Five Tips For Writing a Stellar Case Study
A guest contribution by Jeffrey A. McGuire
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of Open Strategy Partners GmbH and was originally published on 19th November 2021 on openstrategypartners.com.
It can be hard to encapsulate all the time, work, and problem-solving that go into a successful client project. How can you best tell the world about the great e-commerce mobile app you built for one client, or how you approached designing a multilingual website for another? That’s where case studies come in.
Case studies help convey your expertise and build trust with potential clients or customers by telling the real stories of customer success delivered with your services.
Here are five actionable tips for building a great case study from Open Strategy Partners' writers.
Learn more about Open Strategy Partners’ case study services.
1. Write up your questions before you write
For most case studies, we recommend interviewing at least one subject-matter expert, your client, or someone involved in the project. Even if you were involved in the project yourself, having an ‘outsider’ perspective is helpful because that’s how your readers (potential clients!) will approach the subject.
Before your interview, write up a set of questions. These will serve as an initial outline and guide the narrative structure before you’ve written a single word of copy. Here, you can ensure you cover everything relative to your business goals for the case study. Even if you end up asking other questions—and you probably will—writing them down beforehand helps you firm up what context your readers will need to know about the project and what kind of story you’re hoping to tell.
2. Define the problem space
Your average case study might focus on the solution, but we think the problem space is just as important. Readers might not understand the solution if they don’t understand the problem first: they need the right level of context to appreciate the case study. In describing your client’s needs or challenges, you show that you take the time to understand project goals and have thought through everything that needs to be addressed during an engagement, adding to your credibility.
3. Let the humans speak
A case study tells a story and often involves some reporting.
If you’re already interviewing people involved, quoting them in the case study helps establish trust and tell a more compelling story. Don’t worry too much about getting the “perfect” quote. People express more relatable emotions when they speak naturally and fluently.
Readers will get a sense of how your subject-matter experts felt about the project, what they worried about, and, near the end, what success felt like.
4. The path is (also) the goal
We expect a case study to share a success, but showing how you got there, and describing your approach, offers opportunities to illuminate your expertise. Even mentioning abandoned paths or mistakes along the way can show that your organization learns from experience and knows how to respond flexibly. Including these pivot points will help clients better understand how you weigh decisions and priorities.
5. Highlight metrics or statistics as benefits
Towards the end of most case studies, there’s typically a buoyant note: you celebrate your client’s success (and, therefore, your team’s accomplishments) and preview what’s coming next. At this point, you should highlight metrics or statistics. While numbers can’t tell much of a story on their own, they can add color once people already understand the other elements of the project. Metrics and statistics help readers understand the size of your impact and give them data points to bring back to their organizations.
5a. Anecdotal evidence is also evidence!
If you’re writing a case study about a newly completed project, it might not be delivering “hard” numbers yet. Metrics, data, and conversions (thanks to your work!) all take time to accumulate. This situation lends itself to discussing your solution process, the collaboration between your teams and the client, and other, more human successes. Including one or two brief and enthusiastic testimonials from end-users or your client can be just as valuable as “hard” data: The fact that your team is great to work with and delivers on its promises is a compelling sales argument, too :-)
Go write your tech case study!
Case studies are a valuable tool and method for sharing the strengths you bring to a partnership. If you’re ready to start writing case studies but want some support, Open Strategy Partners GmbH can help.
We take the hassle out of writing compelling case studies for you. Find out more about our case study services.
Image Credits: A Shining Star Hangs over your Path by Jeffrey A. McGuire and our robot overlords.