Getting a case study right first time

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Getting a case study right first time
Posted on October 29, 2019 by Adam Warner

Whether it’s on your website, on stage at a conference, or in trade press, a case study can be an invaluable way of demonstrating the success and impact of your work with real clients. However, the journey from a successful project to an impactful case study can be long, and in some cases, delicate.

The most effective case studies, regardless of the channel you’re using, require a few key elements:

An attributed client – This can sometimes be tricky. Many brands are not super keen on promoting their own research studies, usually because of concerns around distributing competitive information on public forums. However, being able to attribute a brand name to the case study instantly makes it more credible and effective. There’s no easy way of getting client buy-in for a case study, it will usually pivot on three key factors; the client’s internal policy, your relationship with the client, and the success of the project.

Impact  – A case study that doesn’t have an outcome is useless, so you need results, and the more impact the better. Impact can be demonstrated in many ways, it can be revenue increase, market share, profitability, wide ranging changes to marketing strategy, or change in client media spend. What you’re looking for is the demonstratable solution to the client’s initial problem. If your case study ends once you deliver your results, it’s going to be no more effective than normal web copy.

The client perspective – For me, having the voice of the client in the case study is incredibly important. Many working in CX know that having the VOC in the boardroom brings to life the experience of the customer making it far more engaging and ‘real’, and it’s no different for case studies. There are a number of ways to get the voice of the client in your case study, and they generally depend on the channel you use to tell your story.

Channels

Depending on what channel you’re using to distribute your case study there are certain things you consider, most significantly when it comes to input from your client and their role in the case study. However, in general they all follow the same outline; problem, solution, and impact.

Website:  A good case study on a website can be an important tool in showing, rather than telling, your value to prospective clients. In the insights industry, where many of your competitors are offering similar services, demonstrating your difference through case studies can be a key way of separating those that do and those that just pay lip service. For client input this can range from quotes to talking head videos, but it is important to have that input. There was a great presentation at Insights Marketing Day last year from Andy Crestodina that talks about the hierarchy of impact in client testimonials and case studies which I heartily recommend, you can find it here.

Conference Presentations: If you want to get on a conference stage on merit, rather than pay to play, then having a client involved in the case study is essential. Many conferences, whether they have a mixed programmed of earned and paid for presentations, such as IIEX and Quirks, or are entirely earned opportunities, such as ESOMAR, usually prioritise presentations that promise a client on stage. So, getting buy-in from your client to appear on stage is essential.

Media and Press: Using a case study in press can be a great way of boosting brand awareness and talking about key capabilities at the same time. However, leveraging case studies for press is one of the hardest channels to successfully target. For press you need to consider whether your partner client is a brand that is going to appeal to readers of that publication. Impact also becomes more important and varies depending on publication, some will need robust figures based on market performance to cut through with the journalist. When it comes to the client perspective, you are most likely going to need a client contact that is happy to be interviewed by the publications, this can usually be done over email or phone, but most publications aren’t going to take your client verbatims as, well, verbatim.

Case studies can be tricky, they often rely heavily on your relationship with the client to make them effective. However, having worked with dozens of organisations over the past 10 years on their case studies, if you can get them right they can be incredibly effective in showing, not telling your value.