Case studies are the proof your future customers need to connect to you

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Set the stage and start writing – editing – writing and sharing

Alrighty! Fast forward.  You’ve met with your customer and had a great interview.

You’ve got pages of notes you’ve transcribed. You’ve got the audio to listen to so you can double check and get the quotes exactly right.

You’re filled with ideas. It’s time to organize it. 

On overwhelm?

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about starting it’s Ok.

Take a look at samples by searching ‘case studies for [your industry]’ through Google.  Or think about another business like yours and check their website for cases studies. 

Realtors, coaches, instructors, builders, car dealerships – all of these and every other business have customer experiences to explain (through story) why a customer should use their product.

Set aside some time to relax and read through studies.

When you do this, notice which ones you like reading, which ones appeal to you before you start reading (because the visual appeal is part of the package), and build a file of samples.

Start setting up your case study using a common story formula.

Simply put it goes along like this:

  1. Your customer – describe a bit about them (who they are, what they do, what makes them happy or frustrated)
  2. The problem – what’s the problem, why are they having a problem, what’s happened. What have they tried so far to resolve it
  3. The discovery – aha! They discover your product (how did that happen?) Why did they decide to try it
  4. The resolution: how did they use your product, how long did it take, what went well and what didn’t
  5. The ending: how the customer feels now the problem is resolved 

That’s the core of a case study. These elements woven together to tell the story.

5 Common questions about format:

  1. How long should a case study be?

There are no hard and fast rules.  Sometimes 1200-1500 words is perfect.  The trick is to not rush the story, but to allow it to unfold the same way a good short story does.

You want your reader (aka future customer) to identify with your customer. You want your reader to feel what your customer felt. 

  • Should you use SEO in your case study? 

While this isn’t a sales letter or a landing page, there’s no harm in using key words as long as they flow into the story naturally.

  • What about visuals? Should I use them?

Yes.  As mentioned in Part 1, a photo of your customer is important.

And if a chart or graph, or other visual helps your reader connect to the story, use them.

Just make sure the visuals are high quality, so they look good on your website and in print.

  • What is readability? 

Readability is how easy it is to read your study.  You want your reader to enjoy reading it and to easily understand it.

There’s a simple editing tool in Word called the Flesh-Kinkaid score. It checks your document and tells you the grade level your story is written for.  Try to aim for grade 6-ish.

The easier your case study is to read (especially for a busy customer) the more likely they are to read it.

When you write something that requires the reader to think extra hard to process what they are reading, you have a good chance of having the reader skip it.

There can be exceptions. Sometimes, in highly technical case studies a different vocabulary is used (think legal or financial documents) or jargon is used. 

When writing your case study, understand who your reader is. Is it someone who is in the industry and understands the insider jargon, or not?  As a rule of thumb, the simpler you can write the better.

“It seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.” David Ogilvy

  • What’s white space?

White spaces is empty space.  For example, leave comfortable margins on your page. Less can be more, so avoid crowding information just to make it ‘fit’ onto one page.

You could either make it two pages or edit the content, so it works on one page, properly. 

Having lots of white space lets the reader’s eye move more easily along the document.  It’s less stressful for the reader.

And, to help the reader a little more be sure to use sub-heads, or bullet points, to help the reader move through the study.

And, take some time to play with the fonts you choose. Check their size and colour for your social media and also if someone decides to print your information. Try to keep everything easy for the customer to read. 

Personally, I love some of the swirly handwritten scripts, but they’re difficult to read. They don’t print as well in text blocks either. So, sticking classics like Calibri, Times New Roman, and simple fonts are practical choices.

Finally, it’s useful to think about colours.

While you’re using your case studies in social media it’s fun to play with colours, headers, visuals.

But, if anyone decides to photocopy your study, will it copy well?  Test out colours and fonts to make sure the most people possible are going to be able to read it without effort.

Or, if someone is printing your study, is your formatting going to drain their colour cartridges?  It never hurts to test out what your study looks like in greyscale.

What you can do with your case study

Now – the exciting part!  The work’s done and you have a  beautifully crafted case study.

What can you use your case study for?

Casey Hibbard, a leading expert and copywriter in the case study niche suggests these ideas:

Non-profit fundraising appeals/grant proposals – Weave success stories into every printed, verbal or other appeal for support.

Annual reports – Bring life to an annual report by showcasing the people and companies behind the numbers.

Public-service announcements for nonprofits – Include member/ customer success stories in your PSAs.

Your hold message – Why not refer to a customer success story right on your phone hold message? As callers wait, they’ll learn about the value of your products or services.

Social media – Tease and link to full case studies from sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

from Casey Hibbard, AWAI 2019

Other ideas include:

  • Training and educational materials: Are you running programs or needing to train your staff about your products? Kickstart with a case study and engage people from the beginning.
  • Video and podcasts: You can weave several case studies together and create videos, or plan ahead when doing your interview and use it as a podcast.
  • eBooks, newsletter and brochures: Of course, these are customized for your unique business, but using success stories from your customers is both common sense simply a best practice,

Last words

Not only are you showing how well your product works, you’re wanting to highlight your customer.

Case studies are worth their time and energy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about tackling them, find a freelance copywriter to help you.  There’s a skill set involved and if your time is tight, talk to a copywriter.

Case studies are meant to encourage future customers to have confidence in choosing you and your product. Sharing the experience of your customers builds trust and credibility. That’s always a great business practice.