Case studies are one of the most effective marketing tools you can have at your disposal and for good reason. Instead of just talking about what your product or service does, case studies allow you to show potential clients why your product or service is useful and the positive experiences your past clients have had. When done right, a good case study is visual, engaging, and weaves a captivating narrative that embodies the value of your business.
Moreover, they are also hugely effective teaching tools that can engage your students and help them to develop problem-solving skills, understand analytical tools, and learn complex decision making. Additionally, they provide an effective way for students to present their projects or research. Below are some helpful tips for writing your own case study. While this article focuses primarily on case studies as marketing tools, the same concepts apply across the board for educational case studies as well.
Pick the perfect case
First things first—to create a great case study you need a great case. Any random client won't necessarily translate into a story that will result in new customers, so use the following list and tick off to see who stacks up:
- A representative of your ideal customer: The potential candidate should first and foremost be someone to whom your ideal customer can relate. The more your future customers can see themselves in the case study, the more impactful the success story will be.
- Well-versed in how your product/service works:You'll be relying on your client quite heavily to create this case study, so the more they understand your business, the more clearly they'll be able to relate to its value.
- Incredible outcome: It probably goes without saying but the better the results, the more influential your case study will be. These clients are also more likely to be excited about your product and feel compelled to share their experiences in a case study.
As a bare minimum, your candidate should meet all three of the above criteria. Once you've narrowed down your customers, see if any of them stand out. Companies with big, recognizable names are great because it gives your service credibility. Additionally, customers who had unique or complicated situations make for effective case studies because they can help to eliminate doubt. Another worthwhile quality for a case study to have is if the client left one of your competitors to work with you instead. Use your best judgment to determine who has the most compelling story, and run with it. The same concept can be applied to an educational case study, bearing in mind the goal of the analysis. Choose a case with a powerful outcome that is exemplary as far as the point you plan to get across is concerned. Then start constructing your case study.
Use a case study template
Quite seriously, this is one of the best things you can do when it comes to making an outstanding presentation and avoiding the dreaded death by PowerPoint. Beautiful and intriguing case study templates can make your job much easier and will allow you to spend your time focused on content rather than aesthetics. While easy to overlook, the way your case study looks is just as important as what it says.
Think of it this way: Are you more likely to trust a company with a presentation riddled with clip art, visual inconsistencies, and reckless use of Comic Sans, or would a company with an attractive, streamlined presentation that is pleasant to look at, make the case study more credible? The same goes for an educational case study—you want to grab the attention of your students, and putting thought into the visual aspects of your case study is the best way to start. Looks aside, case study templates can also help you to structure your presentation. Templates with pre-filled decks (such as those from Slidebean) contain curated slides to guide you and save you time that you can devote to putting together your content!
Tell a story
A case study is a narrative. As a business, the narrative is about how your client came to work with you, and why they're happy they did, so why not construct it accordingly? A jumble of numbers and data is simply not as intriguing without the build up and flow of a story, so start at the beginning and walk your potential customer through the process by answering these questions:
- Who is the customer you're talking about and what is their business?
- What problem did they bring you to solve?
- What made them choose you?
- What were any unique challenges?
- How did you help the customer to reach their goals and solve their problem?
- How have things improved for the customer since working with you?
Answer these questions the best you can to construct a story from beginning to end, then work with your sample customer to help you fill in the blanks. Some customers may be enthusiastic and take the initiative by providing you with information for the case study, but others may simply be too busy. For that reason, it's best to provide as much information as you can from the start to make it easier on your customer. Educational case studies, while different, have sufficient similarities for you to follow the same fundamental route map: You're still building a story from beginning to end, explaining the issue and how it panned out. When creating an educational case study, ask yourself the following questions:
- What issue is being faced?
- What is the goal of doing the analysis?
- What is the context of the situation?
- What solution was implemented?
- Did it work? Why, or why not?
Related Read: Basic Storytelling
Gather quotes—or come up with your own
This part is going to be specific to businesses and startups and for their purposes, it is key. As far as direct testimonials are concerned, you have two main options when creating a case study you plan to use as a marketing tool. First, of course, is to obtain actual quotes from your sample client. This has a few advantages. Most importantly, the quote will be in your client's own words, and they may be able to make some points and address issues that may not be as obvious to you, but could be very compelling to potential customers. Your second option is to write your own quotes and then obtain written approval from your sample client to attribute the quote to them. This is advantageous because it saves your customer time. Some customers may simply not be confident in their writing skills and prefer to have the quote created by someone else. In addition to doing your busy customer a favor, it gives you the ability to focus the quote on whatever you think is the most important aspect of the study.
No matter which option you go with, it should be the choice of the customer you are featuring in the case study. If whatever information they've provided during the process of creating the case study is lacking usable quotes, simply get in touch with them and ask for some. Tell them you would love a few short testimonials (no more than a sentence or two, each) for your case study, and if they're too busy or prefer not to write them themselves, you'd be happy to draft a few for their approval. If you do wind up writing them yourself, always get written approval from the person to whom you are attributing these quotes; you wouldn't want things to get nasty for whatever reason later on!
Use real numbers and appealing visuals
This is vital. While the story will grab your potential customer and keep them engaged, it's the numbers that will ultimately show them what you were able to do for your client. Vague statements such as you tripled engagement doesn't lend much credence if there aren't actual numbers behind them, so dig up that data and find the most compelling proof of your success. Additionally, when creating an educational case study, real numbers have the same effect—credibility.
Once you've gathered those numbers, it's time to decide how best to show them off. Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves, but often you can make solid impact by showing them visually. Were you able to help your customer to boost sales after a trend of sales being limp? Consider an attractive line graph to show the spike. Did you help your client to increase traffic from their target demographic? Two before-and-after bar charts are a nice way to show how you helped them improve. As the adage goes: seeing in believing, so give your potential customers something smashing to consider.
Related Read: Presentation Design Inspiration
Case studies are powerful. They can attract clients to you as a startup, engage your class as an educator, or give you a clear way to present projects and research as a student. Use the simple tips outlined above and you'll wind up with an attractive case study that is as entertaining as it is educational.