How to write a killer case study that converts new business

How to write a case study: everything you need to know from interviewing to distribution
Forget brochures, product descriptions, and lengthy sales pages. When it comes to convincing prospects to sign on the dotted line, there’s no sales tool more powerful than a killer case study. Sure, you can tell potential customers how great you are by outlining your features and benefits and why you think you’re better than your competitors. Or, you can show them how great you are by letting your raving customers do it for you, with far greater believability and effectiveness.

Think about it. Before making a significant purchase decision, what do want most? Proof. Specifically, proof that you’re going to get the return on investment (ROI) you desire. What better way to get that proof than to hear it directly from other customers, just like you, who have made the purchase already.

With that said, some case studies are better than others. In order to convert, your killer case study needs to clearly articulate:

  1. The problem your customer was facing

Buyers spend money to solve problems. It’s that simple. So, the problem is your logical starting point. In your case study, you want your customer to dive deep into the problem they were struggling with, and the painful implications of that problem. Were they losing money? Wasting time? Struggling to retain staff? You get the drill. Essentially, you want your reader to relate to this problem. If their response is, ‘Argh, I’ve got that problem too and I want it to go away!’, then they’ll be compelled to keep reading to discover the solution.

  1. The options they considered in order to solve that problem

Once we decide that we’re willing to spend money to resolve a problem, we start to consider our options. Perhaps there are a number of different potential solutions to consider. Or perhaps there’s a single solution, offered by a number of different suppliers. Either way, get your customer to outline the various solutions they considered, including your competitors.

  1. Why they chose your solution above the competition

Next, you want your customer to talk about why they chose your solution over the others. This is where you get into the nitty-gritty ‘why we’re better’ stuff. Perhaps your years of experience and numerous awards meant they trusted you to get the job done. Or your product had something important (say unlimited customer support) that was missing from the competitors.

  1. The outcomes of that solution (aka. ROI)

Finally, we want to know what your customer experienced as a result of implementing your solution. Make sure you relate it back to the problem. Did you save them money? Time? Has their staff retention increased? How did you go above and beyond to resolve their problem and exceed their expectations?

Sounds great, but easier said than done, right? How do you actually extract this information from your customer? How do you write a case study that will convert new business? And what should you do with it when you’re done? Here are some tips:

  1. Choose a customer that loves you. They need to be willing to talk about how great you are in detail and invest a bit of time in the process (probably, two hours or so all up). If you’re planning on distributing your case study widely (and you should be! See point 8 below), it’s worth pointing out that they’ll enjoy some exposure as a result of this. If need be, you can also sweeten the deal a little (say, a small discount on their monthly retainer fee as a thank you for participating).
  2. The easiest and most efficient method to actually gather the information you’ll need is to schedule an interview (allow an hour). Send your interview questions to your customer in advance, allowing them time to prepare. Here are some questions as a starting point:
    • Who do you serve and what do you do at <company name>?
    • What problem were you facing?
    • What impact was this problem having on your business?
    • What solutions did you consider?
    • What made you choose our solution over the others?
    • What were the specific outcomes of implementing our solution?
    • Would you recommend us to other companies facing <the problem>? Why?
  3. Conduct the interview, and encourage them to dig deep by asking open questions – the more information, the better! Whether in person or online (say, using me or similar), make sure you record the interview, rather than taking notes. You want the story captured in their words.
  4. Get your recorded interview transcribed (there are heaps of cheap transcription services online), and then craft your case study. This is important – the difference between a good case study and a great case study is voice, so write your case study as if your customer is speaking directly to your reader. Having the interview recorded will allow you to directly paraphrase your customer, with some tweaking for stylistic purposes.
  5. Use your case study to drive your reader through the buyer’s journey. I recommend you use the following content structure:
    • Situation (written in third person): describe the customer, including what they do, who they serve, and their aspirations
    • Problem (written in first person, from the customer’s perspective): customer to describe the problem and the implications of the problem
    • Solution (written in first person, from the customer’s perspective): customer to describe the various solution options, and why they chose your solution over the others
    • Result (written in first person, from the customer’s perspective): customer to describe the specific ROI as a result of implementing your solution
  6. In addition to the above, include the following:
    • About Us: describe who you serve, the problem you solve, and how you solve it. Also include your credentials, like awards or accreditations
    • About <the customer>: this is optional, but may act as a motivator to get your customer to participate. Give them free rein over content for this section, and encourage them to include their contact details
    • A clear call to action and contact details: Once readers have finished your case study, what do you want them to do? You probably want them to call you to have a discussion or schedule a meeting, so make it easy for them to do so! You might also like to direct them to a landing page with further information on your product or service
  7. Once you’ve finished your case study, allow your customer to review it. It’s important that they’re comfortable with the finished product, so they remain a happy customer
  8. Now that you have a killer case study done and dusted, don’t hide it away in your top drawer! Here are some distribution ideas:
    • Include it as a download on your site in exchange for contact details
    • Feature it in your next eNewsletter
    • Send it in combination with a targeted direct mail piece
    • Give it some nice visual treatment, and print it as a piece of sales collateral for use at sales meetings or networking events
    • Run a webinar on the project, inviting your customer to co-present on a subject of their choice in exchange for talking about how brilliant you are
    • Send it to relevant press and media channels

Sure, case studies take a bit of work. But – make no mistake – there’s no better sales tool for credentialising your product or service, creating trust with potential customers, and converting new business.

This is a guest post by Sally Cameron – Copywriter, Editor, & Owner of Sally Cameron Copywriting. Sally helps solopreneurs, starts ups, and SMEs connect with their tribe, compel action, and convert new business. When she’s not writing her heart out for her lovely clients, you’ll find her engrossed in a book, bushwalking in the Dandenong Ranges, or baking something sweet (she’s currently mastering the art of cinnamon scrolls).

 

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Melinda Leyshon is a business copywriter with over 15 years experience in corporate publishing and strategy development. She has worked with some of Sydney's leading brands to deliver SEO and direct response copywriting, brand development and more. She has a huge success rate with business award applications and, throwing small business and corporate tenders into the mix, you have one of Australia's most experienced business copywriters! She also loves triathlon and has a serious penchant for licorice. And chocolate. Together.