Creating case studies that sell

By: Sharon Tanton

Date: 22 February 2011

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.