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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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How to Write a Business Case Study
by Julia McCoy | Dec 1, 2016 | How to Write
Business case studies can have a massive impact on your marketing, done right.
While they cost time and effort to create, they can be a stellar tactic to draw new customers to your business and help you earn new clients.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t sure how to start when it’s time to write copy for them.
If you’re one of the many individuals who wants to learn how to write a business case study, but just aren’t sure where to get started, my simple guide is here to help you step-by-step – another installment of our #howtowrite series!
What is a Case Study?
A case study is a piece of content, published by a company, that outlines their success or effectiveness in dealing with a client. It’s commonly used as a piece of marketing content and can be incredibly useful since it helps would-be clients understand how the agency or professional has excelled in the past.
Virtually every successful online company uses case studies, and Express Writers is no different! Earlier this year, in fact, we published a case study that showcases how we helped a client boost their revenue by 77% after creating some product descriptions for them.
Case studies are more than just a piece of self-congratulating marketing material (this is an incorrect assumption that many people hold about these unique content types), though. In fact, they’re meant less to stroke the company in question’s ego than they are to help would-be clients understand how a given company can assist them.
The Top 4 Benefits of Why You Should Learn How to Write a Business Case Study
So, why go to all the time to create your own case study? (It IS a ton of time and effort!)
If the “what is” didn’t argue in favor already, here are key reasons to spend your time finding out how to write a business case study, and putting one of your own together.
Business case studies have many advantages . The top four are as follows:
1. Case studies allow a company to use storytelling to bring their product to life
Whether it’s a service or a hard-and-fast consumer product, a case study is an excellent way to illustrate it and help bring it to life for new customers. Just like any great novel, a good case study has a beginning, a middle, and an end, with a conflict and a resolution. It’s a wildly effective way to make somewhat complex products real and can go a long way toward improving the way your clients perceive your offerings.
2. Case studies provide peer-to-peer influence
Peer-to-peer influence is a massively important thing, and case studies are wonderful at fulfilling it because they offer the view of a customer rather than a company. While it’s a company that publishes a case study, the entire thing is dedicated to recounting a customer’s experience. Direct quotes, statistics, and more are standard, and these things are fantastic for helping would-be clients to see the value in a company.
3. Case studies offer real-life examples
We’ve all heard about how critical customer reviews are for conversion rates, and case studies take this one step further. By providing real-life examples of your product at work, paired with glowing customer reviews, they can help new customers feel more confident in your company and take the leap to convert.
For an example, check out this case study excerpt (from our own clientele based case study ):
4. Case studies are powerful word-of-mouth advertising
Because a company must ask permission from a client to use his or her data in a case study, the inclusion of a customer in a case study often leads to some brand evangelism that can help boost your company’s visibility and improve your conversion rates.
How to Write a Business Case Study: Your Complete Guide in 5 Steps
So, you want to write a case study, but you’re not sure where to begin! This guide will help you get started.
1. Identify your best possible avenue for data
When it comes time to write a case study, you might have multiple cases to choose from. The first part of being successful, though, is narrowing these things down. For your case study to succeed, it must contain just the right information, and it’s critical to ensure this from the get-go. To determine which of your various cases would be the best fit for a study, look at them and evaluate whether or not they contain the following elements:
- A significant challenge . This could be a tight timeline, a complicated issue, low sales numbers, or even a need for entirely new software integration.
- A satisfying solution . For your case study to fall into the realm of storytelling, it needs a solution that customers can relate to.
- A series of substantial benefits. The final component in a case study is the benefit. An excellent case study should feature several benefits that your customers can relate to deeply. The benefits will be even more compelling if they’re solid statistics like we used when we say we boosted the client’s sales by 77% year-over-year. The more granular, the better in this case.
2. Write your case study (5 key tips)
Now comes the tough part – the writing! While it’s true that writing a case study requires a different set of skills and a different voice than everyday writing, it’s far from impossible.
To ace your DIY case study, follow these tips:
- Choose your voice carefully
Depending on your brand and the content of the case study, you can write it in either the first or third person. Either approach will work, and most case studies use a mixture of both.
EXAMPLE: Our client-based case study at Express Writers does this, and it flows quite nicely. If you’re going to use a combination of both the first and the third person, though, be sure that you’re enhancing the third-person parts with direct quotes from the client, as straight third-person voice can sound overly narrated after a while.
- Make your title specific and attention-grabbing
The title is a critical component of the case study. To make it as attention-grabbing as possible, include percentages and strong action verbs. Here are some good examples from real-life case studies:
- “ How Fake News Goes Viral: a Case Study ”
- “ HubSpot Partner Agency Element Three Doubles Yearly Revenue ”
- “ How KISSmetrics Increased Webinar Sign-Up Rates by 1,000% ”
Remember: titles perform better when they are as accurate as possible. That’s why phrases like “by 1,000%” and “doubles yearly revenue” appear in these wide-ranging case studies.
- Keep your language simple
Many people think that learning how to write a business case study involves incorporating jargon and corporate-speak into the writing. Fortunately, this isn’t true. In fact, writing a business case study requires you to keep your language simple rather than making it more complicated. The more you can avoid corporate jargon in your case studies, the better.
In addition to making them more natural and approachable, this will also allow non-customers to approach your case study without being intimidated away by overly complicated case study language.
- Add real numbers to your case study
When you look at the case study titles above, most people would agree that “increased webinar sign-up rates by 1,000%” is the most memorable phrase up there. In addition to the fact that this is a shocking number, it’s also so precise that it grabs reader attention.
With this in mind, follow KISSmetrics’s lead and include real numbers in your case studies. While phrases like “doubled this” or “tripled that” are powerful, they just don’t have the added oomph they need to take your case study to the top.
- Write from the beginning to the end
A case study is not the place to leave out critical data. Instead, write from the beginning to the end and keep it as accurate and chronological as possible. This will help flesh out the entire circumstances surrounding your interaction with the client and allow your readers to understand your impact more effectively.
3. Finish the case study with all of your relevant contact information
Since a case study is designed, at least in part, for press distribution, it should be outfitted with your contact information and details. This will allow other companies, customers, and more to contact you regarding the case study, and will help to make the information within it more accessible to other people.
While there are different standards for which information you “should” include in a case study, most sources recommend including your phone number, website, email, and one or two social profiles, along with a short bio. This will provide enough information for interested parties to contact you and can help boost the ROI of your case study down the road.
4. Hire a designer to finish the product
Don’t forget that every good case study needs a great design, and it can be helpful to bring in a designer to add some visual interest to the piece. Simple things, like using text boxes to pull out key facts, statistics, and quotes, and inputting related graphics and charts can make all of the difference in your case study and should be used liberally to enhance its value and interest.
We can help – our lead designer is familiar with how to take copy and create custom, beautiful designs in Adobe to match! Check out our case study service here.
5. Publish the case study
Publishing your case study is the final step in creating it. To get the most success from your case study, you’ll want to post it in the places your real audience and prospective customers frequent. This may mean publishing the case study on your blog, reaching out to relevant publishing platforms, or gating the case study and using it to drive email sign-ups for your company.
Alternately, KISSmetrics recommends appealing to different types of learners by breaking your case study into unexpected formats, like a podcast, a YouTube video, or an infographic!
We published ours in a few different forms.
Then, as a landing page.
What About Hiring a Specialist to Write the Case Study?
Writing a case study requires a very particular voice, and if you don’t have the time or confidence to do it yourself, it’s in your best interests to hire someone specifically who knows how to write case studies and has done it before. In addition to making your case studies more efficient, this will also help you create the best possible case study and not drive yourself into the ground as you do it.
No matter how good the writer you hire is, you’ll have to provide them with some specific information about your case study.
Ideally, you should give the author a very clear overview of what you’d like from the case study. This should include the following components:
- The products, goods, or services you’d like the case study to promote
- The benefits you provided for the client
- The struggle the client faced
- The specific way you went about resolving it
- The result (percentages, direct quotes from the customer, and facts are helpful here)
- The deadline for the case study
These things are critical for helping your writer create the best possible case study, and they’ll go a long way toward making the process more lucrative and enjoyable for you, as well.
The Case for Case Studies
Case studies are an incredibly useful tool and can have a massive positive impact on your content marketing.
While most companies don’t think they can create case studies, learning how to write a business case study is simple, as long as you’re willing to put in some time and work.
In addition to helping your customers understand the benefits of your services, case studies also provide an essential platform for new clients to see your products at work, which can be all they need to convert and become brand evangelists.
By following my tips above, you can learn how to write business case studies from scratch. Simple, effective, and critical for your company, this is one ROI-boosting move you simply will not regret.
Don’t want to D-I-Y? Trust our marketing team of experts: we’ve crafted successful case studies for businesses of all types. Talk to us today about your case study writing & creation needs!
Download your Free copy of How to Write a Business Case Study
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How to Write a Case Study: Bookmarkable Guide & Template
Published: January 12, 2023
Earning the trust of prospective customers can be a struggle. Before you can even begin to expect to earn their business, you need to demonstrate your ability to deliver on what your product or service promises.
Sure, you could say that you're great at X or that you're way ahead of the competition when it comes to Y. But at the end of the day, what you really need to win new business is cold, hard proof.
One of the best ways to prove your worth is through a compelling case study. In fact, HubSpot’s 2020 State of Marketing report found that case studies are so compelling that they are the fifth most commonly used type of content used by marketers.
Below, I'll walk you through what a case study is, how to prepare for writing one, what you need to include in it, and how it can be an effective tactic. To jump to different areas of this post, click on the links below to automatically scroll.
Case Study Definition
Case study templates, how to write a case study.
- How to Format a Case Study
Business Case Study Examples
A case study is a specific challenge a business has faced, and the solution they've chosen to solve it. Case studies can vary greatly in length and focus on several details related to the initial challenge and applied solution, and can be presented in various forms like a video, white paper, blog post, etc.
In professional settings, it's common for a case study to tell the story of a successful business partnership between a vendor and a client. Perhaps the success you're highlighting is in the number of leads your client generated, customers closed, or revenue gained. Any one of these key performance indicators (KPIs) are examples of your company's services in action.
When done correctly, these examples of your work can chronicle the positive impact your business has on existing or previous customers and help you attract new clients.
To help you arm your prospects with information they can trust, we've put together a step-by-step guide on how to create effective case studies for your business with free case study templates for creating your own.
Tell us a little about yourself below to gain access today:
And to give you more options, we’ll highlight some useful templates that serve different needs. But remember, there are endless possibilities when it comes to demonstrating the work your business has done.
1. General Case Study Template
Additionally, a backlink from you increases your subject's page authority in the eyes of Google. This helps them rank more highly in search engine results and collect traffic from readers who are already looking for information about their industry.
6. Ensure you have all the resources you need to proceed once you get a response.
So you know what you’re going to offer your candidate, it’s time that you prepare the resources needed for if and when they agree to participate, like a case study release form and success story letter.
Let's break those two down.
Case Study Release Form
This document can vary, depending on factors like the size of your business, the nature of your work, and what you intend to do with the case studies once they are completed. That said, you should typically aim to include the following in the Case Study Release Form:
- A clear explanation of why you are creating this case study and how it will be used.
- A statement defining the information and potentially trademarked information you expect to include about the company — things like names, logos, job titles, and pictures.
- An explanation of what you expect from the participant, beyond the completion of the case study. For example, is this customer willing to act as a reference or share feedback, and do you have permission to pass contact information along for these purposes?
