How to Develop Highly Effective Case Studies

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Case studies can be a source of pride for many marketers. They provide an opportunity to showcase your work and achievements. However, as a marketer, you must maintain perspective on the intended audience for your case studies and ensure that you are developing case studies that your prospects will find relevant and compelling. The standard format of case studies quite often do not sufficiently impact prospects, leaving them disengaged and thus rendering the case study useless.

Though disappointing, this disengagement does not imply that the case study’s findings are meaningless. It simply indicates that you have conveyed information in a manner that does not resonate with your prospects. You may resolve this problem by adopting the perspective and language of your intended audience. Reconsider your case studies from the perspective that your prospects will find ‘meaningful’ to them.

The problem that standard two-part case studies present

The standard case study format typically consists of the problem followed by the solution. For example, a customer requires a new website, and you provide the new website design. Or a customer’s business merged with another business, necessitating a new brand, and you demonstrate the newly developed brand.

This basic presentation structure summarises the fundamental facts and shows your work in a manner that may please you. However, it does not demonstrate how the solution and your process are relevant to your prospects. It also lacks differentiation from competitors, as the majority of other case studies adhere to the same simplistic format.

The more effective four-part case study structure.

Adopting a four-part structure is a more effective method to present your work. Generally speaking, a highly effective case study should feature the following attributes:

  • A clear demonstration that you can solve a problem your prospect can relate to.
  • A clear demonstration that the process is repeatable and attainable for the prospect.
  • A clear demonstration of measurable outcomes that are pertinent to the prospect.

Marketers should format the above characteristics into the following categories:

  • Problem
  • Insight
  • Solution
  • Outcome

Outlining the problem:

From the viewpoint of the prospect, their problem will take precedence. Your prospect will be most receptive to your case study if you emphasise your awareness and understanding of the problem highlighted in the case study. Ideally, your prospect should immediately recognise that you comprehend their need for a solution and have the expertise to solve their problem. To instil confidence and trust in your capabilities, examining the problem and its difficulties is essential.

Illustrating the insight:

By sharing your insights with your prospect, you can precisely describe HOW you resolved your customer’s problem. Clearly demonstrate that your process is both unique and replicable. Now is also an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to your prospect that your knowledge surpasses that of your competitors. Here, it is essential to establish a relationship between your understanding of the customer’s problem and the precise solution that you developed.

Showcasing your solution:

Now is your opportunity to showcase your excellent work. With your prospect completely engaged and armed with the knowledge that HOW you operate is pertinent to them, they will be considerably more intent on evaluating your actual work.

Summarising the outcome:

When the time comes to make decisions, senior executives are never interested in a mere ‘solution’.  They intently focus on achieving commercial outcomes. Therefore, when crafting your conclusion, speak the language of the execs. Focus on the commercial outcomes that matter to them. Do not focus on outcomes that pertain solely to your organisation (such as awards for your work). Qualitative data will offer your prospect little to no benefit in this portion of your case study. Your outcomes must be quantitative and pertinent, focusing sharply on the numbers. Proceed one step further and describe the significance and impact of these numbers on your customer’s business. Now, the senior executives responsible for deciding whether or not to engage your organisation will be exponentially more interested in your case study, expertise, and services.

Why case studies that demonstrate commercial expertise win

Ultimately, the more comprehensive and focused your case studies are, the more persuasive they will be. Presenting your case studies in the format outlined here will set you apart from competitors who are adhering to a simplistic method of merely demonstrating a problem and a solution.  Your demonstration of commercial expertise will inevitably pique the interest of senior decision-makers more than any ‘creative genius’ will. Demonstrating your capacity to drive tangible and measurable commercial results is of the utmost importance when creating case studies capable of achieving your desired outcomes.

Girish is the CMO & Co-Founder of Resonate.

GV is our Marketing and Delivery head. He keeps our clients’ marketing strategy on track and leads the Resonate team to deliver commercial outcomes.

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