Real-hand knowledge, working examples and customer endorsements are powerful tools when showcasing your company and encouraging new customers to head your way. Business case studies are a great way to combine these tools into a structured, informative ‘story’. In this article, we explore what a case study is and how they help your business. Plus, we will guide you through the writing process, ensuring you have all the tools you need to have a go at writing your own.
What is a business case study?
Simply put, business case studies are a close-up, detailed account of a real customer’s experience with your business. They describe the customer’s success thanks to your product or service. They typically include the challenge the customer was facing prior to using your product or service, and how you helped overcome that challenge. They are very effective in reporting on projects you have worked on, services you have delivered or products that you have sold, to encourage new customers to do business with you.
How will case studies help my business?
Providing in-depth insight into services and products you have provided to customers (using actual real examples) will help potential customers gain trust in your business, which will in turn, have a very positive influence on their purchasing decisions. Openly sharing your experiences in a case study will make your business relatable and will showcase the value of your product or service in a tangible way.
Case studies are powerful sales and marketing tools. For customers just being introduced to your business and getting to know you, they provide a brief, relevant overview of what your product or service offers. For customers who are a little closer to making a purchase, a story they can relate to could be the final push they need to commit to your company. Your existing customers will delight in the fact that you have exhibited their success and may tell even more friends about you.
Case studies are usually displayed on a company website or displayed within company marketing materials.
A guide to writing a business case study
Find the story – determine the customer
At the heart of every case study should be a story. The beginning should focus on the struggles before, the middle should describe the journey to improve and the benefits gained, the end should outline a call to action. It is important to tell the real story, no exaggerated figures. First and foremost, it is a good idea to have a look back through projects you have worked on or services/products you have delivered that have a good story to tell and will prove useful to other potential customers to hear about.
Gather the information you need
Once you have decided on what story you are going to tell, drop them a courtesy call to let them know you are planning on writing a case study on their experience with your company. This is also a good opportunity to verify any details of the project that may need clarity, and to confirm that the customer is still happy with the product/service you delivered. This is especially important if it has been some time since you worked on a particular project. Perhaps you converted a loft or fitted a new boiler for a customer who was delighted with the service at the time; use this opportunity to check that is still the case.
You may also want to ask the customer to provide a quote that you will be able to include in the case study. Testimonials are influential within case studies as they endorse the story you are telling. Customers will appreciate hearing both sides of the story to eliminate bias.
Similar to testimonials, photographs can play an important validating role in case studies. It is a good idea to build up a bank of images solely for use in case studies and social media. If you work in a trade, before and after photographs of a project are particularly powerful. Customers will be inspired by what they see. If you did not take any photographs at the time of the project, it would be a good idea to arrange a time to take some photos of the finished product to accompany your case study.
Writing the case study
If you do not write often, the writing process may seem a little overwhelming. But your case study does not need to be complicated, it just needs to be effective. As we have already mentioned, it is most effective to think of case studies as “written storytelling”.
Find a fitting writing style
To find the right writing style for your case study, you need to think about your audience. An accountant, for instance, may be amenable to some financial jargon, but a small business owner may not. Your writing style is also a reflection of your company brand. If your website, logo, and social media posts all embrace a light-hearted conversational style, then your case study should too.
Try and write in a clear, concise way that your customers will be able to relate too – there is no need for impressive words, it is the story that the customer will be interested in.
Key elements to include
Every great story follows a certain path (a story arc). The path typically covers the challenges faced, obstacles encountered and how they are overcome before the plot comes to an end. Including the following elements to help bring your case study to life:
- Background information. The reader will want to know some background information about the customer you provided the product/service for, and what their situation was like before they became your customer. For example, if you are a carpenter who supplied some bespoke fitted wardrobes, you would want to describe where the customer was based and what their aim was (i.e. “Bromley-based family with three bedroom house recently converted their loft space into a fourth bedroom”), and describe why the customer wanted fitted wardrobes (“This growing family, were experiencing a complete lack of storage, due to a low-pitch roof”).
- The details of the project/service/product you delivered. Here is your chance to provide the details about the problem that drove the customer to you in search of a solution. Be specific, details matter. Not only do they make the case study more credible, they answer the reader’s questions. In the case of our carpenter, the family were extending their loft space to create another bedroom but the pitch of the roof meant that it was proving impossible for them to find ‘off the shelf’ wardrobes. Provide details of the options considered and any other problems the customer encountered before they found you.
- The midpoint. This is where you can discuss why the customer chose your company. What made you stand out? What were the most important factors in their decision? In some instances, this will be price led, in others it may be to do with trust, online reviews, or reputation. Whatever the reason is, tell the reader about it. It may also be a good idea to include a testimonial from the customer here to reinforce the reasoning you give.
- The climax. Here is your opportunity to explain the success of your product or service. What benefits has it brought the customer? How has it changed their situation? Include all the details you can and again, a nice customer quote to endorse your statements will be a nice addition here.
- Conclusion. The final paragraph should briefly summarise the key points within the study and lead to call-to-action, where you ask your reader to contact you for more information or to enquire about a product a service.
Our guidance will hopefully provide you with a good foundation to writing case studies. Once you grasp what makes your stories powerful, you will know what to say and what to leave out. You will even begin to learn how to arrange everything on the page/screen, so it resonates with your audience. Some companies (in the building trade for example) may find that their reader wants to know the exact details of the materials used in the project (paint colours, insulation thickness, wood type etc), in which case it may be better to provide these details as a separate list rather than within the main body text. It may take a bit of trial and error to get the right format for your reader.
To summarise, make sure you find the right story to write about. Make sure you include all the story arc elements outlined above and remember that using customer testimonials will endorse the statements you are making within the case study from their point of view. Pictures are a powerful tool in helping your reader to visualise your words, particularly in case studies where before and after pictures are relevant. Remember, informative case studies are a great way to help customers make decisions about what products and services to buy and are effective in making sure they choose your company rather than your competitor.
Take a look at some of our the client case studies we have written for our own Make Me Local website and check out those of your competitors as well for some inspiration. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any help.