Everybody loves a good story, right?

What if you told sales prospects the true-life story of saving your customers’ bacon with your products or services?

That’s what a case study does—it gives you some bragging rights, the chance to show how your offering solved a significant problem for a customer, all with “stats” to back it up. (Telling a story, by the way, is also a powerful sales closing technique per Les Dane’s book, Surefire Closing Techniques.)

Case studies make the most sense when you are selling higher-ticket items, particularly to businesses where the order price is substantial enough to warrant some cost justification and, more than likely, C-Level finance approval.

What to Put in a Case Study

Case studies minimally include these components:

  1. Who the customer is, their industry, and products or services
  2. The serious problem or situation the customer needed to address
  3. The customer’s specific needs or requirements in solving it
  4. How your product or service did solve it
  5. The results, including hard numbers, such as “a 200% increase in online leads” or “a 50% reduction in utility costs.” Cite the emotional benefits, too, though, such as: “Now the IT Manager gets to go home at night and see his family.”

Give the Details

Some of you may recall Wendy’s old ad slogan from the 1980s: “Where’s the beef?”  The same can be asked of a case study. After all, it is a study and must give specifics to be of value and credible to your prospect.  What exact problem did your customer face? Why was it important to solve?  How did your product or service eliminate or alleviate that problem? What were the benefits to your customer, including measurable results?

Start with the Right Customer

A case study begins with finding the right customer to feature. Ideally, it would be a company your target audience relates to. For instance, if you sell Workers’ Comp insurance to large manufacturers, you wouldn’t focus on a small mom-and-pop machine shop.

The customer should also be knowledgeable about your product and, above all else, be agreeable to participating in the case study. He will also have to put some of his own time in, such as being interviewed, providing quotes and getting the final draft approved by his company for use.

As an aside, don’t pay a customer to be in a study. If you do, you may be legally obligated to disclose that fact, which turns your case study into a paid ad—much less compelling. (Consult your legal counsel, of course.)

Create an Inviting Format

Break up your case study into sections with headers, bullets and other formatting which make it inviting to read and easy to follow.  It will also allow readers to skim through to key points of interest.

Use photos, charts and graphics where feasible. If you have the budget for it, you could include video footage for online use.

Use a Punchy Headline

A case study should have a headline that grabs your target audience’s attention. Example: “How a Website Redesign Tripled Online Tee-Shirt Sales in One Month” versus “How a Website Redesign Increased Online Tee-Shirt Sales.”

Put It All Over the Place

Case studies have a variety of uses, the most obvious being to arm your sales force. Additionally, they can be posted on your website or landing pages, included in marketing emails, blogs, company newsletters or magazines—anywhere it’s appropriate to include a case study link or the case study itself.  (Tip: You can also use them for staff product training.)

And, don’t forget the case study should provide you with glowing quotes from your customer. Extract the quotes and use them liberally as you would positive reviews and testimonials.

Do It Right

Case studies require client interviews, data-gathering and usually other industry research. For that reason, they can take a bit of work to put together. It’s not rocket science, but does entail professional writing and interviewing skills, and a marketing mindset.

There is plenty of online material on how to write a case study. If you lack the time or in-house resources to get it done, I can do the job for you. Just drop me a line or give me a call.