The Case For Effective Case Studies
If selling any kind of services is your bread and butter, case studies are the recipe that makes potential clients crave your service. While there’s really no shortage of case studies on business websites, not a lot of them do the job well enough to be worth reading, let alone generate interest. That’s because case studies aren’t easy to write, especially when you’re low on resources, low on help and high on feedback. Here’s how to cope.
Build a framework
Because you can get very liberal with case studies, it’s very easy to get lost in the details and start churning out content left and right. Instead of running around like a headless chicken trying to write a copy for project A, build an infographic for project B, shoot a video for project C and interview a client for project D, start by figuring out what the bare minimum looks like.
We do that by determining:
who the case study is for (prospects or sales)
what are the basic elements our prospects care about (client name, facts and figures, benefits delivered, challenges overcome, etc)
what environments we’ll distribute them through
what message are we trying to get across ( we improve sales, our product drives engagement, etc)
what is the shortest, simplest way we can get the message across
This last one can get a bit dicey, as we can easily start thinking about formats rather than content. In reality, the shortest, simplest way to convey our messaging should be about the narrative itself. What’s the easiest to understand and remember story we can tell?
Once you’ve defined your essentials, go back through your list again and make sure what you’re about to say is something your customers want to hear. For instance, if you’re a wedding planner and have included raw facts and figures like 56 happy couples, 1600 delighted guests, 1800 cakes devoured, think again.
That kind of information might be fun to read but it’s not what will nudge your prospects towards the contact page. Neither will client names, although I would always recommend including people’s names – it helps humanise your brand. Showcasing your ability to deliver on the crazy creative might, so make sure to include themes you may have successfully worked with – the more varied, the better.
Deliver on the possible
Thinking about how cool your architecture case study would look like through augmented reality will win you kudos on creativity but will be a long, drawn-out nightmare to actually deliver. Instead of going for perfect, aim for the doable. If written copy is the fanciest medium you can go for – there’s no reason why that can’t work. After all, written copy is exactly what you’re reading right now.
In addition to choosing a realistic format, you have to consider its versatility. There’s no point in building a 6 page template if all you’ve got to say are 3 paragraphs. Form follows content. Always. Every single time. No exceptions. Ignore this rule and you’ll end up carpeting your copy with fluff to fill in sections you, at one point, imagined you could use. The result? You’ll bore your readers to bits and they’ll give up on the copy.
Delivering on the possible is also about being able to credibly tell the story from start to finish. When your case study talks about a complicated solution, delivered through even more complicated strategies, to a relatively simple business problem, what you’re actually saying is that you took a long, winding path to solve a wee issue. You, therefore, have to achieve balance in the level of detail, complexity and technicalities across all your elements.
Expand. Explore. Enrich.
Once you’ve created a basic set of credible case studies that follow your basic framework, you can sit back, relax and … buckle up because this is where the fun part begins. As you start to use your case studies across multiple environments, with multiple audiences, you will begin to notice differences in performance.
Depending on where you’re using them the most, you can start thinking about repurposing the content within different formats. For instance, if you’ve noticed that focusing on numbers brings better engagement than a longer narrative, then build an infographic and run an A/B testing campaign to determine which format works best for you.
Because you already have a solid foundation of case studies, you can now begin to analyse the effectiveness of the elements you’ve included and format, across your distribution channels. This allows you to then expand the content into other formats, compare and improve them. Case studies need to grow as your business grows, adapting their number, copy and format to support the changing goals of your business and its customers.
The Bottom Line
When building case studies, we often have to rely on others for resources and support, however, you may find yourself in a position when you’re lacking in that department. Understanding what you can work with, building a realistic framework and remembering to always stick to the possible, will enable you to ask the right people for help, work towards a clear and achievable goal, as well as allow you to analyse and keep improving them.