- A note about compensation.
Success Story Letter
As noted in the sample email, this document serves as an outline for the entire case study process. Other than a brief explanation of how the customer will benefit from case study participation, you'll want to be sure to define the following steps in the Success Story Letter.
7. Download a case study email template.
While you gathered your resources, your candidate has gotten time to read over the proposal. When your candidate approves of your case study, it's time to send them a release form.
A case study release form tells you what you'll need from your chosen subject, like permission to use any brand names and share the project information publicly. Kick-off this process with an email that runs through exactly what they can expect from you, as well as what you need from them. To give you an idea of what that might look like, check out this sample email:
8. Define the process you want to follow with the client.
Before you can begin the case study, you have to have a clear outline of the case study process with your client. An example of an effective outline would include the following information.
First, you'll need to receive internal approval from the company's marketing team. Once approved, the Release Form should be signed and returned to you. It's also a good time to determine a timeline that meets the needs and capabilities of both teams.
To ensure that you have a productive interview — which is one of the best ways to collect information for the case study — you'll want to ask the participant to complete a questionnaire before this conversation. That will provide your team with the necessary foundation to organize the interview, and get the most out of it.
Once the questionnaire is completed, someone on your team should reach out to the participant to schedule a 30- to 60-minute interview, which should include a series of custom questions related to the customer's experience with your product or service.
The Draft Review
After the case study is composed, you'll want to send a draft to the customer, allowing an opportunity to give you feedback and edits.
The Final Approval
Once any necessary edits are completed, send a revised copy of the case study to the customer for final approval.
Once the case study goes live — on your website or elsewhere — it's best to contact the customer with a link to the page where the case study lives. Don't be afraid to ask your participants to share these links with their own networks, as it not only demonstrates your ability to deliver positive results and impressive growth, as well.
9. Ensure you're asking the right questions.
Before you execute the questionnaire and actual interview, make sure you're setting yourself up for success. A strong case study results from being prepared to ask the right questions. What do those look like? Here are a few examples to get you started:
- What are your goals?
- What challenges were you experiencing before purchasing our product or service?
- What made our product or service stand out against our competitors?
- What did your decision-making process look like?
- How have you benefited from using our product or service? (Where applicable, always ask for data.)
Keep in mind that the questionnaire is designed to help you gain insights into what sort of strong, success-focused questions to ask during the actual interview. And once you get to that stage, we recommend that you follow the "Golden Rule of Interviewing." Sounds fancy, right? It's actually quite simple — ask open-ended questions.
If you're looking to craft a compelling story, "yes" or "no" answers won't provide the details you need. Focus on questions that invite elaboration, such as, "Can you describe ...?" or, "Tell me about ..."
In terms of the interview structure, we recommend categorizing the questions and flowing them into six specific sections that will mirror a successful case study format. Combined, they'll allow you to gather enough information to put together a rich, comprehensive study.
Open with the customer's business.
The goal of this section is to generate a better understanding of the company's current challenges and goals, and how they fit into the landscape of their industry. Sample questions might include:
- How long have you been in business?
- How many employees do you have?
- What are some of the objectives of your department at this time?
Cite a problem or pain point.
To tell a compelling story, you need context. That helps match the customer's need with your solution. Sample questions might include:
- What challenges and objectives led you to look for a solution?
- What might have happened if you did not identify a solution?
- Did you explore other solutions before this that did not work out? If so, what happened?
Discuss the decision process.
Exploring how the customer decided to work with you helps to guide potential customers through their own decision-making processes. Sample questions might include:
- How did you hear about our product or service?
- Who was involved in the selection process?
- What was most important to you when evaluating your options?
Explain how a solution was implemented.
The focus here should be placed on the customer's experience during the onboarding process. Sample questions might include:
- How long did it take to get up and running?
- Did that meet your expectations?
- Who was involved in the process?
Explain how the solution works.
The goal of this section is to better understand how the customer is using your product or service. Sample questions might include:
- Is there a particular aspect of the product or service that you rely on most?
- Who is using the product or service?
End with the results.
In this section, you want to uncover impressive measurable outcomes — the more numbers, the better. Sample questions might include:
- How is the product or service helping you save time and increase productivity?
- In what ways does that enhance your competitive advantage?
- How much have you increased metrics X, Y, and Z?
10. Lay out your case study format.
When it comes time to take all of the information you've collected and actually turn it into something, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Where should you start? What should you include? What's the best way to structure it?
To help you get a handle on this step, it's important to first understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ways you can present a case study. They can be very visual, which you'll see in some of the examples we've included below, and can sometimes be communicated mostly through video or photos, with a bit of accompanying text.
Here are the sections we suggest, which we'll cover in more detail down below:
- Title: Keep it short. Develop a succinct but interesting project name you can give the work you did with your subject.
- Subtitle: Use this copy to briefly elaborate on the accomplishment. What was done? The case study itself will explain how you got there.
- Executive Summary : A 2-4 sentence summary of the entire story. You'll want to follow it with 2-3 bullet points that display metrics showcasing success.
- About the Subject: An introduction to the person or company you served, which can be pulled from a LinkedIn Business profile or client website.
- Challenges and Objectives: A 2-3 paragraph description of the customer's challenges, before using your product or service. This section should also include the goals or objectives the customer set out to achieve.
- How Product/Service Helped: A 2-3 paragraph section that describes how your product or service provided a solution to their problem.
- Results: A 2-3 paragraph testimonial that proves how your product or service specifically benefited the person or company and helped achieve its goals. Include numbers to quantify your contributions.
- Supporting Visuals or Quotes: Pick one or two powerful quotes that you would feature at the bottom of the sections above, as well as a visual that supports the story you are telling.
- Future Plans: Everyone likes an epilogue. Comment on what's ahead for your case study subject, whether or not those plans involve you.
- Call to Action (CTA): Not every case study needs a CTA, but putting a passive one at the end of your case study can encourage your readers to take an action on your website after learning about the work you've done.
When laying out your case study, focus on conveying the information you've gathered in the most clear and concise way possible. Make it easy to scan and comprehend, and be sure to provide an attractive call-to-action at the bottom — that should provide readers an opportunity to learn more about your product or service.
11. Publish and promote your case study.
Once you've completed your case study, it's time to publish and promote it. Some case study formats have pretty obvious promotional outlets — a video case study can go on YouTube, just as an infographic case study can go on Pinterest.
But there are still other ways to publish and promote your case study. Here are a couple of ideas:
Lead Gen in a Blog Post
As stated earlier in this article, written case studies make terrific lead-generators if you convert them into a downloadable format, like a PDF. To generate leads from your case study, consider writing a blog post that tells an abbreviated story of your client's success and asking readers to fill out a form with their name and email address if they'd like to read the rest in your PDF.
Then, promote this blog post on social media, through a Facebook post or a tweet.
Published as a Page on Your Website
As a growing business, you might need to display your case study out in the open to gain the trust of your target audience.
Rather than gating it behind a landing page, publish your case study to its own page on your website, and direct people here from your homepage with a "Case Studies" or "Testimonials" button along your homepage's top navigation bar.
Format for a Case Study
The traditional case study format includes the following parts: a title and subtitle, a client profile, a summary of the customer’s challenges and objectives, an account of how your solution helped, and a description of the results. You might also want to include supporting visuals and quotes, future plans, and calls-to-action.
The title is one of the most important parts of your case study. It should draw readers in while succinctly describing the potential benefits of working with your company. To that end, your title should:
- State the name of your custome r. Right away, the reader must learn which company used your products and services. This is especially important if your customer has a recognizable brand. If you work with individuals and not companies, you may omit the name and go with professional titles: “A Marketer…”, “A CFO…”, and so forth.
- State which product your customer used . Even if you only offer one product or service, or if your company name is the same as your product name, you should still include the name of your solution. That way, readers who are not familiar with your business can become aware of what you sell.
- Allude to the results achieved . You don’t necessarily need to provide hard numbers, but the title needs to represent the benefits, quickly. That way, if a reader doesn’t stay to read, they can walk away with the most essential information: Your product works.
The example above, “Crunch Fitness Increases Leads and Signups With HubSpot,” achieves all three — without being wordy. Keeping your title short and sweet is also essential.
Your subtitle is another essential part of your case study — don’t skip it, even if you think you’ve done the work with the title. In this section, include a brief summary of the challenges your customer was facing before they began to use your products and services. Then, drive the point home by reiterating the benefits your customer experienced by working with you.
The above example reads:
“Crunch Fitness was franchising rapidly when COVID-19 forced fitness clubs around the world to close their doors. But the company stayed agile by using HubSpot to increase leads and free trial signups.”
We like that the case study team expressed the urgency of the problem — opening more locations in the midst of a pandemic — and placed the focus on the customer’s ability to stay agile.
3. Executive Summary
The executive summary should provide a snapshot of your customer, their challenges, and the benefits they enjoyed from working with you. Think it’s too much? Think again — the purpose of the case study is to emphasize, again and again, how well your product works.
The good news is that depending on your design, the executive summary can be mixed with the subtitle or with the “About the Company” section. Many times, this section doesn’t need an explicit “Executive Summary” subheading. You do need, however, to provide a convenient snapshot for readers to scan.
In the above example, ADP included information about its customer in a scannable bullet-point format, then provided two sections: “Business Challenge” and “How ADP Helped.” We love how simple and easy the format is to follow for those who are unfamiliar with ADP or its typical customer.
4. About the Company
Readers need to know and understand who your customer is. This is important for several reasons: It helps your reader potentially relate to your customer, it defines your ideal client profile (which is essential to deter poor-fit prospects who might have reached out without knowing they were a poor fit), and it gives your customer an indirect boon by subtly promoting their products and services.
Feel free to keep this section as simple as possible. You can simply copy and paste information from the company’s LinkedIn, use a quote directly from your customer, or take a more creative storytelling approach.
In the above example, HubSpot included one paragraph of description for Crunch Fitness and a few bullet points. Below, ADP tells the story of its customer using an engaging, personable technique that effectively draws readers in.
5. Challenges and Objectives
The challenges and objectives section of your case study is the place to lay out, in detail, the difficulties your customer faced prior to working with you — and what they hoped to achieve when they enlisted your help.
In this section, you can be as brief or as descriptive as you’d like, but remember: Stress the urgency of the situation. Don’t understate how much your customer needed your solution (but don’t exaggerate and lie, either). Provide contextual information as necessary. For instance, the pandemic and societal factors may have contributed to the urgency of the need.
Take the above example from design consultancy IDEO:
“Educational opportunities for adults have become difficult to access in the United States, just when they’re needed most. To counter this trend, IDEO helped the city of South Bend and the Drucker Institute launch Bendable, a community-powered platform that connects people with opportunities to learn with and from each other.”
We love how IDEO mentions the difficulties the United States faces at large, the efforts its customer is taking to address these issues, and the steps IDEO took to help.
6. How Product/Service Helped
This is where you get your product or service to shine. Cover the specific benefits that your customer enjoyed and the features they gleaned the most use out of. You can also go into detail about how you worked with and for your customer. Maybe you met several times before choosing the right solution, or you consulted with external agencies to create the best package for them.
Whatever the case may be, try to illustrate how easy and pain-free it is to work with the representatives at your company. After all, potential customers aren’t looking to just purchase a product. They’re looking for a dependable provider that will strive to exceed their expectations.
