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Creating case studies that sell

Creating case studies that sell

February 22, 2011 by Sharon Tanton

Packing your site with valuable content is the best way to showcase your operation – and case studies are the kings of valuable content. Demonstrating how you add value, case studies bring your website to life, and will always be clicked on by prospective buyers.

There’s an art to creating good ones – here are my tips for writing case studies that sell.

Do your homework

Set aside proper time to interview the client at a time that suits them. Set the agenda. Have your questions ready. Record the conversation so you have time to listen properly without scribbling like a maniac. Give the client time to say other things that might not be on your agenda. Keep asking “why?”. This can be a hugely valuable process, and you can learn a lot about what it’s like to work with you.

If the idea of this makes you uncomfortable, ask someone else to conduct the interview for you. People often find it easier to talk to a third party, so this approach has other advantages too.

Headlines matter

Case studies are the heavy-weight proof of your expertise, but don’t treat them too reverentially. You want people to read them. So apply the usual rules of smart business writing and grab attention with a headline — don’t say “Monetizing the Web Operations of AN Company: A Case Study” — say “Profits doubled in three months — here’s how”.

Make the challenge clear

Your case study is your chance to show precisely how you add value, so explain it in lovely plain language.

Streamline the process

In the real world, projects can be fairly rambling affairs. The parameters change, people change roles, life happens. The project had a bit of a hiccup in the third month when Jane from HR went on maternity leave… But for the purposes of the case study, keep to the brief. Your aim is to show how you moved your client from A to B. Show your focus.

Use direct speech

Use your client’s words. Speech lifts a piece of writing and makes it much lighter to read. More importantly, it adds real credibility. It’s show not tell. An advantage of getting someone else to write your case studies is it makes that harvesting of this kind of valuable information much easier. Tell me again, how great am I?

Break it up

As well as using speech, use bullet points to highlight your points. Keep the busy web reader in mind and make it really easy for people to read.

Highlight the results

Make it clear and unambiguous. How your help raised the bottom line. It’s the most important bit. Don’t let your case study dribble away at the end. End on a high.

And finally…

Put your case studies up at the front of your website. Too often companies stack them at the back of their site, like dusty old volumes on the top shelf of a library. Make them grabby and appealing and stick them in the waiting room. Think glossy mag not the Encylopedia Brittanica.


Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.


Harps's picture

Very useful article. However, working for a BI consultancy, it's a bit tricky to make the case studies shorter  - the balance of technical vs business information in hard to get. Any advice on getting this balance would be helpful.

wrightwell's picture

Great stuff. One thing I would add as a case study writer as well, is that making the interviewee comfortable with the process is really important. So explain up-front how the approval process will work, and give them a heads-up well in advance of the interview on the areas you'll want to talk around, so they can prepare.

Sharon Tanton's picture

Hi Laura,

Your case studies look great - really clear and direct!

Thanks for your comments,


Sharon Tanton's picture

Hi Gloo Comms

I agree that showing empathy and evidence of working in the real world is important - that's one of the benefits of doing case studies - it demonstrates you're great people to do business with. I like what you say in your article 'They’re looking for a team that can help them if things go wrong — one that’s got experience of real-world situations.'
I meant don't let the detail of the real life stuff get in the way of your focus, show very clearly how your approach helped the client get from A to B. Or to Z, if that's where they wanted to go!

gloocomms's picture

I agree with most of your points, but I think that cutting out the detail is a mistake. We write a lot of case studies for IT companies, and nobody believes a story about a project going perfectly smoothly. You might get away with it in a short testimonial, but not in a case study. It's the human element and showing empathy that adds credibility. See our article

Laura_Zabisco's picture

Great advice as always. I've just been working on case studies for the company I work for and it is so important to think about how the services you provide add value to your customer and communicating that to them.

That means less 'I' and 'we' and more 'xxx wanted...', 'in order to achieve x, x was done'.

I've also kept content engaging through use of quotes from the client and the team, pulled out in clear blocks, as well as graphics and images which help to communicate the overall message.

Our case studies on get more visits than any other area of the site, so it's really important to ensure they showcase what you do and how it helps your clients.

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