Small business owners, especially in the B2B marketplace, tend to have a love/hate relationship with case studies.
As in, they’d love to have some but they hate doing the work that it takes to create them.
As authors of more than a few ourselves, we’ve done our fair share of trial-and-error on what makes a great case study. We’ve found a framework that you can use to create a super effective case study easily.
Three Elements of a Super Effective Case Study
According to Moz, case studies that convert have a few standard traits to engage any audience. While there are always going to be a lot of details involved — who the client was, what internal team worked on the project, etc. — the most important elements are the story.
And if you remember high school English class, you’ll remember that stories basically break down into three parts: the Setup, the Conflict, and the Resolution
1) Setup: Identify the Problem
You don’t have a case study if you don’t have a client who wants something. Like any good story, you need to set up the conflict before explaining what you did to resolve it.
If you make custom aircraft parts, this might be as simple as stating “Customer X needed Y part for Z application.” Make sure to address what the client hoped to accomplish. If Customer X came to you for a part, there’s a reason they trusted you with their business, which should be clarified in the case study.
2) Conflict: Define the Solution
Sticking with the story formula, this section is where our hero (in this case, the client) discovers how to overcome their problem with some newfound guidance and experience (your help).
In the case of our custom part maker above, this is the space to introduce your capabilities and processes. How you created the part, overcame production challenges, tested it to against specifications, finished the project on time, etc.
By the end of this section, the reader should understand that your client is on a clear path toward success — thanks to you.
3) Resolution: Highlight the Success
It’s time to wrap this story up with a happy ending. Explain what your resolution accomplished and how your product or service helped the client succeed.
Remember, your reader should be able to see themselves as having the same success as your case study subject. Don’t limit yourself to dry technical details — talk about how your team and the client’s worked together, any back-and-forth during the project itself, and other “people-based” information.
Super Effective Case Study Best Practices
Include the client as much as possible. Getting the client’s input on a case study is a great way to reinforce your own authority and trustworthiness. If you can, ask the client specific questions about their experience so you can include their answers in your case study.
Use the right details. Some clients don’t want to be mentioned in these kinds of stories. They might not want their own customers to know they outsource work, for example, or they have contracts with companies that use proprietary methods or technology.
While it’s best to get your clients’ approval before publishing a case study, there are ways to talk about a project without ruffling any feathers. Focus on how your strategy developed and adapted to client needs. If a positive outcome is measurable, include that information as well.
Incorporate case studies organically. Once you have a few case studies that you’re proud of, start incorporating them throughout your website. Link to them in other blog posts, feature them on your homepage, share them in an email newsletter. These are the types of success stories your prospective clients want to hear, and with a little luck, you’ll be writing their stories soon too.