In the above example, IDEO describes how it partnered with research institutes and spoke with learners to create Bendable, a free educational platform. We love how it shows its proactivity and thoroughness. It makes potential customers feel that IDEO might do something similar for them.
The results are essential, and the best part is that you don’t need to write the entirety of the case study before sharing them. Like HubSpot, IDEO, and ADP, you can include the results right below the subtitle or executive summary. Use data and numbers to substantiate the success of your efforts, but if you don’t have numbers, you can provide quotes from your customers.
We can’t overstate the importance of the results. In fact, if you wanted to create a short case study, you could include your title, challenge, solution (how your product helped), and result.
8. Supporting Visuals or Quotes
Let your customer speak for themselves by including quotes from the representatives who directly interfaced with your company.
Visuals can also help, even if they’re stock images. On one side, they can help you convey your customer’s industry, and on the other, they can indirectly convey your successes. For instance, a picture of a happy professional — even if they’re not your customer — will communicate that your product can lead to a happy client.
In this example from IDEO, we see a man standing in a boat. IDEO’s customer is neither the man pictured nor the manufacturer of the boat, but rather Conservation International, an environmental organization. This imagery provides a visually pleasing pattern interrupt to the page, while still conveying what the case study is about.
9. Future Plans
This is optional, but including future plans can help you close on a more positive, personable note than if you were to simply include a quote or the results. In this space, you can show that your product will remain in your customer’s tech stack for years to come, or that your services will continue to be instrumental to your customer’s success.
Alternatively, if you work only on time-bound projects, you can allude to the positive impact your customer will continue to see, even after years of the end of the contract.
10. Call to Action (CTA)
Not every case study needs a CTA, but we’d still encourage it. Putting one at the end of your case study will encourage your readers to take an action on your website after learning about the work you've done.
It will also make it easier for them to reach out, if they’re ready to start immediately. You don’t want to lose business just because they have to scroll all the way back up to reach out to your team.
To help you visualize this case study outline, check out the case study template below, which can also be downloaded here .
You drove the results, made the connection, set the expectations, used the questionnaire to conduct a successful interview, and boiled down your findings into a compelling story. And after all of that, you're left with a little piece of sales enabling gold — a case study.
To show you what a well-executed final product looks like, have a look at some of these marketing case study examples.
1. "Shopify Uses HubSpot CRM to Transform High Volume Sales Organization," by HubSpot
What's interesting about this case study is the way it leads with the customer. This reflects a major HubSpot value, which is to always solve for the customer first. The copy leads with a brief description of why Shopify uses HubSpot and is accompanied by a short video and some basic statistics on the company.
Notice that this case study uses mixed media. Yes, there is a short video, but it's elaborated upon in the additional text on the page. So, while case studies can use one or the other, don't be afraid to combine written copy with visuals to emphasize the project's success.
2. "New England Journal of Medicine," by Corey McPherson Nash
When branding and design studio Corey McPherson Nash showcases its work, it makes sense for it to be visual — after all, that's what they do. So in building the case study for the studio's work on the New England Journal of Medicine's integrated advertising campaign — a project that included the goal of promoting the client's digital presence — Corey McPherson Nash showed its audience what it did, rather than purely telling it.
Notice that the case study does include some light written copy — which includes the major points we've suggested — but lets the visuals do the talking, allowing users to really absorb the studio's services.
3. "Designing the Future of Urban Farming," by IDEO
Here's a design company that knows how to lead with simplicity in its case studies. As soon as the visitor arrives at the page, he or she is greeted with a big, bold photo, and two very simple columns of text — "The Challenge" and "The Outcome."
Immediately, IDEO has communicated two of the case study's major pillars. And while that's great — the company created a solution for vertical farming startup INFARM's challenge — it doesn't stop there. As the user scrolls down, those pillars are elaborated upon with comprehensive (but not overwhelming) copy that outlines what that process looked like, replete with quotes and additional visuals.
4. "Secure Wi-Fi Wins Big for Tournament," by WatchGuard
Then, there are the cases when visuals can tell almost the entire story — when executed correctly. Network security provider WatchGuard can do that through this video, which tells the story of how its services enhanced the attendee and vendor experience at the Windmill Ultimate Frisbee tournament.
5. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Boosts Social Media Engagement and Brand Awareness with HubSpot
In the case study above , HubSpot uses photos, videos, screenshots, and helpful stats to tell the story of how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame used the bot, CRM, and social media tools to gain brand awareness.
6. Small Desk Plant Business Ups Sales by 30% With Trello
This case study from Trello is straightforward and easy to understand. It begins by explaining the background of the company that decided to use it, what its goals were, and how it planned to use Trello to help them.
It then goes on to discuss how the software was implemented and what tasks and teams benefited from it. Towards the end, it explains the sales results that came from implementing the software and includes quotes from decision-makers at the company that implemented it.
7. Facebook's Mercedes Benz Success Story
Facebook's Success Stories page hosts a number of well-designed and easy-to-understand case studies that visually and editorially get to the bottom line quickly.
Each study begins with key stats that draw the reader in. Then it's organized by highlighting a problem or goal in the introduction, the process the company took to reach its goals, and the results. Then, in the end, Facebook notes the tools used in the case study.
Showcasing Your Work
You work hard at what you do. Now, it's time to show it to the world — and, perhaps more important, to potential customers. Before you show off the projects that make you the proudest, we hope you follow these important steps that will help you effectively communicate that work and leave all parties feeling good about it.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in February 2017 but was updated for comprehensiveness and freshness in July 2021.
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Showcase your company's success using these free case study templates.
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How to write a business case study: your complete guide
If you think testimonials are powerful – and they are, wait until you present a great case study to current and prospective customers.
They’re the proof in the pudding: engaging stories describing exactly how a client used your product, service, or process to beat a challenge or gain success. In fact, according to a B2B Marketing survey of 112 marketers, 66% said case studies were “very effective” for securing leads and sales while 32% called them “quite effective” .
So in this article, we’ll guide you through the essentials of how to write a business case study – with best practices, case study templates, real-world examples, and all.
What is a business case study?
Oxford Languages defines a case study as “a particular instance of something used or analyzed in order to illustrate a thesis or principle”.
Meanwhile, Macmillan Dictionary defines it as both “a set of events that is a good example of a particular idea or situation” and “a piece of research that records details of how a situation develops over a period of time” .
In more simple terms, a business case study is a real-life business scenario describing how your customers have used your products or services to achieve certain goals.
They’re based on interviews with actual customers to highlight the effectiveness of a specific feature, explain a certain use case, or emphasize benefits or results of note.
You might also hear case studies referred to as customer success stories or success stories .
You can talk about your benefits and features until the sun goes down, but remember: stories sell .
So transform your features and benefits into the kind of real-world examples that will immerse your readers into what you’ve been trying to tell them all along.
They’re memorable, personal, effective, and real. Getting actual people to sing your praises for you… could there be a more compelling way to make the sale?
“Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.” Peter Forbes, photographer and author
9 reasons why case studies are great for business
For potential customers:
- Attract new business
- Provide powerful tools for your sales team’s arsenal
- Introduce new products or services
- Provide proof of results
- Increase brand awareness
- Highlight your expertise
For current customers:
- Retain business/thwart the competition
- Create upsell opportunities
Case studies also come with a unique set of benefits for your marketing strategy:
- As long as the featured products/services are still relevant, they can be marketed for months (evergreen case studies, though less common, can be marketed for years).
- They’re inexpensive to produce compared to other forms of marketing, such as white papers.
- They remind happy customers how much they’ve benefited from your products or services .
- Featured customer challenges can help other prospects and customers find solutions to the same or similar problems.
- They prove the effectiveness of your products or services.
- They represent your products and services through customers’ eyes.
- They can inspire new ways to use your products or services, presenting more opportunities to improve relationships with your existing customer base and attract new customers.
- They validate your credibility.
- They’re like supercharged testimonials but with in-depth stories, richer details, and an emphasis on results.
Planning and prep
First, develop your team. Business case studies will usually fall under the domain of your marketers, but now it’s time to get specific.
- Who will be the stakeholders and decision makers?
- Who will review and approve the study?
- Who will be responsible for project management?
- Who will do the actual writing? Will it be you, someone else on your team or an experienced freelance writer?
- If a freelancer will write your study, who will be their point of contact?
Next, start scheduling your timeline. Work backwards from the date you’d like to publish, then build in dates for reviews and edits. Also create a flexible internal deadline for securing a client interview.
Since you’ll need to align your schedule with that of your interviewee, pinpointing an actual interview date can take some time.
Next, consider your goals:
- Why are you writing this case study?
- Is there a specific win or customer feedback you’d like to highlight?
- Do you have any great yet lesser-known products, features or services?
- Do you have any new products, services or updates you’d like to share with the world?
- Do you have a new positioning strategy?
Common objectives include increasing revenue, generating more leads, growing business with existing customers, entering a new market, increasing market share, and improving customer lifetime value (CLV).
After you’ve defined your objectives, it’s time to start considering who you might want to interview. Make your list specific. Include the company name , any relevant notes and the name of the intended stakeholder to be interviewed (one interviewee per case study is ideal).
No matter who you decide to interview, make sure they understand your offerings well and that they’ve experienced substantial or notable results. If they were disappointed by one of your competitors then came to you…that’s even better. And, when possible, the biggest and most impressive names work best.
The interview process
It’s a privilege to secure case study interviews. Sure, it might give your customers more exposure for their own businesses, but they’re probably very busy with other aspects of marketing and sales.
So make the interview process as easy, streamlined, and stress-free as possible – and always thank them for their time.
The first time you get in touch about the interview, mention the details below:
- The purpose of the case study – and the benefits they stand to gain
- A brief overview of the interview process
- A general idea of the kinds of questions they may be asked
- Explain scenarios for how and where the case study may be used (you’ll need their permission to share it with your audiences)
- Thank them for their time
How case studies help your clients
Always ask yourself, WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me?” whenever you communicate with clients. Why should your clients take time out of their busy schedules to record their experiences and chat for your case study?
Here are some common ways clients win:
- Increased exposure
- Increased traffic online
- Demonstrated expertise/thought leadership
- Free publicity promoting their success
- Special incentives – such as a discount
For more tips on reaching out to interviewees, check out our case study proposal template .
Have they accepted? Great! Send the interviewee a questionnaire before the interview. It will help you get insights into anything requiring research, like key metrics and tangible ROI. It will also serve as a guide for brainstorming your interview questions.
Sample questionnaire :
- How many team members use our product/service? Which departments?
- What were your challenges before using our product/service/process?
- What made you leave our competitor to come to us?
- How do you use our product/service/process? Please share a high-level overview in your own words.
- What features or tools have been the most helpful for your business?
- If you asked us for help, how did we provide you with what you need? We’d like to understand this from your perspective.
- How have you benefited from our offering–and what have been your greatest results to date? Please provide specific metrics, if possible.
- What surprised you most about using our product/service/process?
- How have your customers or clients benefited from your use of our products or services?
- Is there anything else you would like us to know?
And here are a few tips to shape the actual interview:
- Review your client’s questionnaire responses, your objectives and your pre-planning strategy to come up with questions that might help you meet your goals.
- Ask open-ended questions that set the stage for sharing notable experiences.
- The better your questions are, the easier the case study writing process will be.
But don’t stick to the script during the actual interview. You’ll need to listen actively and engage in some real-time decision-making to ask additional questions based on the answers you receive. That’s another reason why it’s important to interview a key decision maker from your customer’s company.
