By Katrina Olson
You’ve researched the company and interviewee, conducted the interview, and typed and cleaned up your notes. Now it’s time for the hard part—writing your case study.
An effective and powerful case study is not a listing of facts; it’s a story told from your customer’s perspective.
Tips for Writing a Powerful Case Study
Rather than simply recounting or summarizing your interview, find a theme that ties it all together and provides a benefit for readers. If necessary, set it aside for a few days and let your subconscious work on it. When you’re ready to write, follow these guidelines:
- Draw them in. Write a title and summary that encapsulates the theme and offers a benefit. For example, “Motion sensor lights keep students safe on college campus.”
ABC University invests in student safety with big returns—25% reduction in late-night crime.
- Provide a roadmap. Include an executive summary that shows where the story is going. “When ABC Company decided to replace their outdated lighting systems with newer, more energy-efficient lighting, they contacted us. Simply by replacing their compact fluorescents with energy-saving LEDs, ABC Company saved an annual $x,xxx in energy costs.”
- Put it in context. Provide background on the company. “Over the past 10 years, ABC Company has acquired several independent and small health care networks, growing from three facilities to more than 30 hospitals and clinics throughout the Midwest.”
- Describe the challenge. If possible, tie the challenge to the company’s larger goals. “Many facilities acquired by ABC Company are older with outdated electrical systems. ABC wants to replace the old systems with more current, energy-efficient ones as part of their long-term goal of reducing operational costs.”
- Tell a story. Don’t just list facts. Explain a problem; offer a solution. If you don’t have a good story, don’t bother trying to write a case study. “Many of ABC Company’s facilities needed updating. It was going to be time-consuming and expensive. We needed a plan. Working with their central purchasing department and individual facility managers, we developed a plan to address the most urgent needs first.”
- Be real. Don’t pad your story with superlatives and “brag and boast” copy about how great your company is. Just tell how you helped your customer.
- Get to the point. Be concise and businesslike, yet friendly. Don’t waste your reader’s time.
- Be specific. Use numbers, percentages and dollar savings to quantify the impact. “Four years later, ABC Company is reaping the benefits of their investment. Their energy bills have been reduced by 20% company-wide, with some facilities reporting savings of up to 40%. That translates to $xx,xxx in savings every year compared to their old systems.”
- Dress it up. Use a design template or hire a designer to make it look good. Presentation matters.
For a case study format and template, refer to the August 10 Marketing Momentum: Case Studies as a Marketing Tool.
It’s done…now what?
Here are just a few ways to get more mileage out of your case study:
- Put it in your newsletter.
- Feature it on your website.
- Feature it in catalogs and brochures.
- Distribute it as a “reprint” to customers.
- Print it as a stand-alone piece (along with additional ones) or assemble several case studies into one brochure.
- Post it on your company’s LinkedIn and Facebook pages.
- Tweet it.
- Create a slide show for your showroom or counter monitors.
Think about all the media you use to communicate with your customers, and how you can repackage the story for those media.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at katrinaolson.com.
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