In one hand you have an Ambien and in the other you have a case study– which one will put you to sleep faster? The case study often wins (or loses). That’s because case studies can be pretty boring. We all know this. But what if there was a way to make your case study interesting, engaging, and– dare I say– exciting? Oh, it is possible, and that’s exactly what we’re going to tackle in this post.
How to Spot a Great Case Study
First, let’s talk about what a great case study is not:
It is not a glorified testimonial where clients sing your praises without the benefit of context.
It is not a hero shot where you pontificate about your amazing achievements in the face of an utterly hopeless client.
A great case study will focus on your unique skills as a service provider. It should paint a picture of what it’s like to work with you from the customer’s perspective. It will also set you up as a qualified expert in your field.
It will show how you provided value to your customers in a quantifiable way. It’s heavy on facts, figures, and end results, but a case study also examines how you got there.
You know a case study is epic when you’re actually reading it, and not just skimming it while moving your cursor over to the back button. Those engaging case studies have a secret sauce, and we actually discovered the ingredients.
The Ingredients to a Successful (Engaging) Case Study
The best case studies include four essential ingredients. They are:
1. Use Customer Testimonials
Yes, I know I just said that case studies aren’t glorified customer testimonials, but that doesn’t mean to not include them at all. Here’s the thing: testimonials are an inescapable part of a successful case study. You must include the customer’s perspective to present a balanced message of what you can deliver.
But your entire case study shouldn’t be, “we’re just so happy with XYZ team.” Unfortunately, a lot of brands leave it at that and never go any further.
Here’s how to get the best customer testimonials: ask guided questions. Don’t ask an open-ended question like, “How did you like our service? (Your answer may be shared on our website.)” That’s asking for a response like, “you guys are the best.” While that may be a lovely ego boost, it does nothing to describe your value to your prospective customers.
Instead, ask questions like, “Tell us how our product helped you _(insert benefit)_.” Benefits could be boost revenue, increase conversions, or reduce stress– whatever promise your product offers. Your purpose in asking this question is to capture a quote that tells a unique story about your product.
Avoid, like the plague, any questions that could end in “yes” or “no.”
Also, be sure to find the right customer. Choose someone who represents and is relatable to your customer ideal base.
2. Make it Visually Appealing
There’s an unholy idea floating around the interwebs that case studies should look something like college-level essays. Unless your target demographic consists of tenured professors, you can probably relax your format.
No one likes to be assaulted by a big block of text, and that goes double for your case study. Spice it up with images that illustrate key points in your study. Do you have facts, figures, or statistics? Great! Visualize them. With tons of free tools like Canva or Google Docs, there’s no reason not to include a chart to break up huge chunks of text.
You can also go full-on creative and add elements of humor or personality with cartoons, memes, and animated gifs. Don’t forget about slideshows or incorporating short videos. Of course, be careful to match your tone with your audience.
Tips to Live By:
- Break up big blocks of text into short two to three sentence paragraphs.
- Summarize key text with bullet points for easy reference.
- Add images throughout your case study to maintain visual interest.
- Provide action images of your product at work.
- Use pull quotes as images.
- Incorporate photos of the customers you’ve quoted in your study to add authenticity.
3. Create a Headline that Sells
Writing compelling content is hard work, but nothing is harder than finding the perfect headline to reel readers in. A person will often decide whether to read your case study or not based solely on a headline.
Your headline should make a promise. Take a look at these winning headlines and see what I mean:
The Promise: Learn how to dramatically increase first time visitors with viral marketing.
The Promise: Use this tool to get a crazy amount of email subscribers without doing anything else.
In all three of these examples, the reader is lured in by the promise of some sort of benefit. Since headlines are so important, can you think of anything worse than using, “XYZ Client, A Case Study” as your headline? I can’t.
Instead, take one of the major values, benefits, or accomplishments from your case study, and highlight it in your headline. Here is a handy headline template:
How (name of product/ brand) helped (name of customer) achieve (insert accomplishment) within (insert time frame) .
4. Include a Call to Action
It’s a great accomplishment when a reader makes it all the way to the end of your case study. You’ve done something right. But now’s not the time to congratulate yourself. It’s time to go in for the kill, and you do that with a compelling call to action.
Your call to action should be focused on getting to the next immediate step. Would you like for them to read an additional case study? Or join your mailing list? Maybe you’d like for them to hire you or buy your product. But first, should they be educated on what you offer?
Decide on what you’d like the reader to do next. Then, create a plan around it. Make sure to use a descriptive call to action that implies value, just like you did with the headline. Here are some examples of successful calls to action:
- We’d love to work with you. Email us today and we’ll get back to you within 48 hours, promise.
- Would you like a free quote, no strings attached? Contact us now.
- Subscribe for a free resource guide to XYZ topic.
- Would you like to see similar results with your product? Schedule a time to chat.
It is possible to create a case study that’s compelling, engaging, and effective. Include the above four ingredients to transform a “blah” case study into something valuable and worthwhile to the reader. If you need any help, be sure to let us know.