Also published on LinkedIn

Here’s an inconvenient truth: most case studies don’t get read. They are usually dry, formulaic, and self-aggrandizing.

But let me backup a little bit. What is a case study, and what purpose does it serve anyway?

Case studies are detailed testimonials that demonstrate how exactly you solved the problems of another company. Sounds great, right? The problem with most case studies is that most of them follow the usual problem-solution-results formula too strictly that it constrains storytelling and engagement.

What I’ll show you here is how to write a case study that actually hooks the reader, piques their interest, and immerses them into a story that they won’t easily forget. This is your best tool for getting your prospect to make a buying decision in your favor.

1. Write your case study to persuade leads to make a buying decision

Case studies show specific examples of how your product or service helped another company. They are an excellent B2B marketing tool to persuade your prospects to make a buying decision. These prospects are already familiar with your industry, the product and service you are offering, have read a white paper or two, and are looking for a specific company to buy from.

Because they are already well into the buying process, they don’t need to read more generic information about the industry, the pain points, and your solution. They already know. At that point, they are usually looking for companies with a proven track record—and a successful one at that.

They are ready to buy, but they want to see that you’ve already solved the exact same problem they’re having. The purpose of your case study is to seal the deal.

2. Select a success story that overcomes a particularly difficult pain point

Once you’ve helped a company overcome one of their most difficult pain points, you have a ready-made success story.

All you need to do is, with your customer’s permission, tell it to similar prospects that are struggling with the same problem.

This is especially powerful because case studies cannot be duplicated.

While everyone could make blog posts talking about what they can do, not everyone can show how they helped a customer with a specific problem and back it up with real results.

If you can collect before and after statistics about their productivity, revenue, and other specific metrics that reflect how your solution helped overcome a problem, you can weave them into your case study. While it is true that the more dramatic the results, the better, you should put these results within the proper context.

When you request permission to write about the customer whom you’ve helped, you can also request the following information from them:

  • Before/after statistics
  • High-resolution company logo
  • Team photos at the office
  • Quotes and verbal testimonials (you may need to interview them for this)

Once you have all of these, you are ready to write a powerful and high-impact case study.

3. Keep it simple with one problem and one solution

Your customer had one problem they needed to solve, and you gave them a solution that helped them solve it. That’s all your case study should be about.

Don’t make the mistake of mixing multiple problems and solutions, or by introducing irrelevant information into the case study. This only muddies up the case study and confuses the reader.

Keep the focus of your case study on one single solution that solves one single pain point. If your solution has indeed solved multiple pain points, create one case study per pain point. The same goes if you have multiple solutions that solve a particular pain point—one case study per solution.

By keeping a narrow focus on one problem and one solution, you are able to directly position your solution as the best solution for that problem.

4. Weave a story with an engaging narrative

Many case study writers make one critical mistake. They structure case studies as a formulaic “problem-solution” document that no one actually reads. This is a perfect way to let juicy opportunities go to waste.

Don’t make the same mistake. Instead, zig while others zag.

Create an engaging short story that people love to read. Of course, it should still follow a problem-solution-results structure that is recognizable to any reader who wants a solution to a specific problem.

While you don’t necessarily have to constrict your writing to such a formulaic way, you don’t want to embellish using half-truths or gross exaggerations either. You’re allowed to let your creativity shine through while drawing a before-after contrast using the statistics and testimonial quotes you’ve collected.

To create a good story that people will actually read, you need:

  1. A good hook to pull the reader’s attention
  2. A hero (the customer, not you)
  3. The goal of your hero-customer
  4. An obstacle (the customer’s pain point)
  5. A wise mentor (your business)

An important point to remember is that your business doesn’t need to swoop down and solve all the customer’s problems, thus infantilizing your customer. Instead, your customer is a hero who overcame a problem with the help of a wise mentor. The wise mentor is you, your business, who offered a solution that helps the hero.

Using these elements, you can put together an engaging plot while clearly spelling out the moral of your case study. You are showing how customers can become a better version of themselves—with your guidance.

5. Don’t forget to promote it!

So you’ve written your case study with the before-after statistics and glowing testimonials all woven into a captivating plot. You’ve made it pretty with your customer’s company logo, a couple of charts and graphs, and some team photos to boot.

Great work! Now you can relax, right?

Not so fast.

It’s not enough to just post it on your website. You need to promote it far and wide. The more you promote it, the more people can see it. The good news is there are many ways you can promote your case study.

If you have an email list, you can send your case study to your list subscribers. You can also publish it on LinkedIn, where your connections will see them. You can tweet a link to your case study on Twitter, allowing your followers to see it.

Provided you have a strategy to promote your marketing materials to the appropriate target market, there is a good chance that many will see your case study as the impetus to make a buying decision in your favor.