“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” Dr. Howard Gardner, Harvard University professor and author
For example, let’s say you have a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product. You ask your interviewee how many people use the solution and discover some surprising departments have been putting it to use.
It would be a perfect opportunity to dig deeper to find out how and why they use it and the extent of their results.
Writing your business case study
Like most forms of writing, the best solution is to use an outline to save time and keep goals clear .
Of course the best business case study format depends on your strategy, but here’s an example of a common format.
Sample case study outline
- Introduction: Brief description of the case study’s contents (bullet point key metrics and successes).
- Overview of the subject’s company: Brief description of the featured company (what they do, who their customers are, where they’re based (if relevant)). Include brief background/context as to how they use your product, service or process.
- Problem/challenge/opportunity: Describe their business problem or opportunity/explain why they started using your product, service, or process. Include a strong quote or two.
- Solution: Explain how they used your product to solve their problem, share benefits and features, include a strong quote or two.
- Results: This is the conclusion – summarize how the subject’s company used your product, service, or process to solve their problem. Briefly recap their wins, alluding to benefits and features. Include a strong quote here, if available and appropriate.
- Boiler and CTA: Share a brief boiler (About your company, Who you serve and how, Summary of products/services/expertise, Contact information: phone number and email address).
- Include a call-to-action (CTA) .
When it’s time to start writing, gather your list of goals, your case study strategy, the customer’s interview and questionnaire responses, and every relevant link, white paper, and one-pager to make sure you have access to the full scope of information related to the products and services mentioned in your case study.
You won’t be bombarding readers by including it all– but they can help you fill in the blanks while explaining how your customer got things done.
Since your clients know you understand your product or service, they’re likely to answer your questions in broader terms. This is a possible solution to provide your readers with the crucial details they need.
Also remember who your audience is to write in a way that makes the most sense for those individuals. So if your business has buyer personas or ideal customer profiles (ICP), it’s a great idea to keep those on hand.
It’s also important to reserve enough writing time to get creative. Thoughtfully work your way through your materials to come up with the type of angle that will make your case study worthwhile.
- Start with an attention-grabbing yet relevant headline .
- Opt for shorter, more succinct sections. And, while it can be tempting, avoid launching with a lengthy intro unless you’re working on a more complex case study. If you’re writing a business case study that’s complicated because of the subject matter or necessary background information, kick off the content with an executive summary. A well-written executive summary also makes it more likely that someone will read your entire case study, despite the complexity, because it offers a subject matter overview while serving as a guide of sorts.
- Only include a table of contents for lengthier case studies.
- Write in the third person.
- Avoid alienating your readers by assuming they’ll understand. Skip the jargon and explain every acronym to hold their attention the entire way.
- A good business case study is a story. Make sure it reads like one. And a conversational tone often works best .
- Keep it focused. Don’t highlight a million wins for a single case study. Pick one or two combinations of challenges and solutions instead. If you include more, you might dilute your message or bore your readers.
- A case study is a story. Make sure it has a beginning, a middle,and an end .
- And always include direct quotes for an added dose of personality, energy, and human connection.
- Include stats or metrics whenever possible, such as increased revenue, the number of new customers gained, or a measurable boost in traffic.
- Graphics and pull quotes can make it easier to digest the content of your case study. But if you’re in a very visual industry like graphic design, advertising, fashion, or interior design, it’s a great idea to include on-brand, relevant images. For example, you might feature your customer’s brand images or visuals from a relevant campaign.
- There’s no rule re: length, but business case studies are often 2-3 pages long .
And make sure your client is the star.
In this piece of content, it’s all about them. Write about your client’s company, challenges, and results .
A case study can’t be as effective if it’s all about you because it’s designed to help clients and prospects relate to the people featured in your story. It can also feel a lot more compelling – and credible – when you let customer experiences do the talking.
Give it a final review
- Double-check that all facts and figures are correct.
- Try to read it with a fresh set of eyes or pass it to your colleagues. It should be interesting and exciting to read while inspiring trust.
- Make sure all claims are backed up with supporting evidence.
- Provide enough details for readers to be able to emulate the actions of your clients on their own if equipped with the same products and services.
Ask your client for the OK
Send a copy of the case study draft to your client. They should know exactly what you plan to share and have enough time to share it with key stakeholders from their marketing and/or legal department.
Make any necessary changes, then share the revised version for one more round of approval. Finally, ask them to sign a publishing release.
Marketing your case study
When you have the finished product, it’s time to start marketing!
Think about using these channels:
- A dedicated landing page
- The resources section of your website
- Your company blog
- One or a series of marketing emails
- Social media
- Custom infographic
Salespeople love case studies.
Your sales team will get a lot of use out of your case studies. They can feature them as links in their email signatures and include them in sales emails and proposals for new clients and potential customers. To get started, you can use our case study presentation template .
Good case study examples (and why they work)
Start reading well-executed case studies to learn more about what makes them work. Here’s a selection of three very different yet successful case studies.
The first is one of our case studies; it highlights the success of one of our HR clients, TPD. The second case study is from Trello – it tells the story of UNICEF’s disaster-relief success.
The third example describes how SimplePractice won big with Stripe’s automatic payments offering.
PandaDoc case study
Intro: Before diving into the body of the case study, we briefly introduced the company, TPD, and highlighted three major metrics for a promising start.
The problem: We quickly engaged readers with our conversational tone. We also invited them to walk in TPD’s shoes through empathetic language and relatable context (such as the line: “anyone who’s ever been hired, or has hired others, knows that there are multiple forms and contracts to fill out” ).
Challenges, solutions, and results: We took readers on a storytelling journey to help our case study flow. We gave them enough information to understand the “why” , but never bogged them down with unnecessary details. We were also sure to include supporting quotes and specific, measurable results in these critical sections.
Pull quote: We reserved the very best quote as the only pull quote, ensuring it would receive the attention it deserves.
Format: Finally, every time we mentioned a new company, we gave it a hyperlink to help readers save time.
Trello case study
“unicef + trello: helping others when they need it most”.
Facts and figures: Trello opens the case study with great at-a-glance information, sharing insights into UNICEF as an organization and their relationship with Trello products.
Challenges, solutions, and results: This case study takes readers through a detailed narrative, providing statistics and metrics whenever possible. Readers are immersed into the story of exactly how UNICEF used Trello to help thousands of people during a natural disaster – offering enough detail to spark use case inspiration for other Trello users.
Photos: Trello included photos of actual UNICEF employees working remotely around the globe. The pictures gave the case study a personal feel, which could help readers better identify with the story.
Readers are reminded of the unique challenges of working together-apart to start considering how Trello might be able to help them find the solutions they need. Remember, the best case studies are relatable to all of your prospects!
Format: Its structure makes this longer case study easy to read. Sections of text are kept short while bullet points and pull quotes provide visual breaks.
Finally, hyperlinks to organizations’ websites open in separate tabs to help prevent losing case study readers along the way.
Stripe case study
“simplepractice launches automatic payments offering for clinicians with stripe”.
Intro: In just two sentences, Stripe successfully manages to explain what SimplePractice is, what they offer, who they serve, how they serve them, and the benefits those clients gain.
And while it’s not necessary to be this brief, readers will be more likely to read your entire intro if it’s on the shorter side.
Sidebar: The sidebar draws eyes to keep reading with two impressive metrics and a brightly-hued CTA button to “contact sales” .
Challenge and solution: These sections read like a story, with each sentence enticing the reader to continue to the next. It’s also great that a quote from SimplePractice’s COO is used to add context, emphasizing the gravity of their challenge.
Results: Stripe gives a lot of detail here for a strong close to the case study. After explaining how their offering brought ease to SimplePractice’s business, they went on to share detailed specifics on what made things easier and in what ways.
They also explained how their offering improved the businesses of SimplePractice’s clients. It’s highly persuasive for readers to understand they have the opportunity to not only benefit their own companies but also those of their clients.
Pull quote: The case study ends with a strong pull quote in a can’t-miss-it color.
Format: Stripe has a great case study format.
Consider using it as a guide to create a case study template of your own:
- Brief intro
- Sidebar with CTA and bullet points of key metrics and wins
Most clients and prospects would rather hear from the people who use your products over a salesperson, any day. So use the power of trust to help you close the sale with a great business case study highlighting your results.
You and your customers already have the stories – now it’s time to share them with the world.
Wondering if you should reference buyer personas or if ideal customer profiles would work better? Get answers on the PandaDoc blog!
Frequently asked questions
What is the best business case study format.
The best business case study format depends on the nature of the results and whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. You can figure that out by carefully reviewing your customer success stories and interviews.
- What stands out the most?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- How can you use your layout to guide readers through your story?
- What is your industry or what is the industry of your featured client?
Pro tip: Some interviews are more quotable than others. If you have too many great quotes to include them in your featured sections, consider adding a few pull quotes to your layout.
How do I create a business case study outline?
To create a business case study outline, list all of your featured sections and use bullet points to note subsections and what should be covered. Most case studies feature the following sections: Introduction, Brief Description of Customer’s Business, Problem/Challenge/Opportunity, Solution, Results/Conclusion, Boiler, and Call-to-Action (CTA). But outlines aren’t just for traditional case studies. Use outlines to guide your infographic and video versions too.
What are some case study best practices?
Case study best practices include planning objectives and goals before selecting your featured client, sending pre-interview questionnaires, and finding an angle that will make the piece compelling to all of your readers. Also be sure to get the approval of your client and their marketing team after you’ve had time to review your first draft and fact-check all information.
Best practices for writing case studies include crafting short, easy-to-digest sections, weaving in a narrative for engaging storytelling, and getting attention from the start with an engaging headline. It’s also a great idea to write in layman’s terms, explain any necessary acronyms, include any supporting metrics or statistics, and use direct quotes to bring your customer’s story to life. Check out the featured case study examples in this article for inspiration.
Where can I find a good case study design template?
You can find a good case study design template on PandaDoc. Our company’s expertise is spot-on and the case study templates are free. Also, don’t be afraid to branch out. Let’s say you have a big following on YouTube or Spotify. You might want to create a video or podcast version of your case study for readers who prefer audiovisual information. Or, you may want to add multimedia content to your case study, such as a video insert or or audio clip.
Proposals 13 min
Proposals 12 min
Proposals 9 min
How to Write a Case Study (+10 Examples & Free Template!)
Ah, the case study: One of the most important pieces of marketing content for a business, and yet all too often, also the most boring. The problem with this is, lose a reader and you lose a customer. It doesn’t have to be this way!
In this guide, I’m going to show you how to write a case study that prospects will actually want to read. An attractive , inspiring , and convincing case study that turns readers into customers.
Table of contents
What is a case study.
- Why write a case study?
How long should a case study be?
- How to write a case study: Steps & format
- An example of a case study
- Tips to write a case study that gets read
- Real case study examples
- Free case study template doc
A case study is a self-contained story about how a real customer overcame their problems using your products or services. Notice how I used the word story. Marketers are obsessed with the notion of “storytelling” (usually without actually telling stories), but a good case study is a story with protagonist (your customer) who has a problem but who wins out in the end.
This case study example by Intercom puts faces to the name of their protagonist, Atlassian.
By the end of a case study, the reader should be able to visualize themselves as the hero of their own story. They should be able to relate to the problems of your featured customer, and see themselves achieving their own goals by using your product or service.
Why write a business case study?
Case studies may not be as sexy as a viral blog post, and as such they’re often overlooked in favor of other content formats. This begs the question – why create marketing case studies at all?
