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What makes a good case study?

By ClientsFirst July 03, 2014 Content Content marketing Marketing Growth marketing

In amongst a range of website design trends and new marketing approaches, one piece of content appears to have remained impervious to change: the humble case study. 70% of marketers both use them and find them useful. What other marketing tool that has been around since the early days of marketing can you say that about?

An impressive case study about your business can still have a huge effect on potential clients. Hearing about someone else’s interaction with you engenders trust and familiarity; clients know how their business interaction with you is going to turn out before they have even started it. Good comments build a good reputation.

In a crowded marketplace though, how do you make your case studies stand out?


Tell a story. All of it.

A case study documenting your interaction with a client is fine but one that tells a real story is even better. Think about where the client was before they came to you, what their problems were and where they wanted to be. Where are they now? The things in between are the story and crafting a compelling one is key to getting clients interested. Clients need to be able to see themselves in the story you tell; this might only be from an aspirational standpoint or the story might literally feature where they want to end up. Either way; it becomes relatable by how you tell it. Consider the below examples;

Approach 1 - ‘In the case of Mr Smith, we helped him by realigning his investments through regular meetings and providing a clear plan of his long-term goals’

Approach 2 - ‘Mr Smith came to us because he was unhappy with his current adviser, who he saw irregularly and had no relationship with. He felt out of the loop on his investments and unclear about where he was going to be when he retired’

In the first example you’ve stated clearly what you do but there’s no emotional or situational example for potential clients to latch on to. You’ve communicated your process, not the advantage that process brings.

In the second example you’ve provided a number of situations that the client may be able to see themselves in (unhappy with current advice, unsure on investment performance, uncertain about the future). Straight away, the client will be interested in the outcome of Mr Smith’s story, so go on and tell it: just where is Mr Smith now and how did he get there?

Provide real examples of the client’s end goal, not your own.

The problem with telling a story is that it can easily become your own. Remember that you’re talking to a potential client about what happened to an actual client. You don’t need to come into it all that much. The potential client just needs to know that the actual client achieved what they were looking for through their interaction with you.

Aim it at the clients you want, not the clients you have.

It might be tempting to write cases studies about your core client base, but if they’re not your ideal clients, then don’t write about them: their stories will only attract more people like them, more people who can understand and identify with their story. Instead, look for case studies from clients who you would class as ideal. Who is a model client for you? Tell their story and it will attract similar prospective clients.


Form is everything.

Written testimonials and case studies are the most traditional and most commonly employed form of case study. A written piece can be brilliant, but it is worth considering other mediums of portraying your clients message about your company. Video is a great option for this.

The main advantage of video is that your clientele and their stories come to life. It is great for a client to read an MD's praise about your work but if a potential client can actually see the friendly face of your customer chatting away to the camera, the reality factor is heightened.

A video testimonial also illuminates just how professional and technologically up to date your business is. Everybody understands that to produce a professional video takes time, money and creative input. Key attributes of your company can thus be enhanced subtly through simply experimenting with form.

Positioning is key.

Be organised with the layout of where your case study will sit; whether it is your website, your newsletter or somewhere else - there is no point in spending a great deal of time and effort in producing a great case study if it is then difficult for clients to find.

With websites in particular it is worth bearing in mind that the average site only has eight seconds to grab a visitor’s attention. It is quite probable that the people browsing your website will not have the patience to sift through reams of unnecessary information. Place your case studies in a central location; a homepage is the perfect place to get the most clicks.


Sam Turner pictureBy Sam Turner. Sam is ClientsFirst's Marketing Executive and writes here on topics including; inbound and content marketing, social media, design and e-marketing. He likes all of those things as well as travel, golf and frequent cups of tea. You can find him on , Twitter & LinkedIn.




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