Writing non-academic case studies about your business or organization is a very effective means of sharing success stories with your audiences and markets. First and foremost, marketing case studies build credibility, but they also provide new ideas and inspiration to readers who are thirsty for innovation. They build awareness of your products and services and provide a context for understanding their importance. A case study recognizing exceptional performance can be a pat on the back for those employees who contributed to the success being highlighted. Testimonials included in case studies provide visibility to clients as well.

Case studies evolved from the concept of case histories in the medical field, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and many types of case studies have evolved. A case study is a narrative report about a single case or event. Marketing case studies are designed to highlight a competitive advantage, but will often include instructive copy points about overcoming struggle. Truth is a powerful trust-builder.

Uses for Marketing Case Studies

Case-study content can be enormously useful for marketing your business or organization in a variety of media. Repurpose the text, testimonials, and images to take advantage of these promotional opportunities:

  • Take your case studies on the road—speak to local, regional, state, or national organizations about a compelling theme that is brought to life using your case studies.
  • Post the marketing case-study prominently on your Web site.
  • Republish the case study testimonials as a collection elsewhere on your site.
  • Shorten and adapt the case study as a news release, making the original version available upon inquiry. Submit news releases to bloggers and online newsletter editors, who have pressing needs for fresh and informative content.
  • Adapt them to new business presentations and related handouts.
  • Create a series of advertisements based on a case-study theme.
  • Bind a collection of case studies to add to your lobby collection of reading materials.
  • Frame case studies as gifts to clients or as talking points for facility tours.
  • Consider developing case studies for video or photographic presentation.
  • Refer to relevant case studies in customer conversations, and offer to e-mail a copy or a link.
  • …and of course, include case studies in your newsletter.

Essentially, a collection of marketing case studies may become a tool that defines and expresses your business culture to the world at large. Unlike advertisements, presentations, or marketing events, case studies offer depth and relevance to thoughtful readers. These success stories may resonate in ways that can result in action.

Developing a Case-Study Template

Employees without a formal writing education often write the initial drafts for marketing case studies because they are likely to be among the most knowledgeable regarding the case. A writer or copy editor might complete the narrative for a more professional result. Make this task a bit easier and support consistent case-study implementation by developing a case-study template that includes prompts for key content areas, including:

  • Brief summary, a one-sentence description for use as a link, a bullet point, and an organizing tool
  • Headline including client name and key success point
  • Client logo image (if permission for reuse is obtained)
  • Product image(s), with caption text for every image
  • Introductory text explaining the key success point and benefit, double-spaced to provide room for reviewer notes
  • Subsections (with informative subheadlines) that guide the reader through a narrative that focuses on problem and solution
  • Several required subsections, such as Key Benefits, Client Testimonial, and Client Background
  • Keyword list for search retrievals
  • Metadata, including author name, numbered draft-release dates, and final date completed

A detailed template design created with a commonly available software will streamline the development process. Include paragraph styles and double-space text for easier reviewing.

Selecting and Developing a Marketing Case Study

Choose case-study subjects that are topical and interesting, or that show promise of exceptional merit. New product or service launches provide useful topics. Showcase an important client in a case study. Topics that have the potential for compelling imagery may be useful for alternative media such as video or photographic case studies.

Make a decision about writing a case study early in the project, if possible, so that the client can give permission before resources are devoted to development. If the clients are brought on board early, they might provide helpful insights. Assign a writer as early as possible—preferably one with writing experience and abilities. Collect baseline statistics and project metrics for the writer as the process evolves.

Collect evidence of the project’s progress. Keep a list of key stakeholders and their titles. Assign photographs to be taken, if your project is of a visual nature, and consider whether in-process photos and/or final-project photos are more instructive to the reader. Write down interesting quotes, and save e-mails and project documents, including budgets and timelines. Make notes on the timeline as needed to illustrate key storylines. Turn these over to the writer at a formal kickoff meeting, or involve the writer in some of these tasks.

The writer will collect, organize, and write the case study. He or she may conduct in-person or telephone interviews to gather details, or even send questionnaires. The writer may take photographs to illustrate an interesting product or activity, and write captions that describe the image.

When the writer provides a draft, proof it very carefully, and be sure to fact-check the document. A copy editor can provide helpful organizational, grammar, and spelling assistance. A copy editor also can smooth the “voice” of the narrative. If the writer is an employee with helpful project experience but minimal writing experience, the copy editor might need to spend more time polishing the work. Most case studies will progress through three or four drafts before the client reviews the work and signs off.

When media formatting begins, allow adequate time for content reviews. A new team member will likely be involved, and errors or omissions may occur. Be sure to compare your final, approved writing draft with the final formatted product before it is released. Compare it to previously released case studies and check it for formatting consistency.

Enjoy the results of all the hard work as clients and employees give you positive feedback. Are you ready to start another one?

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