The answer is because they’re really effective.
- Build customer loyalty: Not only is this an opportunity to engage with your satisfied customer, but to reaffirm why they chose you and why they should continue to choose you.
- Assist sales: In addition to having case studies posted on your website, salespeople can share them with potential customers in conversations to help them build confidence in the prospect.
- Multi-purpose content: Quotes and data snippets from your case studies make great testimonial tidbits for your the homepage, products/services pages, landing pages, and more. You can also repurpose these into PDFs, videos, blog posts, and infographics.
- Earn trust: Case studies turn positive customer opinions into tangible data that actually proves your value. In fact, it’s among the most trusted content types according to 60% of marketers.
This varies by industry (a kitchen remodeling business could probably tell their whole story in pictures while a software invoicing solution, not so much), but here are some guidelines:
- Most resources tell you that a case study should be 500-1500 words.
- We also encourage you to have a prominent snapshot section of 100 words or less.
- The results and benefits section should take the bulk of the word count.
- Don’t use more words than you need. Let your data, images, and customers quotes do the talking.
What a marketing case study is NOT
A case study is an on-brand, data-driven, objective resource for potential customers to gain confidence in your business. Here is what they are not.
- Case studies are not press releases. Although case studies can be used to accompany new product launches, they are not merely vehicles to talk about new products. In fact, you should make your case studies as evergreen as possible so you can get the most mileage out of them.
- Case studies aren’t advertisements. Bits and pieces of cases studies can be used on landing pages or even in ad copy, but the case study itself should not be an ad. It’s not about roping in a customer or using exciting or embellishing words. It’s about sharing the facts.
- Good case studies are not about your company. They’re about the customer’s journey. Most case studies are bland, instantly forgettable crap because marketers ignore the fact that case studies are stories in the most literal sense. They get preoccupied with things like brand voice or messaging matrices and forget to leverage the narrative form that makes stories so compelling. Or, even worse, they simply can’t stop themselves from harping on about how great their company is, the gravest of sins when case studies are concerned.
How to write a case study: steps & format
Now that we’re clear on what a marketing case study is (and isn’t), as well as why you should be producing them, let’s talk about how to actually write a case study worth reading.
- Clear headline: Like a newspaper headline, it should give the most important information. A subtitle with supporting details or a customer quote is optional.
- Snapshot: Provide the TLDR prominently at the top, including the client’s name/industry, the product/service used, and quick result stats.
- Client introduction: One or two sentences describing the customer and a highlight about them.
- Problem: State the problem/goal, consequences, and any hesitations the customer had. Include quotes.
- Solution: Share how they found you, why they chose you, what solution they chose, and how it was implemented. Include quotes.
- Results: Describe the results and the benefits, as well as any bonus benefits that came of it. Include quotes.
- Conclusion: Share additional praise from the customer and words of advice they have for other people/businesses like them.
Click to view full-size.
A case study example
Let’s go into the details on each one of the steps above, using a fictional example. Our business is Kumbo Digital and our client is Currigate.
1. Start with a clear headline
This should be like a newspaper headline that gives the most important information. A subtitle with supporting details or a customer quote is optional.
Currigate Plugs $12k in Profit Leaks with Kumbo Digital
2. Provide a snapshot
There should be a section at the top with the important details. This includes
- Customer name/category/industry
- Product/service used
- Results (ideally three stats)
3. Introduce the client
Share one to two sentences with your customer’s name, industry, location, and a highlight.
Currigate is a software service that offers highly customizable subscription packages to banks, brokers, and investors in the mortgage lending market.
4. State the problem, consequences, & hesitations
Explain the issue the customer was facing or the goal they were having a hard time reaching—as well as the negative outcomes.
While this high level of customization is what sets Currigate apart from its competitors, it also requires multiple applications with disparate data and heavy manual work. Account owners were spending so much time manage invoicing, there was little left over to build relationships with clients, stay on top of overages, and upsell. This was leading to leaks in profitability and a weakening of customer service.
Include customer quotes as well as any hesitancies they had with using a product or service like yours.
“We were getting in our own way,” said Melanie Grigham, Currigate’s VP of Operations. “Our customer relationships were starting to falter, and we knew we had to do something. But the thought of manipulating just one of our data sources—let alone all seven—was scary. There were so many random connections in place and so much confidential information, we couldn’t risk it all breaking.”
5. Describe the solution
Share how the customer found your business and why they chose you.
Grigham learned about Kumbo Digital through none other than Google research and decided to get in touch. “The thought of explaining the whole thing felt daunting, but I was relieved to hear [the rep] finishing my sentences for me!”
Include which specific product or service they chose, how it was implemented, and how the customer used it. Stay brief!
After learning the details of the situation, the Kumbo team proposed a custom solution that would integrate all of the data sources into one dashboard. “I was hesitant at first, but they showed me a small scale example which helped me to understand a little more about how it would work. I appreciated their patience with me as I took some time to make a decision.” Grigham finally went with it. The dashboard took three weeks to implement and the data migration took just under a day.
6. Share the results & benefits
Share how the client used your product/service, what the results were, and the benefits. Include direct quotes and clear evidence (statistical data, before-and-after images, time-lapse videos, etc.)
With the new platform, Currigate’s account managers could access all seven data sources—as well as generate, track, send, and approve invoices—all in one place. Time spent invoicing went from days to hours, freeing up time for them to engage with customers and work toward strategic goals. “Our staff are less bogged down to the point where they’re asking to take on more clients—which is unheard of.” The redesigned and simplified product catalog (206 product codes instead of 1,024) has also made it easier for them to upsell as well as recommend combinations for specific needs. “Sometimes our new clients don’t know what they want, and this is perfect for giving them a starting point.” In addition, Currigate was able to identify $12,403 worth of overages they wouldn’t have caught otherwise. “Now, we can be sure that their customers are being billed appropriately (which is great for us) and receiving the services best fit for their dynamic needs (which is great for them). It’s a win-win.”
7. Conclude with words of advice and a CTA
Share where the client is headed, any additional quotes or praise, and/or their advice for similar potential clients.
Today, Currigate’s unique subscription model is as strong as ever. It’s even considering opening up to new markets. “We never thought we’d reach this point so soon—we thought new markets was years down the line,” said Melanie. When asked what advice she had for other businesses like hers, she talked about mixing faith and facts. “You’ve got to do your research to find a trusted provider, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to a leap of faith, and sometimes you just have to do it.”
Finish off with a CTA to contact your business and/or a link to view more case studies.
Tips on how to write a case study that prospects will want to read
Alright, so that was a basic example of a case study, but there’s more to it than just the words that comprise it. Here are eight tips to write a great case study that prospects will want to read and that will help close deals.
1. Make it as easy as possible for the client
Just like when asking for reviews , it’s important to make the process as clear and easy as possible for the client. When you reach out, ask if you can use their story of achievement as a case study for your business.
Make the details as clear as possible, including:
- The process (20 minute interview, follow up with a draft for their approval).
- Where the case study will live (on your website? in PDFs shared by sales reps? etc.)
- Their options for the interview (in person, phone/video call, via email).
- Any benefits (exposure on social, for example).
The clearer the picture you paint for them, the more receptive they’ll be to sharing their time with you.
2. Include a prominent snapshot with the results
While a good case study is like a story, you don’t want to hold out on your reader until the end. You want them to know the results right off the bat, then they can read further to find out how those results were achieved. In the example below, the overall picture is made clear with the title ( The Loot Box Uses Ad Factory and Content Marketing to Drive Sales ) and the three stats below it.
3. Choose an interesting angle
Apart from kitchen remodeling and website makeovers, it can be hard to make a case study compelling. But there is always room for creativity.
- Focus on particularly interesting customers who use your product in a unique way or who have a more extreme situation.
- Weave a theme into the story that connects your industry with theirs (this might mean puns).
- Hook the reader at the beginning with a teaser about the best result in the study.
- Incorporate the client’s unique personality into the story.
The more compelling your angle, the better the story. The better the story, the more engaging your case study will be. In Mailchimp’s case study example below, the customer name (Good Dye Young), compelling headline , and expressive image all work together to give this case study life.
4. But make it relatable to all prospects
Your angle is the “hook” that will catch your audience’s attention, but it’s essential that ALL prospects can relate to and identify with the problems encountered by your case study’s “protagonist.” This means catering to your core demographics and target markets , and solving the problems most commonly experienced by your customers.
The same Mailchimp case study example above finishes off with an “advice for other small businesses” section:
5. Make them visually appealing (and consistent)
We already know that case studies aren’t the most exciting reads, so don’t make it worse by throwing a bunch of text and numbers onto a page. A good case study is skimmable, visual, and organized.
6. Be the supporting character, not the hero
Your company should always be positioned as a helping hand that helped the real hero of the story—your client—overcome their obstacle. There are two reasons this approach is so effective. Firstly, you want your audience to visualize themselves as the protagonist of the case study. This is much more difficult if you won’t stop talking about how great your company or product is. Secondly, adopting a more humble tone can help increase your credibility in the mind of the reader.
- Allbird’s omnichannel conversions soared
- Gymshark scaled internationally
- Staples replatformed in half the time
- Bombas saved $108,000 a year
7. Let your clients tell their own story
As a storyteller, it’s your job to craft a compelling narrative about how your featured client triumphed over the forces of evil using your product or service, but that doesn’t mean your protagonist doesn’t have their own voice.
Let them tell the story in their own words and then incorporate direct quotes into your narrative. This will break up your text, increase credibility, and make your protagonist a tangible character that readers can relate to. Take an interview style format and use paraphrasing and annotations so the text isn’t repetitive. Set up the segue and create room for your client’s quote, and let them do the rest.
View the full case study example here.
8. Have realistic expectations
Yes, we want to create a useful, helpful resource for prospective customers, but let’s be real—nobody’s winning a Pulitzer for a case study, and it won’t be going viral on social media, no matter how well-written it is.
Case studies are little more than tools to be used by either self-motivated prospects researching your company, or by sales professionals as tools to help convince prospects to convert. Nothing more. They’re designed for audiences that are already strongly considering becoming your customers, which is a smaller but more qualified group of people than your general audience.
So don’t be disheartened if your case study content doesn’t attract as much traffic or engagement as your best or even average content. They’re not meant to. But that doesn’t mean you should stop creating them or start obsessing over how to improve them.
Business case study examples
Here are some business case study examples that put the tips in this guide into play.
Call us biased, but LOCALiQ’s case study format is pretty rad. What we like about it:
- High-quality visual at the top.
- Immediate snapshot of customer and results.
- Clear-cut sections with challenges, solutions, and results.
- Customer quotes layered in with paraphrasing and commentary.
Read this case study example.
You saw a sneak peek of this above! What we like about it:
- Special care given to give the client a face and a glowing description.
- Nice mix of real images with graphics ( one of our landing page design trends ).
- Newspaper headline approach (with a rhyme!): Atlassian powers sales with support at scale with Intercom
- Prominent data results
- Snapshot sidebar on the left with client information and features used.
After the “Good Dye Young” example earlier, how could we not include another Mailchimp case study? What we like about it:
- Compelling headline: How Stretch & Flex Started and Grew During a Pandemic
- How the subtitle aids in the TLDR: Surveys helped the virtual Pilates studio make quick adjustments and plan for long‑term success.
- Colorful, expressive images and clean snapshot.
- Alternating background colors to distinguish the quotes and stats—the best parts of the story, of course.
