Case studies are one of the most basic – and most effective - tools in the sales collateral arsenal. Much like their big sister, the white paper, they take your solution from an abstract concept to a concrete example in the eyes of your prospects.
While there are no hard and fast rules about how to create effective case studies, there are some general guidelines that will help keep you on the right track.
Length: Case studies generally range from one to four pages, with the vast majority being two pages long. Longer studies are called for when the subject matter is very technical or otherwise complex. Spend the extra real estate on the ‘Approach’ section (outlined below).
Layout: Including a sidebar with highlights from the case study is a great way to capture skimmers. Think of this the same way you think of the executive summary with a white paper. Consider adding a graph or chart if it is relevant. Setting off a quote from the customer adds credibility and makes the study more approachable. Check out the example at right for an idea on how to do this.
Content: The following is a typical case study outline. You should play around with the content section to make your point in the best possible way in the space you have allowed.
- Challenge: Begin the challenge section with a brief description of the company. Then answer the question: what pain was the client experiencing that led them to your solution? Be as descriptive as possible, so that readers can identify with the initial problem.
- Solution: Begin by discussing why they selected your company to help them. If they considered other solutions talk about the options they considered and highlight why yours was determined to be the best. Finish this section with a brief description of the solution they chose.
- Approach: This is where you talk about implementation; were there any challenges, any customization required? You can choose to discuss how long the solution took to implement, whether you offered training to employees, if you had to integrate the solution with existing workflows, and etc. The more detailed you can get the more credibility you earn with your reader.
- Outcome: Don’t succumb to the “and they lived happily ever after” temptation. Point out specific improvements and advantages your client experienced. Include hard numbers when you have them.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to writing convincing case studies. For a wealth of case study insight and information, dig into our previous posts on case studies and keep an eye out for a new post this week by Michele Linn.
What are some of your best tips for case studies?