Create Your Own Lead-Generating Case Study
Give your business the Credibility Advantage.
Give your business the Credibility Advantage.
Have you thought about adding case studies to your marketing mix?
The truth is, case studies give you a strong credibility advantage over your competitors, when you do them the right way.
People view case studies as editorial, not promotional, content. That means they pay more attention and are more likely to believe you.
Case studies allow you to answer several objections from your prospects in just one narrative. You’ll demonstrate how you work, what makes your approach unique, and how you make complex challenges seem easy.
You can DIY your case study or take just a few steps to save substantially if you hire a writer.
But a lot of business owners feel overwhelmed by this project. I've heard concerns like these:
“Aren’t case studies just for academics and big businesses?”
“I have absolutely no idea where to start.”
“Are they worth the effort?”
Case studies accomplish many of your marketing goals...including some that can't be achieved any other way.
What is a case study?
A case study is a special version of a client success story. You write about a client who faced a critical challenge. The problem should be something central to their business, with significant threats to the company’s bottom line if they don’t solve the problem.
Maybe they’ve tried other solutions. Maybe they’ve been living with the problem way too long and they’re already seeing cracks in the surface.
First and foremost, your case study is your client’s story, not yours.
It’s told in third person, through the voice of a key executive or owner of the client company. The company’s representative becomes the hero. You and your company play a supporting role.
Case studies begin with the struggle.
I’ve seen case studies that begin with the client company’s history, but you need to hook your reader very early in the process. Which is better:
“Mary had founded her consulting company ten years earlier, after finishing her MBA at University of North Carolina and serving time with McKinsey as a project leader. She had a vision for a boutique company that specialized in project management for startups, based in her home town of Raleigh.”
That’s not bad. It’s the way many academic case studies begin. But for a marketing case study, let’s cut to the chase.
“Mary was still at her desk at midnight, trying to find a miracle in the accounting spreadsheets. The spreadsheets stubbornly reported the same numbers, over and over. Mary’s company had just lost three of their biggest clients. She knew she might have to close her doors if she didn’t find a way to build new revenue streams in the next 30 days. Her staff had, one by one, tiptoed nervously into her office to let her know they were considering other opportunities.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to know how Mary turned things around.
By the end of a case study, your reader should identify with your hero.
They should saying to themselves “I want the same kind of outcome as Mary.” They’re imagining you coming to their offices, or conferencing remotely, to work together on solving their problem.
So how do we get a case study that meets these requirements? I’ve outlined the process in 7 steps.
STEP 1 – Clarify your purpose.
Why will a case study be particularly beneficial to your clients? Do you want to
…walk them through the way you solve complex challenges
…demonstrate your unique system (which you normally introduce through a diagram that just confuses people)
…demonstrate your knowledge of a particular industry (which can be anything from life coaching to dog walking to bitcoin consulting)
Example: Jane is a financial consultant. She wants to demonstrate how she helps clients find new sources of funds for growth. She could have case studies to show how she….
…worked with a client who didn’t have the usual criteria to attract lenders
…worked with a client whose company is so unusual it scares off lenders
STEP 2 – Choose the client and the problem for your case study.
You’ll need a problem that has
…. a big impact on bottom line.
… enough complexity and challenge to generate a story
… a clear outcome that’s directly associated with your service (no coincidences or fairy godmothers allowed)
STEP 3 – Get the client on board.
Most clients will be thrilled when you invite them to participate. Be ready to spell out the surprising benefits they'll receive, too.
Get the client’s permission in writing and assure them you'll make sure they approve the draft.
Have a list of things they’ll need to provide. For example, you might want to use photos or logos.
Make an appointment for the first interview. Explain to the client that you may need to add or subtract people from the interview list.
4 – Write the interview questions.
Begin with the end in mind. Tailor your questions to the flow of he case story.
Use open-ended questions – but never ask “why.”
This one’s important: Don’t stick to your question list fanatically. Build in ways to respond to surprising insights and developments.
If you work with a copywriter who will write up the case for you, make sure you show the questions to the copywriter before you conduct the interviews. You’ll avoid asking unnecessary questions, so you save time, and you’ll get the information you need early in the process.
5 – Conduct the interviews.
As a copywriter, I’ve been handed transcripts of interviews with no content, or with content that’s irrelevant. You (and your copywriter) can’t create a case study out of air! An experienced case writer can save you from many pitfalls, especially if this is your first case.
Record the interviews. This should be non-negotiable.
Have a list of essential questions as well as some extras.
Make sure the interviewee feels comfortable. Avoid scheduling the interview just before they have to leave for a meeting. If you're conducting in-person interviews, use their office, where they feel they're hosting you.
Advise every interviewee, “We may have follow-up questions later.” Usually they've been enjoying the process so much, they'll be happy to help out.
6 – Write the first draft.
If you’ve done steps 1-5 this one will be easy.
Use a story format, beginning with the protagonist in trouble. Keep the past fast.
Emphasize the importance of the problem.
Don’t make the story about you.
Present a realistic but exciting outcome - something the reader will relate to. This is where you get the "I want what she's having" moment.
7 – Package the case study with an appealing title, landing page or blurb.
Choose a title that clearly shows the story line. The format should be, “How X Company Used X To Solve Their Big Problem (Without A, B or C)”
In our first example, Mary could be the subject of a case study titled, “How the Smith Consulting Company Tripled Their Cash Flow (Without Adding More Clients).” The answer might be related to new educational and speaking programs.
We could do much better in real life.
We’ve covered the basics but barely scratched the surface. For your first case study, you may save time and create a knock-your-socks-off case study with just a little support from someone who’s been there.
I’m Cathy Goodwin. I wrote, published and taught many case studies as an academic. As a marketing strategist, I’ve written case studies for my business and for my clients in the US and overseas.
I can work with you one-on-one.
I’m happy to write your case and/or coach you through writing DIY.
Go to http://cathygoodwin.com/contact to send me a message.
You can sign up for my home study course:
...detailed checklists to decide if your client's challenge will make a compelling case study before you dive in and start asking questions
... templates for asking questions and guidelines for departing from the script
... specific strategies to invite your client to participate, get their written permission, and show them the benefits of working with you
... my own framework to reverse-engineer your case study to generate interview questions that make the case study practically write itself.
... my own hard-won tips for making the interview smooth and enjoyable for you and the interviewee (and avoid time-wasting detours that happen so easily)
... templates for getting started when you're ready to do the writing (blank page syndrome doesn't work the same way when you're writing a case study)
This course is still under construction. You can buy at the preview price and you will get bonuses.
"In just 90 minutes Cathy helped me find the perfect story for my new business...
WHY I CREATED THIS PROGRAM
My name is Cathy Goodwin. I’ve been helping clients grow their businesses for over a decade, as a copywriter, branding consultant and strategist.
Small businesses face unique challenges in marketing themselves to potential clients.
You need to show why you're the best solution to your client's challenges, yet remain thoroughly professional. And your services are too complex to explain at just one sitting.
The truth is, you gain a significant marketing advantage through storytelling.
And you gain an unbeatable (some say unfair) advantage when you tell the right story.
Your case study gives you an opportunity to tell the right story the right way. You'll get your story into the hands of your best, most influential clients. And you'll come across as totally professional.
Go to http://CathyGoodwin.com/contact to begin building your own marketing advantage. You can also leave a text message at
I look forward to joining you on the journey!