- Conclusion with advice to small businesses.
Wrike takes the case study snapshot to the next level in this example. What we like about it:
- Puts a face to the name of the client, just like Intercom does.
- Nice mix of photos and graphics together (like Intercom).
- Mega snapshot that basically gives you all of the information you need.
- Bright green result data.
Our final marketing case study example comes from Slintel, a go-to-market intelligence software. What we like about it:
- Attractive headline: Leoforce sees 2x increase in meetings booked with Slintel
- Coordination of image with branding colors.
- That it is written by their RevOps manager ( what is RevOps? ).
- Descriptive headings: The Challenge: Cleaning up bad data.
- Large results data and prominent quote callout boxes.
View full case study here
Marketing case study templates
To make things easy for you, I’ve compiled the tips and examples into a marketing case study template, in document form, that you can use to write your own.
- WordStream’s case study template doc: All the steps in this guide compiled into this case study Google Doc template to make your life much easier.
- Canva case study templates: Canva has a number of free case study templates (the one in tip #5 is one of them!) that look professional and polished.
- Visme’s case study templates: With a free login, you can access and customize some of Visme’s case study templates.
- Storydoc’s case study templates and design tips : Use Storydoc’s case study templates to create and customize a great story with a 14-day free trial.
Use these case study examples & tips to get started with your own
No two businesses are alike, and case studies vary widely in terms of style, tone, and format . One thing that all marketing case studies share, however, is their purpose – to convince prospects that doing business with you is a good idea. With these case study steps, tips, examples, and templates, you’ll be well on your way to producing stories your prospects will actually want to read.
Meet The Author
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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Business Case Studies
Getting started, vancouver research help, okanagan business research help, related guides.
- Case Analysis
- Finding Case Studies in the Library
- Free Case Studies
- Buying Cases
- Writing Case Studies
- Case Competitions
- Case Interviews
- Case Method (Teaching)
This guide helps you find sources of case studies, as well as resources that can help you analyze and write cases, and prepare for case competitions.
Business cases summarize fictitious or real life events faced by management, companies, and industries. Cases can be used for educational or training purposes, or as the basis for problem solving events, like business school case competitions. There are publishers, like the Harvard Business School Press, which produce and sell cases for teaching and learning purposes. There are also other sources of case studies, including books, articles, and free internet sources.
Case studies provide a framework for problem solving, as they enable students to explore, understand and analyze situations with which they may not have had first-hand experience. Analyzing cases allows students to apply the concepts and theory that they have been learning, and to practice the critical thinking and problem solving skills that they have been developing in their academic careers.
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The ultimate guide to writing a good case study
Your prospect has done their research. They’ve made a list of requirements. They’ve compared several possible solutions (including yours). They’ve been to your website and had conversations with a salesperson. And they’ve narrowed their search down to your product and your competitor. On paper, both products look similar. But your prospect is still on the fence.
So what’s it going to take for them to go with yours?
Probably something that convinces them that your product gets results.
Enter the case study—tiebreaker extraordinaire, and your best friend.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- What a case study is and why you need one
- 3 elements of a good case study
- How to prep for a case study
- 5 steps to writing your case study
- Tips for making a good case study great
- 5 real-life case study examples
🔍 Are you looking for some case study examples? Check out this free eBook housing five case study examples.
📙 Get the eBook
What is a case study and why should you create one?
A case study is basically a document (it can be a video too) that outlines how a customer used your product to overcome a problem. It’s real-world proof that your product works and gets results.
If your product or service has helped customers get great results, a case study will help you showcase those results to your future customers. They’re an excellent way to attract more business, and can mean the difference between a lost opportunity and a really good end-of-quarter.
What makes a good case study?
First, it’s helpful to highlight what makes case studies bad: most are painfully boring. What they have in research and detail, they lack in a cohesive, consumable story. They list numbers and contain data, but the reader isn’t sure what it all means or why it’s relevant to their problem. They end up existing as technical documents that do little to persuade or excite anyone—and that’s unfortunate because they have the potential to be a powerful sales tool that can help you close big deals in the decision-making phase.
So how do you write a good one, then? Here are three characteristics every good case study should have:
There’s no hard rule on how long a case study should be. But it’s always a good idea to ask “ How short can we make it? ” A good case study avoids the unnecessary minutiae, knows what it’s trying to say, and communicates it quickly and without ambiguity. With a few exceptions, effective case studies are concise and, clear.
On the other side of the length equation, being thorough is also important. While the case study is all about making impressive claims about how a product helped someone achieve a certain result, it also needs to explain how it happened. Good case studies include key details that show how the customer got from A to B using the product—something you don’t get with customer reviews . Don’t make your reader work too hard to visualize the story. If you can use images and videos, use them!
It’s a story
Yes, case studies are sales tools. But the ones really worth reading tell a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end. They beg to be read all the way through. Often, they present a problem that creates tension and demands a solution. And remember, in this story, the customer is the hero—not you.
6 steps to find a good case study
Before you start actually writing, there’s a bit of prep work you’ll need to do to make sure your case study is amazing. (This is where good customer service teamwork will really come in handy since your customer support team will have the best intel.)
1. Choose your customer
You may have many customers who’ve seen great results using your product. But you can’t just pick a name out of a hat and showcase their results; they may not be right for your audience or their results may not be typical. For example, don’t feature an enterprise company when most of your customers are small businesses. Or claiming that your clients have a 90% customer retention rate when most of them see 70% on average (still impressive, though). When considering which customer to use, start by creating a list of customers that meet these criteria:
They’ve seen good results with your product or service
The numbers are what really matter. So choose customers that have seen strong results using your product. But be careful about showcasing exceptionally good results if they’re not likely to be repeated by most.
They have a respected and recognizable brand
Strong brands give your product instant social proof. They prove that you’re established and trustworthy. That alone can make you a front-runner in the decision-making process. After all, if Big Brand X trusts you, so can a prospect.
They’re a typical customer
Good results don’t carry as much weight when they’re achieved by companies in other industries or verticals. Identify current customers that are similar to your target audience. If you sell enterprise software, choose enterprise customers. If you’re a consultant in the healthcare industry, choose a customer that works in healthcare.
With your list in hand, you can start reaching out. Picking up the phone can be a lot more effective than sending an email. It’s more personal, lets you build rapport, and is harder to ignore than an email.
Try to get in touch with customers who use or are very familiar with your product or service—someone who can speak to results. Tell them you’re interested in writing a case study and you’d love to hear more about the results they’ve achieved. Be clear about what the process involves on their part—whether it’s a list of questions in an email, a phone call, or if it involves a camera and crew.
If you’ve provided value, your customer is more likely to see you as a partner rather than a vendor and, hopefully, will be happy to participate. Remember, you’re also shining a spotlight on their own success. So it’s a win-win.
That said, you may hear “no” a few times, too. Don’t get discouraged. Some customers will decline for different reasons, regardless of the results they’ve achieved with your product.
Don’t just use a personal phone to call your customers and interview them. Use a communications app that has a phone calling feature instead. Not only would it show your business as the caller ID (instead of a shady phone number they’re not familiar with), some apps let you record conversations too to make it easy to go back and analyze your conversations (just remember to ask first).
2. Begin your research
Start collecting information about your customer. This is easier if you work as a team. From sales to marketing to customer service, everyone who’s been in touch with customer will have insight about their experience. They can help you understand what your customers do and sell, and what challenges they’re facing. Identify the stakeholders you need to speak with—anyone in the company who uses your product—from the CEO to the marketing intern. Collect stats, even ones you don’t think are relevant—they may be later.
3. Ask the right questions
Smart questions get insightful answers. Here are some examples of great questions to start with:
“What were some of the bigger challenges you faced before using our product?”
“How does our product help you reach your individual goals?”
“Which key metrics have improved most since using our product/service?”
“Which parts of your business have been impacted most, and how?”
“How long did it take to roll out our product?”
But don’t stop there. Use these questions to segue into deeper, more targeted questions that underscore the real-world benefits of your product. Let the conversation flow naturally—this is the magic of interviews. You can’t always plan for what interesting topics come up next.
4. Identify your target audience
Beyond your customer’s industry, consider who the target audience of the case study is. Who will see it? Who does it need to influence? While it’s often high-level executives who make large purchase decisions, employees at all levels can act as a champion for your product or brand. Your case study may have to persuade an IT worker that your product or service is going to make their job easier, while it needs to convince the CFO that they’ll see a real return on investment.
5. Identify the top three things you want to highlight
During the initial research phase, you’ve likely uncovered a lot of interesting information about your customer and their experiences with your product. While it might be tempting to use it all, your case study should quickly and clearly communicate the value of your product. Go through this information and identify the three most important business results you want to communicate in the case study.
Stats and key performance indicators (KPIs) to consider using in your case study:
- Ramp up time: How long did it take to get started with your product? Did it improve any other facet of their workflow?
- Sales results: How did the product impact your customer’s bottom line?
- Total return on investment (ROI): How long did it take to earn more than they spent on your product?
- Productivity increases: Which teams saw improvements in process and workflow? And now much?
Here’s how RollWorks shows off the amazing ROI that their customers, Payscale, got with them .
6. Choose your format
A case study doesn’t have to exist only as a PDF attachment in a late-stage deal email (although there’s nothing wrong with that). Consider the format. Think about who’s going to read it (or watch it). Do you want to turn this into fancy interactive content ? Does your prospect have the time and interest to dig into the details? Or do they just want the facts? Choose the format that you think best engages the audience that you’re selling to.
This long-form document has been the gold standard for B2B case studies for many years. This format is effective when the subject matter is complex and demands detail. Remember, a CTO who’s evaluating large-scale business communications platforms for a multi-year deal is going to want more information than a marketing manager who’s evaluating a new social media ad platform:
Here’s how Zendesk presented their case study with IDC as a report .
Keeping things short and sweet is often the best way to get your message heard. By focusing on the key points, you can highlight the biggest wins at just a glance. Most report format case studies can be easily condensed into a one-page document. This is ideal for prospects (and salespeople) who are short on time and prefer something they can quickly scan—like this Adzerk case study with Reddit :
Few things can tell a story the way that video can, and case studies are no exception. They give you an unmatched level of creative freedom and storytelling using music, lighting, pacing, and voice that can evoke emotions and persuade someone using more than just numbers and facts. And at just a couple of minutes long, they can do a lot of heavy lifting in not a lot of time.
People love infographics. They’re an excellent way to convey important data in a simple, eye-pleasing way. If your case study requires you to use a lot of data to prove a point—or if visualizing data can make the results more clear—building an infographic case study can be a great investment.
5 key steps for writing your case study
Congrats. You’ve done the research. You’ve made the calls. You’ve pored over all the details. Now, all you have to do is write. Here are five simple steps that’ll help you create a powerful case study that champions your customer and clearly showcases the real-world value of your products or services.
1. Introduce the customer
Set the stage for your case study with an introduction. Briefly explain who your customer is with a bit of background information that can include their industry, product, company size, and location. You don’t have to dig into the nuts and bolts of their business, but you do want the reader to understand who they are and what they do. The more color you can provide here, the more impactful it’ll be when you show the awesome results this customer saw because they chose you.
2. State the problem
Every product or service is a solution to a problem. Explain the problem (or problems) that you helped your customer overcome. Describe the larger impact of the issue. Maybe it was customers leaving. Perhaps it was bad leads—or good leads that were never followed up on. Use this as an opportunity to clearly show what was at stake, and make sure you leave the jargon out of it. Frame the problem in simple terms that any reader can understand.
