Can you prove what you say you do? A quick guide to case studies
Can you prove what you say you do? Having a case study of your product, service or solution in action can cost you nothing but showcase your best work so your audience trusts your expertise.
Here’s a quick guide to creating great case studies.
Why do you need a case study?
Investors and journalists love case studies because they provide evidence that you can do what you say you do, and they bring information to life. Potential customers love them because they help them to ‘try before they buy’.
Some of the advantages of case studies for your business include the following:
Good case studies have a long life (making the time spent on them a worthwhile investment).
They’re especially valuable for gaining investment as they’re proof of delivering outcomes.
They can convince a customer to buy from you or a journalist to work with you because they’re proof you ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’.
If the subject of your case study is happy to be featured in the media, you’re saving the journalist a lot of time attempting to bring your story to life.
What is a case study?
A case study tells the story of work completed with a particular client.
Perhaps your business has created a robot that helps older people who live alone to remember to take their medication. You want to grow awareness of it.
You can offer journalists the technical specification and some illustrations of what the robot will look like once it goes into production.
However, what’s far more compelling for journalists is to see a robot in action, helping Mrs Jones, age 75, and to hear from Mrs Jones about the improvement the robot has made to her life.
In the best case scenario, Mrs Jones will be willing to not just be highlighted in your own communications but will give her consent to being interviewed and photographed by other people. This is ideal if you are putting your case study forward to journalists.
How to build a case study in four steps
1. Always start with your business needs
What do you want a case study to deliver for your business? For example:
Lead generation by illustrating good work already done so you get more of the same.
Or perhaps you want to raise your profile and increase wider understanding of what your business does by showing it in action.
Or you may want a case study to increase trust in your brand by showcasing your work for the most well-known brands you work with, gaining a ‘halo effect’.
2. Set priorities
You may have several ideas for case studies so which ones are going to meet your most pressing business needs best and fastest? Is there one case study which could generate leads, raise your profile and increase trust in your brand? It’s most efficient to prioritise the case studies which will deliver the best return on investment of your time. You need to make sure you keep in mind ‘business first, story second’ to avoid spending too much time on case studies which won’t serve as assets.
3. Gather information
It can be tempting to email across some generic questions to the subject of your case study and ask them to send them back. But what tends to happen here is you have to chase them or follow up with more emails and calls to get further information. A more efficient tactic is to interview them on the phone/online in one 20-minute session. In the conversation you are aiming to get information which will provide these 7 story elements. Here’s an example:
1. Who are the TWO key ‘characters’ taking action in this story?
Mrs Jones and your robot.
2. What are they trying to achieve together?
Supporting Mrs Jones to stay in her home safely.
3. Why are they trying to do this?
Mrs Jones wants to stay in her home, and this takes pressure away from health and social care services.
4. Where is this story set?
Two locations: Mrs Jones’s house and your robot development laboratory and production factories.
5. When is this story set?
It starts with Mrs Jones applying for the robot, it then arrives, and can go on for the number of years she’s signed up to use it.
6. How is the challenge being solved to reach the happy conclusion of the story?
This is the place to detail all the robot’s benefits which Mrs Jones enjoys and the features used to support Mrs Jones.
7. What happened next?
Mrs Jones tells all her friends about it and now they are getting them too, and your production line is creating more.
This approach works because you will gain lots of authentic language from Mrs Jones about how the robot works for her.
To have real impact, all case study content needs to be tailored to the different channels and audiences you want to share it with. By establishing the core story, with these seven story elements, you will be easily able to repurpose the case study without having to go back to Mrs Jones every time or losing the consistency of the story. it will always be built from these key story elements or blocks.
Your case studies are flexible sources of information, not tailored products. So, they can be flexed to your different business needs.
If you want more help to create your case studies, you’ll benefit from my Case Study Creator tool featured in my book Exposure: Insider Secrets to Make Your Business a Go-To Authority for Journalists. The book also gives you tools for describing your business in a way which will hook journalists; creating a press release; and identifying and pitching the best media outlets for your case studies so you can get the media coverage you want.