Wondering how to write a case study? If you run a business that aims to get results for someone, business case studies can be some of your most powerful marketing material. When done right, they’re an authentic, content-rich way of telling stories about your business. They’re not pushy – but they show exactly what kinds of results you can achieve for your target market. Customer testimonials are great when you just need a little snippet, but a longer-form customer case study is even more powerful.
So how to write a case study? It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are some simple steps I’ve followed to build up a bank of powerful business case studies…
1) Find a Potential Case Study Customer
Figure out a way to identify customers that get exceptional value from your product or service. It could be ones that post glowing reviews, have particularly high usage of your product, leave positive comments on your social media accounts, or ones that your sales or customer support staff identify. Make sure everyone in your business knows that you’re on the hunt for potential case study customers and keep a running list of those that might be great candidates.
2) Ask Permission
With your list of potential case studies in hand, get on the phone and have a conversation with your customer about their experience with your business. Gauge their satisfaction and the results that they’ve had. If they’re still a great candidate for a case study, ask them if they’d be willing to be involved. Explain that you’re currently writing up a case study on a handful of customers that you’ll be promoting. If they’re a business, emphasise that it will be great exposure for them, and also that you’d really love them to be involved. If they agree, lock in a time for a slightly longer interview. Explain that it will take about 20 minutes, it’ll be you doing the write-up, and they’ll have a chance to check everything you’ve written before it’s published.
3) Have a Phone Call to Conduct the Case Study Interview
At the agreed time, get on the phone with your customer.
As you have the discussion, take notes (tell your customer upfront that you’ll be doing this). Especially try to catch any specific phrases they use as you want to include these in your case study.
Have a list of customer case study questions on hand but try not to read out the questions. Instead, allow the conversation to flow freely and ask questions as they naturally occur. Come back to these questions if you haven’t got to them all through the normal course of the conversation.
At the end of your case study interview, thank your customer for their time and assure them that you’ll write it up and email it to them for checking in the next few days.
4) Questions to Ask in a Case Study Interview
These will vary depending on your business, but a few samples are;
- Can you describe what was happening before you used [our business]? (You need to get the “before” scenario to provide a contrast.)
- What prompted you to contact [our business]? How did you find us? Why did you choose us?
- How would you describe your experience with [our business]?
- What did you initially think? How did your friends/customers/partners react?
- How did [our business] compare to other alternatives you had previously tried?
- What’s your philosophy for dealing with this problem/issue now?
- Would you recommend [our business] to others in the same situation as you? Why or why not?
There might also be other questions specific to your type of business that you should add to this list.
5) Get Writing – How to Write a Case Study
Once you’re off the phone, have a first shot at drafting the case study straight away. But how to write a case study in a way that seems natural but also convincing?
I like to start a business case study with a direct quote from the customer and then go into the back story about what situation they were in before using your business. Don’t make them sound inept or in anyway negative though as otherwise the customer won’t be happy to have the case study published. Try to make the customer sound reasoned and relatable. Describe their situation and thoughts in as much details as possible.
Then introduce your business – especially the customer’s thought process on how they came to be using your business. Describe what you did, and most importantly, describe the results the customer received as a result. Ideally, you’ll use another direct quote from the customer somewhere in this section.
Finish the case study off with some sort of quote that sums up your customer’s opinion about your business and any recommendations they have for others in the same situation.
Before publishing, read over your case study, or get someone else to check (sometimes it’s hard to see your own errors). There are numerous tools available to help you remove grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, so make sure you use one of these as sloppy writing will confuse and irritate your readers. Get into the habit of using a free online punctuation checker and corrector to ensure your writing is professional and error-free.
6) Check Back with Your Customers
Once you’ve got a written up your business case study, you need to permission to use it from your customer. Here’s the exact email template I have used;
Hi <Customer Name>,
It was great to speak with you yesterday and I was so pleased to hear that everything is going well! I’ve now drafted up an article to explain your story and I’ve included this below. Hopefully I’ve captured the essence of what you said, but if you’d like anything changed with this, please just let me know (or make any edits below).
<Include the actual customer case study here. Make sure you include the customer name and/or business so that you can be sure you’ve got these details correct as well.>
As discussed, once you’re happy with it we’d like to promote it in our emails, Facebook page, other marketing etc.
Thanks again for your help with this – it’s very much appreciated!
All the best,
7) Get a Photo for Your Customer Case Study
Although you’re almost done writing your customer case study, for maximum impact, you really need a good photo to go along with your business case study. Sometimes getting your customer to send this to you can be the hardest part of all! Make sure you mention it at the beginning, and sometimes I hold off on sending the case study through until they’ve sent me a photo. Note that unless it’s a professional photo, you’ll probably want to crop and highlight the photo yourself (but this is not too hard!). Having a good photo really helps make your case study relatable and brings it to life – so don’t skip this step!
Now that you know how to write a case study, you can start building your bank of customer case studies. With this in hand, you’ve suddenly got a lot more material for your blog posts, customer emails, social media updates, sales proposals, website content and much more. This article from Hubspot does a good job of explaining more ways of using your customer case studies in your business.