’ or ‘extremely’. Data is the fuel for decision making in each and every B2B buying process!
On the other hand, improperly placed emphasis can make reading a business case unhelpful or even… boring. A case study is not so much a story about your heroic overcoming of project challenges. You are actually telling a customer story: it is about efficiency, so focus on the identified problem and its solution.
As plain language enthusiasts, we believe a client’s statement often times must be souped up. Business jargon used to be the epitome of communication, but now it simply ruins the credibility of your storytelling efforts. It is not about sounding colloquial. The aim is to fine-tune corporate statements to make them as natural and credible as possible.
Feel like you could use some inspiration? Take a look at our business case study examples from different industries: design and fitout (Workplace), and IT (21infinity).
The aim of the case study was to describe the design process for the new branch office, but more importantly to highlight the consulting input of Workplace.
The aim of the case study was to present a pioneering portal in the country (Saudi Arabia), but also a model for financing the project (technical partnership).
A case study checklist. Questions your client needs to answer so you can come up with a compelling case study
GOAL: a better understanding of the company’s current challenges and goals and how they fit into the landscape of its industry
- How long has the company been on the market?
- What is the staffing level?
- What are the (sample) goals of your department?
GOAL: building a context
- What challenges/objectives led your company to seeking a solution?
- What could have happened if the solution had not been identified?
- Did you look for other possible solutions that did not meet your expectations? What happened?
GOAL: reveal how the client decided to work with you
- How did you find out about our product/service?
- Who was involved in the selection process?
- What was most important to you when evaluating the available options?
GOAL: describing the experience during the project implementation
- How long did it take to launch the project?
- Did the implementation time meet your expectations?
- Who was involved in the process?
Solution in use
GOAL: demonstrating how the customer uses the product
- Is there a particular aspect of the product that you rely on the most?
- Who benefits from the product?
GOAL: demonstrating impressive and measurable results (facts and figures)
- How does the product help you save time and increase productivity?
- How does it boost your competitive advantage?
- By how much have you increased/decreased/improved… (numbers/percentages!)
Gallup's Strategic Maximizer and professional optimist. She is responsible for sales and customer service. Marta develops creative processes and procedures, specializing in creating teamwork flow. Previously, a freelance writer and Account Manager in PR agencies.
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