3. Introduce your product
This is where you begin solving the problem. Briefly introduce your product and what it does. Start on a general level, then apply it to the challenge the customer was experiencing. Talk about which teams or individuals used your product and how they used it. Be sure to make the connection between the customer’s problem and your solution crystal clear.
4. Show results
The big reveal. What kind of results was your customer able to achieve using your product or service? Speak to how they solved the problem descriptively, but also with cold, hard numbers. Not everything can be measured in numbers (sometimes, peace of mind is a powerful benefit all on its own), but whenever you can, back up your story with the stats. At the very least, this will make it easy for a CFO—or a prospect who wants to buy—to justify buying your product.
The customer saw a 33% increase in web traffic, a large influx of social media activity, and a 10% boost in revenue over the duration of the campaign .
5. Prove it
Don’t forget to show your math. How you get the results is just as important as the results themselves. What specific steps were taken to get those results? Not only will this help validate your claims, it makes it easier to envision how the reader may be able to achieve them, too.
8 tips to write a great case study
1. avoid jargon .
As a subject matter expert in your line of work, it can be tempting to go into as much jargony detail as possible. This is normal as it’s often the language we use at work every day. But remember that your customer probably doesn’t speak that language. When in doubt, use an app like Hemingway to make sure you’re writing at a level that most people can understand.
2. Spend time on your title
It’s tempting to use the case study’s most interesting or impressive KPI as your title. But that also gives away the ending before the story begins, and skips details that are important for context in the process. Try writing a title that piques interest without being a spoiler.
3. Edit. Then edit again.
Once you’ve got your first draft completed (and the jargon removed), edit the case study. A few best practices here:
- Look for and eliminate unnecessary adjectives.
- Speak in an active voice.
- Look for details that get in the way of the story.
And then do it all over again until you can’t edit it down anymore without losing the essence of the story.
4. A picture is worth a thousand words
This is especially true when you’re talking about a block of text that’s trying to communicate a chunk of data. Well-designed charts, graphs, images, or infographics can do the heavy lifting of several pages of text in just seconds. They can also help break up large pieces of text, making the case study easier to read—and nicer to look at. After all, the end goal is to have these read all the way through.
Here’s an example of a graphic from a longer CPA Canada infographic (that includes a short case study embedded inside it):
5. Pull quotes
Hard data and results are good. But a customer quote is a great piece of social proof and adds a human element to your case study. And that makes your results more believable. Customer quotes can also be used outside of your testimonial too—try adding it on your website, landing pages, or email marketing campaigns or welcome emails to get more people to check out your products and buy online. Here’s an example of what that looks like:
6. Make it scannable
Some people will take the time to read your case study front to back and absorb every detail. Some won’t give it more than a single glance. And sometimes, that person is the decision-maker. Make the most important results easy to spot, read, and retain at a glance. Write headings that are descriptive—if someone just scanned them, would they be able to get the gist of the story? Consider putting a summary at the very beginning of the study, or call out impressive results in a larger font size.
7. Record your interviews
Ditch the pen and paper. If you’re conducting one-on-one interviews over the phone, you can save yourself a lot of time and energy by recording the conversation (with your customer’s consent, of course). There are tools that can make this easier too—you might find one or two in your marketing stack . For example, you could use RingCentral’s Zapier integration to transcribe your conversation into a text file.
8. Don’t forget the call to action (CTA)
Your prospect is excited because your case study has done an excellent job of showing how your product or service can help drive results for customers. Now, how do they get in touch with you to learn more? Whether it’s a button that links to your website, an email address, or a phone number, make sure there’s an easy way of getting in touch with you in the case study.
5 examples of great case studies from real-life companies
Mailchimp: make a connection in real life with postcards.
What we like about it: The title doesn’t give everything away all at once, and the case study tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end. The sections are clearly titled and organized, and the results are easy to find. As a bonus: the video adds a believable human element.
LinkedIn: How Adobe achieves alignment and ABM success with LinkedIn
What we like about it: It’s detailed without being a novella. It understands and speaks to the enterprise customer. The key points are in bullet format and easy to read. The important wins are highlighted. And the video makes the content easy to engage with.
Hootsuite: How Meliá became one of the most influential hotel chains on social media
What we like about it: The title makes you want to read the whole customer story. They’ve embdedded a well-produced video high on the page, so you can choose to watch it before you read on. The design and layout of the page makes the content and images easy to consume, and the results can’t be missed. Also, they weren’t shy about adding CTAs.
Slack: So yeah, we tried Slack
What we like about it: This case study follows the tried and true format of customer, problem, solution, and results. It uses humor and relatable characters throughout to support the story and keep your attention. And it’s only two minutes long so it gets the point across quickly.
Assetworks: South Carolina School Board Insurance Trust
What we like about it: This case study tackles the otherwise complex and technical topic, and simplifies it as an infographic using images to make the results clear. It’s concise and easy to follow because you can see the math without actually doing any math.
The final word on building a great case study…
Sure, an ad or boosted social media post (more on social media best practices here) can make someone aware of your brand or that your product exists, and a landing page can tell them how your product can solve their problem.
But there’s nothing quite as powerful as someone else singing your praises.
And that’s exactly what a case study does. Spend the time to do it right and it has the potential to deliver huge ROI no matter how big or small your company is. And not just once—but over and over again.
Originally published Feb 05, 2020, updated Oct 19, 2022
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Guidelines to the writing of case studies
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* Département chiropratique, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351, boul des Forges, Trois-Rivières, Qc, Canada G9A 5H7
Dr. Brian Budgell, DC, PhD, JCCA Editorial Board
Case studies are an invaluable record of the clinical practices of a profession. While case studies cannot provide specific guidance for the management of successive patients, they are a record of clinical interactions which help us to frame questions for more rigorously designed clinical studies. Case studies also provide valuable teaching material, demonstrating both classical and unusual presentations which may confront the practitioner. Quite obviously, since the overwhelming majority of clinical interactions occur in the field, not in teaching or research facilities, it falls to the field practitioner to record and pass on their experiences. However, field practitioners generally are not well-practised in writing for publication, and so may hesitate to embark on the task of carrying a case study to publication. These guidelines are intended to assist the relatively novice writer – practitioner or student – in efficiently navigating the relatively easy course to publication of a quality case study. Guidelines are not intended to be proscriptive, and so throughout this document we advise what authors “may” or “should” do, rather than what they “must” do. Authors may decide that the particular circumstances of their case study justify digression from our recommendations.
Additional and useful resources for chiropractic case studies include:
- Waalen JK. Single subject research designs. J Can Chirop Assoc 1991; 35(2):95–97.
- Gleberzon BJ. A peer-reviewer’s plea. J Can Chirop Assoc 2006; 50(2):107.
- Merritt L. Case reports: an important contribution to chiropractic literature. J Can Chiropr Assoc 2007; 51(2):72–74.
Portions of these guidelines were derived from Budgell B. Writing a biomedical research paper. Tokyo: Springer Japan KK, 2008.
This set of guidelines provides both instructions and a template for the writing of case reports for publication. You might want to skip forward and take a quick look at the template now, as we will be using it as the basis for your own case study later on. While the guidelines and template contain much detail, your finished case study should be only 500 to 1,500 words in length. Therefore, you will need to write efficiently and avoid unnecessarily flowery language.
These guidelines for the writing of case studies are designed to be consistent with the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” referenced elsewhere in the JCCA instructions to authors.
After this brief introduction, the guidelines below will follow the headings of our template. Hence, it is possible to work section by section through the template to quickly produce a first draft of your study. To begin with, however, you must have a clear sense of the value of the study which you wish to describe. Therefore, before beginning to write the study itself, you should gather all of the materials relevant to the case – clinical notes, lab reports, x-rays etc. – and form a clear picture of the story that you wish to share with your profession. At the most superficial level, you may want to ask yourself “What is interesting about this case?” Keep your answer in mind as your write, because sometimes we become lost in our writing and forget the message that we want to convey.
Another important general rule for writing case studies is to stick to the facts. A case study should be a fairly modest description of what actually happened. Speculation about underlying mechanisms of the disease process or treatment should be restrained. Field practitioners and students are seldom well-prepared to discuss physiology or pathology. This is best left to experts in those fields. The thing of greatest value that you can provide to your colleagues is an honest record of clinical events.
Finally, remember that a case study is primarily a chronicle of a patient’s progress, not a story about chiropractic. Editorial or promotional remarks do not belong in a case study, no matter how great our enthusiasm. It is best to simply tell the story and let the outcome speak for itself. With these points in mind, let’s begin the process of writing the case study:
- Title: The title page will contain the full title of the article. Remember that many people may find our article by searching on the internet. They may have to decide, just by looking at the title, whether or not they want to access the full article. A title which is vague or non-specific may not attract their attention. Thus, our title should contain the phrase “case study,” “case report” or “case series” as is appropriate to the contents. The two most common formats of titles are nominal and compound. A nominal title is a single phrase, for example “A case study of hypertension which responded to spinal manipulation.” A compound title consists of two phrases in succession, for example “Response of hypertension to spinal manipulation: a case study.” Keep in mind that titles of articles in leading journals average between 8 and 9 words in length.
- Other contents for the title page should be as in the general JCCA instructions to authors. Remember that for a case study, we would not expect to have more than one or two authors. In order to be listed as an author, a person must have an intellectual stake in the writing – at the very least they must be able to explain and even defend the article. Someone who has only provided technical assistance, as valuable as that may be, may be acknowledged at the end of the article, but would not be listed as an author. Contact information – either home or institutional – should be provided for each author along with the authors’ academic qualifications. If there is more than one author, one author must be identified as the corresponding author – the person whom people should contact if they have questions or comments about the study.
- Key words: Provide key words under which the article will be listed. These are the words which would be used when searching for the article using a search engine such as Medline. When practical, we should choose key words from a standard list of keywords, such as MeSH (Medical subject headings). A copy of MeSH is available in most libraries. If we can’t access a copy and we want to make sure that our keywords are included in the MeSH library, we can visit this address: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/entrez/meshbrowser.cgi
A narrative abstract consists of a short version of the whole paper. There are no headings within the narrative abstract. The author simply tries to summarize the paper into a story which flows logically.
A structured abstract uses subheadings. Structured abstracts are becoming more popular for basic scientific and clinical studies, since they standardize the abstract and ensure that certain information is included. This is very useful for readers who search for articles on the internet. Often the abstract is displayed by a search engine, and on the basis of the abstract the reader will decide whether or not to download the full article (which may require payment of a fee). With a structured abstract, the reader is more likely to be given the information which they need to decide whether to go on to the full article, and so this style is encouraged. The JCCA recommends the use of structured abstracts for case studies.
Since they are summaries, both narrative and structured abstracts are easier to write once we have finished the rest of the article. We include a template for a structured abstract and encourage authors to make use of it. Our sub-headings will be:
- Introduction: This consists of one or two sentences to describe the context of the case and summarize the entire article.
- Case presentation: Several sentences describe the history and results of any examinations performed. The working diagnosis and management of the case are described.
- Management and Outcome: Simply describe the course of the patient’s complaint. Where possible, make reference to any outcome measures which you used to objectively demonstrate how the patient’s condition evolved through the course of management.
- Discussion: Synthesize the foregoing subsections and explain both correlations and apparent inconsistencies. If appropriate to the case, within one or two sentences describe the lessons to be learned.
