What have you done?
Converting a prospect into a customer often comes down to how you answer this straightforward question. Most savvy buyers need to know more than how much they’ll pay and what they’ll get in return. They want to know they will be doing business with a competent partner. Nothing shows competence better than stories of past accomplishments.
Unless you’re just starting, you’ve probably told the story of your best work many times. Of course, it’s best to share those stories face-to-face (or screen-to-screen these days). But the storyteller can’t be everywhere at once and leaving success stories unwritten leaves much of their potential untapped.
What is a case study?
Case studies fill the gap.
A case study is a detailed story of a past project. An appropriately crafted case study should be between 500 and 1,000 words long—enough to fill one to two printed pages. Most case studies benefit from photos and incorporate design elements, like text boxes, to bring the reader’s attention to the essential details.
The main job of a professionally written case study is to expand the reach of the company’s story. It takes the story out of the people who know it well and makes it available to the entire team and every prospect.
Case studies can be published to every marketing channel available:
- On the company’s website, as a feature article, on the blog, or even as a stand-alone page.
- On social media, as a series of posts or as a long-form article on LinkedIn.
- Through email.
- In print, as a glossy one-sheet delivered by mail or made available to the sales team to hand to prospects.
Don’t discount the value of a case study to the business’s internal audience. Thanks to the craft of a professional writer, a case study provides everyone at the business with a concise, accurate way to talk about the project. It also helps new hires get to know the business’s history in depth.
What goes into a case study?
While it tells the story of a particular project, the real focus of a case study is the business itself. After all, the prospect is reading the case study to learn about the business, not its other customers.
A strong case study typically has most of these elements:
- An introduction to the customer. If the prospect sees themselves in the other customer, they’ll know they’re in the right place. It’s always good to describe who benefitted from the company’s work. Even better is to include direct quotes from them about the experience.
- Plenty of technical detail. Help the prospect see their own needs in the work that was done. This is a chance to highlight the company’s raw technical capabilities.
- Results. Numbers are often the best way to express a project’s results. Dollars saved, days shaved off, efficiencies gained: these metrics help prospects see the concrete outcomes they can expect.
- Values. Businesses prefer to partner with other businesses who share their values. A company’s values should be the common denominator across all of its marketing efforts. A case study should highlight the ways the company’s values contributed to the project’s success.
- Celebration of the team. Emphasizing the individual contributions of team members underscores the company’s depth. Recognizing employees also fosters loyalty.
- Visual elements. Photos, charts, and infographics often tell a more powerful story than words.
Brag a bit.
Many businesses don’t recognize the marketing value of their past projects. Yet, after completing hundreds of solid projects, each one can look routine to an experienced insider.
I like to remind clients that they aren’t the audience for their marketing collateral. What is mundane to them may be very important to a prospect. Even the most ordinary project can be turned into a case study.
Case studies take some work to prepare, so it’s helpful to establish priorities. First, cover the showcase work: anything customers will recognize as especially impressive. Then put effort into the areas where the company wants to grow. If a high-profile client is open to participating, seize the opportunity to get them involved.
Does every success merit a case study? That depends on the size of the business. A construction firm that finishes six projects a year might want to memorialize all of them in case studies. On the other hand, an industrial supply business that sells $10 million of product every year will want to be more selective about the service it chooses to highlight.
Create and deploy case studies the right way.
At Red Mallard we encourage all of our clients to celebrate success. Case studies are an ideal way to maximize your business’s return on great outcomes.
What stories would you like to tell about your business? Quack at us to get started.