November 14, 2022

The absolute essentials of a great case study

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Our tips to ensure your case study does the job it’s supposed to

When it comes to understanding the difference between an average case study and a great one, there are a few key elements to consider and some handy copywriting tips you can use to make yours pop. Here we’ll explain the essential characteristics all great case studies have, and some best practices we can recommend.

Before we start, it’s important to understand what a case study is and what it isn’t.

Writing a case study laptop pen and paper blog

What is a case study?

A case study is a piece of content written by a company as proof of its work. It’s an opportunity to be specific about how a customer used your product or service to overcome a problem.

Although case studies are used to promote product success, they are not advertisements. They are stories. The focus is not on the company, but on the customer’s real-life journey from A to B explaining how the product made it happen.

Engage the reader straight away

A strong opening sets the tone for your case study so use it to grab the reader’s attention. One way to do this is to take the lead from the pros, and follow one of the core rules of journalism: ‘don’t bury the lede’. A lede is the most newsworthy part of a story. It establishes the scenario or sets up the question that the body of the text will answer – and it should do all of this in less than three sentences. This puts the heart of the story front and centre and sparks enough curiosity to motivate the audience to find out more.

If a writer ‘buries the lede’, it means there is superfluous information that hides or distracts from the most important part of the story, and that’s a big no-no. Journalists are taught not to do this because making the reader wait for answers tests their patience, and they are more likely to move on. So don’t bury the lede. Hook your reader straight away by using the first few lines of your case study to explain what the client’s challenge was, and the solution you provided to solve it. Keep it short and your reader will know that you aren’t going to waste their time.

Get the structure right

Once you have used your opening to establish your client’s challenge and your solution, you can elaborate on the customer’s story and your success. Use the middle section of your case study to detail the implementation process of your service. As well as the facts and figures that showcase your product’s achievement.

Finally, wrap up the story by inviting the reader to see the proof for themselves with a call to action. This is a short and snappy sentence outlining what you want the reader to do next and inspiring them to do it. This might be to contact a member of your team, request a demo, read another related case study, or head to a specific page on your website to learn more.

Ensure your case study looks attractive

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but case studies aren’t books and here looks definitely matter. After reading your title, the next thing your audience will do is evaluate how your content appears on the page. From there, they will decide whether it’s worth investing the time and effort to read it. To make sure your piece looks like an easy read and not an essay, you can use subheadings to break up long text into digestible chunks. A good subheading will show a promise of information and a benefit to the reader that the text underneath answers. At a glance, your subheadings should work together to pique the reader’s interest and provide an overview of what your case study is about.

Keep your case study clear and concise by establishing a word count and sticking to it. We recommend 600 words. This will give you a finish line to aim for when writing or editing and prevent any unnecessary waffle.

Include names and testimonials

In the world of case studies, recognition equals proof of success. By including the names and logos of clients you’ve worked with, it shows your readers that a certified company took a risk on you – which means they don’t have to. They can trust your solution because you have proven it works with evidence and the client was happy enough to publicly support it.

Sometimes it might be difficult to get consent to use a company name or logo, especially if the client is a Tier 1 bank or financial institution. When asking for approval to use names, it’s always a good idea to offer edits before publication and ask for a quote from your client about their experience. The worst they can say is “no”, the best-case scenario is a fantastic testimony that helps your company win more business.

If you aren’t able to use real names, an alternative option is to create an anonymous use-case study instead. Although the effect may not be as powerful, you can boost your use-case study’s effectiveness with a strong library of content on your website. The more content you have to back up your company’s success, the more likely you are to build trust with your target market.

Don’t fall victim to the ‘curse of knowledge’

Whether you are an expert in your field, the inventor of a new product, or you’ve simply worked in an industry for years, it can be easy to unknowingly assume that the reader has the same background knowledge you do. The psychological term for this cognitive bias is called ‘the curse of knowledge’, and it’s the most common mistake we see industry leaders make. It occurs because it’s impossible to unlearn what you know. This makes it harder to explain the basics to someone else when you are unable to put yourself in their shoes and anticipate the questions they might have.

For a customer to be motivated to get in touch, they need to read your case study and fully understand what you do. So make it easy for them and avoid the common pitfalls of the curse of knowledge. Clarify any industry terms and acronyms, and provide as much relevant context as possible. Then test your content by asking someone not involved in your industry to read it.

We can help

For many start-ups and industry experts, explaining what your product or company does in a simple and compelling way can be a challenge. That’s where we can help. At Ventuure we combine our marketing knowledge and fresh perspective with your industry expertise. Together we can cut through the clutter, get to the heart of what your company has to offer, and why your customers should care.

With an established reputation of working with over 300 high-growth Series A & B companies, we’re proud to stand out as the market’s most experienced B2B start-up growth agency.

If you need help writing engaging case studies to support your sales strategies, please contact Ventuure today. We’re happy to help.