- Introduction: At the beginning of these guidelines we suggested that we need to have a clear idea of what is particularly interesting about the case we want to describe. The introduction is where we convey this to the reader. It is useful to begin by placing the study in a historical or social context. If similar cases have been reported previously, we describe them briefly. If there is something especially challenging about the diagnosis or management of the condition that we are describing, now is our chance to bring that out. Each time we refer to a previous study, we cite the reference (usually at the end of the sentence). Our introduction doesn’t need to be more than a few paragraphs long, and our objective is to have the reader understand clearly, but in a general sense, why it is useful for them to be reading about this case.
The next step is to describe the results of our clinical examination. Again, we should write in an efficient narrative style, restricting ourselves to the relevant information. It is not necessary to include every detail in our clinical notes.
If we are using a named orthopedic or neurological test, it is best to both name and describe the test (since some people may know the test by a different name). Also, we should describe the actual results, since not all readers will have the same understanding of what constitutes a “positive” or “negative” result.
X-rays or other images are only helpful if they are clear enough to be easily reproduced and if they are accompanied by a legend. Be sure that any information that might identify a patient is removed before the image is submitted.
At this point, or at the beginning of the next section, we will want to present our working diagnosis or clinical impression of the patient.
It is useful for the reader to know how long the patient was under care and how many times they were treated. Additionally, we should be as specific as possible in describing the treatment that we used. It does not help the reader to simply say that the patient received “chiropractic care.” Exactly what treatment did we use? If we used spinal manipulation, it is best to name the technique, if a common name exists, and also to describe the manipulation. Remember that our case study may be read by people who are not familiar with spinal manipulation, and, even within chiropractic circles, nomenclature for technique is not well standardized.
We may want to include the patient’s own reports of improvement or worsening. However, whenever possible we should try to use a well-validated method of measuring their improvement. For case studies, it may be possible to use data from visual analogue scales (VAS) for pain, or a journal of medication usage.
It is useful to include in this section an indication of how and why treatment finished. Did we decide to terminate care, and if so, why? Did the patient withdraw from care or did we refer them to another practitioner?
- Discussion: In this section we may want to identify any questions that the case raises. It is not our duty to provide a complete physiological explanation for everything that we observed. This is usually impossible. Nor should we feel obligated to list or generate all of the possible hypotheses that might explain the course of the patient’s condition. If there is a well established item of physiology or pathology which illuminates the case, we certainly include it, but remember that we are writing what is primarily a clinical chronicle, not a basic scientific paper. Finally, we summarize the lessons learned from this case.
- Acknowledgments: If someone provided assistance with the preparation of the case study, we thank them briefly. It is neither necessary nor conventional to thank the patient (although we appreciate what they have taught us). It would generally be regarded as excessive and inappropriate to thank others, such as teachers or colleagues who did not directly participate in preparation of the paper.
A popular search engine for English-language references is Medline: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
- Legends: If we used any tables, figures or photographs, they should be accompanied by a succinct explanation. A good rule for graphs is that they should contain sufficient information to be generally decipherable without reference to a legend.
- Tables, figures and photographs should be included at the end of the manuscript.
- Permissions: If any tables, figures or photographs, or substantial quotations, have been borrowed from other publications, we must include a letter of permission from the publisher. Also, if we use any photographs which might identify a patient, we will need their written permission.
In addition, patient consent to publish the case report is also required.
- Name, academic degrees and affiliation
Name, address and telephone number of corresponding author
Statement that patient consent was obtained
Sources of financial support, if any
Key words: (limit of five)
Abstract: (maximum of 150 words)
- Case Presentation
- Management and Outcome
Provide a context for the case and describe any similar cases previously reported.
- Introductory sentence: e.g. This 25 year old female office worker presented for the treatment of recurrent headaches.
- Describe the essential nature of the complaint, including location, intensity and associated symptoms: e.g. Her headaches are primarily in the suboccipital region, bilaterally but worse on the right. Sometimes there is radiation towards the right temple. She describes the pain as having an intensity of up to 5 out of ten, accompanied by a feeling of tension in the back of the head. When the pain is particularly bad, she feels that her vision is blurred.
- Further development of history including details of time and circumstances of onset, and the evolution of the complaint: e.g. This problem began to develop three years ago when she commenced work as a data entry clerk. Her headaches have increased in frequency in the past year, now occurring three to four days per week.
- Describe relieving and aggravating factors, including responses to other treatment: e.g. The pain seems to be worse towards the end of the work day and is aggravated by stress. Aspirin provides some relieve. She has not sought any other treatment.
- Include other health history, if relevant: e.g. Otherwise the patient reports that she is in good health.
- Include family history, if relevant: e.g. There is no family history of headaches.
- Summarize the results of examination, which might include general observation and postural analysis, orthopedic exam, neurological exam and chiropractic examination (static and motion palpation): e.g. Examination revealed an otherwise fit-looking young woman with slight anterior carriage of the head. Cervical active ranges of motion were full and painless except for some slight restriction of left lateral bending and rotation of the head to the left. These motions were accompanied by discomfort in the right side of the neck. Cervical compression of the neck in the neutral position did not create discomfort. However, compression of the neck in right rotation and extension produced some right suboccipital pain. Cranial nerve examination was normal. Upper limb motor, sensory and reflex functions were normal. With the patient in the supine position, static palpation revealed tender trigger points bilaterally in the cervical musculature and right trapezius. Motion palpation revealed restrictions of right and left rotation in the upper cervical spine, and restriction of left lateral bending in the mid to lower cervical spine. Blood pressure was 110/70. Houle’s test (holding the neck in extension and rotation for 30 seconds) did not produce nystagmus or dizziness. There were no carotid bruits.
- The patient was diagnosed with cervicogenic headache due to chronic postural strain.
Management and Outcome:
- Describe as specifically as possible the treatment provided, including the nature of the treatment, and the frequency and duration of care: e.g. The patient undertook a course of treatment consisting of cervical and upper thoracic spinal manipulation three times per week for two weeks. Manipulation was accompanied by trigger point therapy to the paraspinal muscles and stretching of the upper trapezius. Additionally, advice was provided concerning maintenance of proper posture at work. The patient was also instructed in the use of a cervical pillow.
- If possible, refer to objective measures of the patient’s progress: e.g. The patient maintained a headache diary indicating that she had two headaches during the first week of care, and one headache the following week. Furthermore the intensity of her headaches declined throughout the course of treatment.
- Describe the resolution of care: e.g. Based on the patient’s reported progress during the first two weeks of care, she received an additional two treatments in each of the subsequent two weeks. During the last week of care she experienced no headaches and reported feeling generally more energetic than before commencing care. Following a total of four weeks of care (10 treatments) she was discharged.
Synthesize foregoing sections: e.g. The distinction between migraine and cervicogenic headache is not always clear. However, this case demonstrates several features …
Summarize the case and any lessons learned: e.g. This case demonstrates a classical presentation of cervicogenic headache which resolved quickly with a course of spinal manipulation, supportive soft-tissue therapy and postural advice.
References: (using Vancouver style) e.g.
1 Terret AGJ. Vertebrogenic hearing deficit, the spine and spinal manipulation therapy: a search to validate the DD Palmer/Harvey Lillard experience. Chiropr J Aust 2002; 32:14–26.
Legends: (tables, figures or images are numbered according to the order in which they appear in the text.) e.g.
Figure 1: Intensity of headaches as recorded on a visual analogue scale (vertical axis) versus time (horizontal axis) during the four weeks that the patient was under care. Treatment was given on days 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 22 and 25. Headache frequency and intensity is seen to fall over time.
How to Write a Case Study Analysis
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When writing a business case study analysis , you must first have a good understanding of the case study . Before you begin the steps below, read the business case carefully, taking notes all the while. It may be necessary to read the case several times to get all of the details and fully grasp the issues facing the group, company, or industry.
As you are reading, do your best to identify key issues, key players, and the most pertinent facts. After you are comfortable with the information, use the following step-by-step instructions (geared toward a single-company analysis) to write your report. To write about an industry, just adapt the steps listed here to discuss the segment as a whole.
Step 1: Investigate the Company’s History and Growth
A company’s past can greatly affect the present and future state of the organization. To begin, investigate the company’s founding, critical incidents, structure, and growth. Create a timeline of events, issues, and achievements. This timeline will come in handy for the next step.
Step 2: Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
Using the information you gathered in step one, continue by examining and making a list of the value creation functions of the company. For example, the company may be weak in product development but strong in marketing. Make a list of problems that have occurred and note the effects they have had on the company. You should also list areas where the company has excelled. Note the effects of these incidents as well.
You're essentially conducting a partial SWOT analysis to get a better understanding of the company's strengths and weaknesses. A SWOT analysis involves documenting things like internal strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) and external opportunities (O) and threats (T).
Step 3: Examine the External Environment
The third step involves identifying opportunities and threats within the company’s external environment. This is where the second part of the SWOT analysis (the O and the T) comes into play. Special items to note include competition within the industry, bargaining powers, and the threat of substitute products. Some examples of opportunities include expansion into new markets or new technology. Some examples of threats include increasing competition and higher interest rates.
Step 4: Analyze Your Findings
Using the information in steps 2 and 3, create an evaluation for this portion of your case study analysis. Compare the strengths and weaknesses within the company to the external threats and opportunities. Determine if the company is in a strong competitive position, and decide if it can continue at its current pace successfully.
Step 5: Identify Corporate-Level Strategy
To identify a company’s corporate-level strategy, identify and evaluate the company’s mission , goals, and actions toward those goals. Analyze the company’s line of business and its subsidiaries and acquisitions. You also want to debate the pros and cons of the company strategy to determine whether or not a change might benefit the company in the short or long term.
Step 6: Identify Business-Level Strategy
Thus far, your case study analysis has identified the company’s corporate-level strategy. To perform a complete analysis, you will need to identify the company’s business-level strategy. (Note: If it is a single business, without multiple companies under one umbrella, and not an industry-wide review, the corporate strategy and the business-level strategy are the same.) For this part, you should identify and analyze each company’s competitive strategy, marketing strategy, costs, and general focus.
Step 7: Analyze Implementations
This portion requires that you identify and analyze the structure and control systems that the company is using to implement its business strategies. Evaluate organizational change, levels of hierarchy, employee rewards, conflicts, and other issues that are important to the company you are analyzing.
Step 8: Make Recommendations
The final part of your case study analysis should include your recommendations for the company. Every recommendation you make should be based on and supported by the context of your analysis. Never share hunches or make a baseless recommendation.
You also want to make sure that your suggested solutions are actually realistic. If the solutions cannot be implemented due to some sort of restraint, they are not realistic enough to make the final cut.
Finally, consider some of the alternative solutions that you considered and rejected. Write down the reasons why these solutions were rejected.
Step 9: Review
Look over your analysis when you have finished writing. Critique your work to make sure every step has been covered. Look for grammatical errors , poor sentence structure, or other things that can be improved. It should be clear, accurate, and professional.
Business Case Study Analysis Tips
Keep these strategic tips in mind:
- Know the case study backward and forward before you begin your case study analysis.
- Give yourself enough time to write the case study analysis. You don't want to rush through it.
- Be honest in your evaluations. Don't let personal issues and opinions cloud your judgment.
- Be analytical, not descriptive.
- Proofread your work, and even let a test reader give it a once-over for dropped words or typos that you no longer can see.
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