4 Parts of an Effective Case Study

March 18, 2016

I’m a big fan of case studies as a great way of building customer trust. People love to read stories about how you’ve achieved great results for businesses just like them.

A well-crafted case study tells the “what’s in it for me” story to your customer. If you strip away the hard-sell and focus on telling the story of a real business getting real results, you’ve got the makings of a pretty potent marketing asset.

At the same time, poorly told case studies can be, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a detriment to your business. The key to writing an effective case study lies in throwing out the template used by 99 percent of marketers and following these four steps.

Ditch the norm

You’ve seen that tired, old case study template a million times:

  • Client situation
  • Client challenge
  • Our solution
  • Client results

Sometimes this format serves businesses well, but it also may turn away potential customers. That’s because the traditional format assumes the reader has the same problem as the case study, and that they are willing to accept the same solution.

The truth is that they probably don’t know what their real challenge is and by sharing your solution they can either get someone else to do it or dismiss it without enough information to make an intelligent decision.

Show the cost of inertia

A more useful approach is to spell out how much not solving their problem could eventually cost. You have to get your prospect invested in finding some solution at any cost to avoid impending doom.

This isn’t an appeal to sell fear; it’s an appeal to dig deep enough so that your prospects know how much they have to gain by solving all of their problems.

Prove your value

When you help people better understand the gravity of their challenges, you can more easily get them to invest in a world where their problem goes away. You can help them see any solution you recommend as an investment rather than a cost and when you sell services, in particular, this is a must.

Create a more effective format

The more effective case study format looks more like this:

  • Situation
  • Overarching challenge
  • Cost of not finding a solution
  • Results gained by the solution we implemented

In this format you’ve juxtaposed pain and gain. Also, did you notice that nowhere did you reveal how you got the result? That’s the discussion for your proposal.

This format also creates a great desire to solve problems while giving you tremendous leeway to address just how you would do so. Instead of telling your prospect what his or her problem is and dictating a solution, you get them involved in defining and communicating the story of their problem, so you let them feel like the solution is of their own design.

Experiment with your own case study format using these elements. Soon, you’ll find the format that tells your story in a more effective way.

This article was originally published on Inc.com.

A well-crafted case study tells the “what’s in it for me” story to your customer.

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