What is a case study?
A case study is a thorough research-backed analysis of a company, project or campaign that can accomplish some of the following objectives:
- Identifies a situation or problem
- Recommends potential solutions
- Explains implementation actions
- Presents factors for success or failure
While case studies typically have an analytical angle, they’re often presented as narratives and told from the perspective of a satisfied consumer or client. Both B2B and B2C companies can use case studies.
Related: How to Hire a Writer
Benefits of writing a case study
Case studies are formidable marketing tools with a high effectiveness rate. Consider these advantages of writing a case study:
- Customer testimonials: Case studies use direct language and thoughts from actual customers, which is a highly authentic and reputable data source.
- Empathy: The narrative design of the case study allows the reader to easily empathize with the protagonist and see themselves in the story.
- Peer guidance: An effective case study shows not only that other consumers have benefited from the product or service, but exactly how they benefited.
- Outside perspective: Since the person relating the benefits of the product or service is a company outsider, the case study feels less like a traditional marketing ploy.
- Multipurpose: You can use the data and information you gather for your case study for other projects and marketing campaigns.
What elements to include in a case study
Most case studies follow a formulaic outline. Include these elements when creating your case study:
- Title: The title should describe the study succinctly.
- Subtitle: The subtitle provides a brief summary of the case study.
- Subjects: Describe the subject or subjects who play the protagonists in the story.
- Challenges: Outline the challenges the subject or subjects faced before they used your product or service.
- Objectives: Explain the objectives your subject or subjects hoped to achieve through finding a solution to their challenge.
- Solution: Describe how your product or service solved the problem your subject or subjects faced.
- Results: Quantify the value your product or service brought to your subject or subjects.
- Documentation: Provide supporting documentation from the subject or subjects, like quotes or visuals.
- Forecasts: Conclude the narrative by explaining what the subject’s or subjects’ next steps are now that they’ve found a solution to their problem.
- Call to action: Prompt your readers to read more about your company, services or products on your website.
Case study formatting tips
The formatting of your case study is just as valuable as the content itself. Without clear and effective formatting, your readers may have trouble following the story. Use these case study formatting tips to help you create an excellent document:
Use headers and subheads as a way to identify new sections of the case study. Your readers can quickly scan through the headers and subheads to get a sense of the narrative and then go back and read the specifics within each section for more information.
Break up the text
Break up large chunks of text with stylistic elements. Use bullet points, bolding and italics to improve the readability of your document. You can also include large, stylized quotes and images to further separate large paragraphs or sections.
Quantify when possible
Include numbers whenever you can. Quantifying results provides two benefits:
- Your audience sees hard data for the efficacy of your product or service.
- You can use bullet points, bolding or other stylistic elements with the numbers to help draw attention to the numbers and keep the case study from becoming overwhelmingly text heavy.
Tell the whole story
Make sure your case study includes an easy to identify beginning, middle and end. A clear narrative arc makes it easier for readers to situate themselves within the story and know where to look for information.
Consider the style
While many case studies follow a written narrative format, you can get creative with how you style your case study. Consider using a question-and-answer interview format rather than a paragraph-dense narrative writing style. You can also create a video or podcast that may appeal to more consumers.
Steps for writing a case study
Writing your case study requires cooperation from customers and persuasive writing skills. When you’re ready to create your own case study, follow these steps:
1. Find a subject
Before you can begin outlining your case study, you must choose the subject. Often, case studies center on the experience of a client or customer, but the subject could also be your company. You want to make sure the subject you choose has a positive relationship with your company and product and ideally uses it frequently. Speak with your sales team for potential leads to the best possible case study subjects.
2. Seek approval
Once you’ve found a suitable candidate, ask if they’d like to participate in your case study. Many companies seek approval through a formal letter which includes details about the project and any perks they might receive for participating in the case study. Consider including a legal release form along with the permission letter so the candidates know exactly what’s expected of them during the process.
3. Provide a questionnaire
After your subjects have agreed to participate, send them a questionnaire with a few key questions to get a sense of their experience and story for your case study. You’ll ask questions like:
- What challenges were you facing that drew you to our product?
- Why did you choose our product over other options in the marketplace?
- How specifically did our product solve your problem?
- How has our product enabled you to seek new challenges or improved your life?
- Do you have any specific metrics you can share?
This information will help you shape the narrative and determine what else you need to know during the actual interview.
4. Create interview questions
With the help of the questionnaire, write thorough and specific interview questions. These will help you get the rest of the information you need to write a compelling case study. Consider including questions like:
- How long did it take you to decide on our product?
- How much time does our product save you?
- Is it easy to use our product?
- Can you describe the positive results you’ve achieved from using our product?
- What other goals have you been able to achieve with the help of our product, either directly or indirectly?
5. Conduct an interview
After creating your list of questions for the interview, meet with your subject or subjects, and hold the interview. Ideally, you’ll perform the interview in person, but over the phone or a video call works when needed.
6. Decide on a format
When you finish the interview and have all the information you need to actually write the case study, decide on a format that makes the most sense for the content and for your target audience. You might decide to write a traditional case study or choose a more contemporary form, like a video or a podcast.
7. Write a draft
Use the format you’ve chosen to guide your first draft of the case study. Often, it’s easier to write the body content of the case study before selecting a title and subtitle. Ensure you’ve included all the necessary elements of the case study in your draft, like the subject’s challenges, objections, solutions and results. Include any additional documentation like direct subject quotes and images or video clips in your draft as well.
8. Seek feedback
Share your draft with internal stakeholders. Ask them to comment on the efficacy of the content, the readability of the formatting and the clarity of the writing and grammar. Review any comments or changes they make and update the document as needed.
9. Publish your case study
Once you’ve thoroughly reviewed your case study and made the necessary changes and fixes, publish it. Consider posting it on your website, sharing it on your social media channels and linking to it from your other digital marketing content.
Case studies are an excellent tool for sharing authentic customer experiences with the public. Their thorough, narrative nature makes them an ideal strategy for distributing authentic product or service reviews and for building a company reputation of credibility and trust.