A guide to creating case studies that engage readers
What is a case study?
In a business context, case studies are stories that detail a customer’s journey from the introduction of a company’s solution, to how it was implemented, and the success of that solution.
Customers read case studies to assess whether your product or service can benefit them. Therefore, it’s essential to write convincing case studies that deliver lean-in engagement to ensure the customer contacts you. How do you do that? Tell a story.
Why is storytelling in case studies important?
Stories do something that facts alone can’t – they move us emotionally. Facts are important and they can be persuasive and effective, but they rarely inspire us to act. This is because human beings are social creatures, and we relate to other people. Not numbers.
In fact, hearing stories about other people is so powerful in helping us to form emotional bonds it triggers our brains to release a chemical called Oxytocin. This is the same chemical that our brain produces when someone shows us kindness. It signals to the body that this person is trustworthy or safe, and encourages you to cooperate with that person and form a connection. Amazingly, the brain has been proven to release this chemical regardless of whether you have met the person face to face, or read about them on a page.
Therefore, creating a case study that reads like an Oxytocin-inducing story will boost the ability of the reader to connect to it. Once a customer can connect to your service, they are more likely to picture themselves using it.
When planning your case study, think about how you can create an overarching story by sharing your customer’s history. Examine challenges in depth to show what is at stake for real people and be specific and quantifiable about how the solution helped.
Of course, you cannot write a case study and exclude facts completely as they provide valuable evidence that proves your solution works. But it’s also been shown that storytelling is the best tool in your arsenal to communicate data in a way that sticks. So much so that Psychologist Jerome Bruner’s research found that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.
The best case studies tell a story, and the best stories are about characters – not a faceless group of individuals. To tell a story that signals the release of Oxytocin in your reader, they need to know who is involved, what they do, what they might have in common and why what’s happening is important. That’s how the people in your case study turn from strangers into characters your customers care about.
When writing your case study, ask yourself: who was involved and how? This will give you a list of characters you can include. Find out how the customer felt about the problem and solution through interviews, and use quotes whenever possible. Don’t forget to feature your team too, as they also played a fundamental role in the success of the case study.
Addressing points of conflict
Conflict is crucial to any good case study. This is because stories without conflict are boring, and customers without problems do not need a solution. Problems are only negative if they are not addressed and settled. So long as you have solved whatever hardship your customer faced, conflict is not only a positive thing but is scientifically proven to make readers pay attention.
Research shows that in tense moments of a story our brains produce Cortisol. This is a stress hormone that lets us know that we need to pay attention. Stories that do not include a conflict and climax do not engage the brain the same way, and people are more likely to ignore them.
So use conflict to create tense moments in your story. Be honest about pain points by explaining the different aspects of the challenges you faced, and the consequences of not addressing those issues. Include specifics about the implementation process of your solution and do not gloss over any difficulties. If you overcame them, they add to the effectiveness of your work. As well as this, don’t be afraid to describe the onboarding process, how long it took, and whether it was remote or not. With authentic conflict, an interesting story and credible resolution are found.
Choosing a theme
Now that you understand the importance of characters and conflict, the last element of crafting a story for your case study is choosing a theme. This is the central topic, message or subject your case study builds on. It should engage the reader with a complex question and show an intelligent, smart perspective. In other words, your theme is about the big picture. Businesses are not simple and shouldn’t be written that way. So, use your theme to talk about trade-offs and the implications of tough choices. By including different elements of business complexity in your case study it shows that you understand industry pains and makes your brand more authentic.
If you need help crafting stories that tap into reader’s emotions, and showcase how you helped your customers to succeed, get in contact. We’re happy to help.