The Case Study: How to use them, how to write them
“I like how you handle the case study,” the lady told me on the phone. “Great stuff.”
I don’t remember my exact response, but it was gratitude and some comment about them being great sales tools.
“We need a case study written on our new product,” she said.
After a bit of digging I learned the product hadn’t launched yet. It hadn’t been tested. I told her I had to speak with someone in the company and someone who had used the product. However, they did not have those things.
“Just make it up,” she said.
The case study
In my mind, the case study is a highly flexible piece of content. Done properly, it can drive sales and establish authority.
The flexibility makes it easily retooled into (or part of) a landing page, a blog post, testimonials, social proof, and quite a bit more.
The problem? Too many case studies are simply not written well or properly.
How to write it
The case study is a professional document and it shoudl reflect the professionalism while capturing the tone and culture of the company writing the case study.
Typically, I interview at least two people. One is someone with the company and the other is someone who has used the product or service.
I tend to organize case studies in several sections.
- A summary or overview.
- Objectives of the project.
I also often include a briefs section that includes location, project summary, website, project objectives, and solutions.
Ths helps me to focus my interviews, keep the interviews relatively brief, and keep things organized and on track.
Relying heavily on my journalism career, I interview with the idea of learning three things:
- What was the problem?
- How did this product or service solve the problem?
The secret ingredients
The way I organize the case study is just one way to do so. There are many ways and they can all be effective However, there are two ingredients that must be included.
First, real people. Making it up doesn’t work. Second, real numbers. Being vague or making it up doesn’t work.
The reason a case study is so powerful is that it shows that John Doe, the construction director at Ajax Construction, used awesome Engineered Wood subfloor. It reduced sound, was easy to use, and saved the construction company $97 per unit on the development of that condo. Plus its waterproof and durable!
What sells with the case study is the real world application with real world results. This is not the time to be vague nor is it the time to “make it up.”
One who is really good at this is Cold Email Wizard (@blackhatwizardd) on Twitter. He sells a course helping people have greater success and make more money from their cold email efforts. When you go to his landing page (and no, I’m not an affiliate – he makes my point), there are testimonials (mini case studies) that provide the “proof” of his service.
These testimonials are specific. They tell you the exact response rates and how much money is made.
Not always the dollars
Sometimes, there is another problem solved.
I wrote a case study on a product called LP FlameBlock Sheathing. The architects wanted to speed construction and exceed code requirements in the construction of student housing for 900 people. With the use of the product, construction sped up, and the wall had a two-hour fire rating.
They point out there is savings to be obtained by using one layer of LP FlameBlock Sheathing vs two layers of gypsum, but the main point is the quicker construction (one installation vs two) and the two-hour fire barrier for a dorm.
It hearkens back to the goal of the press release. LP FlameBlock Sheathing’s case study wasn’t about dollars. Rather it focused on installation and codes compliance as a selling tool.
Think strategically about multimedia
I’ve not made one nor seen one, but I’ve been curious lately about possibly creating a series of case studies on TikTok. My main hesitancy being, other than getting a client to go along with it, how to use the platform in a way that works both for the platform and the case study client.
There are many ways to add a multimedia approach to a case study. Photos? Heck yea! Video? Why not, it could be powerful and add a real boost on a variety of social media platforms.
Charts, graphics, and other design elements reinforce key points.
The point is simple. You aren’t limited to just creating a basic PDF and going with it. Expand. Experiment. Explore.
In the end
The case study is about one of PR and social media’s great buzzwords these days: Authenticity.
Tell a story but get to the point. Most importantly, use real data and real people to tell a real story. It’ll work!