- What Is a Case Study & Why Is It Valuable?
- How to Prepare a Case Study: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Step 1: Set Your Objectives
- Step 2: Choose the Perfect Customer (and Get Them on Board)
- Step 3: Compile Your Customer and Story Information
- Step 4: Interview Your Customer (Example Case Study Questions)
- Step 5: Set the Customer’s Expectations
- How to Structure Your Case Study
- 1. Choose a Descriptive and Specific Headline
- 2. Highlight 3-5 Points Summarizing the Story and Its Results
- 3. Include Relevant Images
- 4. Introduce Your Customer
- 5. Describe the Challenge
- 6. Highlight Your Solution
- 7. Shout About the Outcome (Using Data to Illustrate)
- 8. Validate Your Story with a Strong Closing Statement
- Use These Three Case Study Examples for Inspiration
- Household Names: Adobe and The Home Depot
- Small-Business Success: ShipStation and The Burlap Bag
- Helping Customers Help Others: Semrush, Re:signal, and Learning with Experts
- The Bottom Line on Writing Case Studies
What Is a Case Study & Why Is It Valuable?
In the business world, a case study is written or video content that tells the story of a successful customer transaction, relationship, or both.
Case studies combine storytelling and data to offer social proof that your product is a viable solution to your target customers’ problems.
Let’s take Semrush’s SEO case study, “How an SEO Agency Helped an Artisan Bakery Increase Mobile Organic Traffic by 460%.”
It sends a clear message:
Bakeries that don’t get enough mobile traffic can leverage Semrush tools to grow exponentially.
A compelling case study can win you new customers.
Consider it a highly valuable business card—and an honest showcase of your positive impact in action. Which helps you earn the trust of your intended audience.
To really reap the benefits of making case studies part of your content marketing strategy, it’s crucial to know how to write a case study effectively.
In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the essential steps for crafting a case study that can convert your prospects into loyal buyers.
How to Prepare a Case Study: A Step-by-Step Guide
Preparing a case study involves choosing the right customers to feature in your analysis. Plus gathering enough data, quotes, and information to narrate a compelling, real-lifesuccess story.
A great case study will contain five essential elements:
Without proper preparation, your case study won’t have enough details to be strongly relatable, convincing, or reassuring.
To help you streamline your process, use the prep section of our free case study template and follow the suggested research method below.
Step 1: Set Your Objectives
Specificity makes a case study more relatable and, therefore, more effective.
Start by defining the reason you’re presenting this particular story to determine which specific solutions and features to highlight.
For instance, a general objective like “showcase our solution in action” is a good start, but it doesn’t offer a lot of direction.
What, specifically, will you highlight? What results do you hope to achieve?
This is a good place to remember the SMART framework.
Say your business provides customer relationship management (CRM) software. Your overall goal: to expand your reach in the healthcare sector.
If your existing healthcare customers often praise your workflow automation tools, you know automation matters to your target audience. So, efficiency could be an engaging case study topic.
For this case study, your objective may be:
“Show how our workflow automation saved one hospital X hours per week and reduced errors to support our goal of getting 10 more healthcare subscribers by the end of the year.”
Customer interactions and reviews can offer great guidance on which features to spotlight to fulfill your objective.
Look at your high-performing web content for inspiration, too.
If Google Analytics (or an alternative) shows that a blog post on reducing data breach risks is your most popular, you’ll know that your audience values security.
You could build a case study around security credentials to reassure those prospective buyers.
Step 2: Choose the Perfect Customer (and Get Them on Board)
The right subject for your story will play a pivotal role in showcasing your offering—helping you gain an edge over the competition.
A suitable customer is one that:
- Has a compelling story to tell. The customer has had a great experience with your product or a specific feature. They’re pleased with the results and happy to shout about it.
- Is typical of businesses in their sector. The customer is relatable to your target audience. They deal with the same challenges and have similar spending power.
- Is ready and able to talk. You have a strong relationship with this contact. They will help you pull the story together and have the authority to approve content for publishing.
Prioritize customers that came to you after experiencing your competitors—known as switchers. Their stories will highlight your competitive advantages and could sway a buyer who’s comparing options.
Choose a recognizable customer name if you can. This may help readers trust your business’s legitimacy.
For instance, all of Asana’s case studies involve big-name customers.
Image Source: Asana
This is despite the company having more than 139,000 users, many of which are small businesses.
Opt for a mix of business types, industries, and sizes that your company is keen to work with.
For instance, if you typically target sales organizations but want to reach a marketing audience, choose stories with marketing elements or that involve marketing agencies.
Once you’ve decided on a compelling story to feature, get the customer on board by telling them your plan.
Explain that you’ll need some input during the creation process but will do most of the work. Be clear that you’re proud of the relationship you’ve built with them and will use it to inspire others.
If they agree to help, move forward. If they decline, pick another company from your list.
Step 3: Compile Your Customer and Story Information
Write down what you know about your customer, their relationship with your business, and how they’ve used your product. This information will help you plot your success story and identify any knowledge gaps.
Share a live notes document with your relevant team members and encourage their input. They may have additional customer or business insights that could prove useful to the case study.
Include details such as:
- The customer’s background. What does the company do and when was it formed? What is its market position? What are its industry’s classic challenges?
- The exact product they use. What features does your customer use? What plan are they on? A premium account? Do they pay for extra add-ons?
- The date of their first purchase. How long have they been a customer? Loyalty is a powerful case study theme—use it if you can.
- Their interaction history. Support records will show if the customer has overcome issues while using your product. Check your CRM, ticketing system, or email accounts for details.
- The inspirational outcome. What inspired you to choose this customer as a case study subject? It could be a testimonial, a social media post, a passing comment, or direct feedback.
Use what you learn to inspire interview questions for the next step.
Step 4: Interview Your Customer (Example Case Study Questions)
Speak directly to the customer to get any information you don’t already have. Ask questions that will make your case study content engaging and relatable.
Supplement your notes for the previous step with questions that’ll help you fill in the gaps for each section. Such as:
The interview process doesn’t need to be formal. The chat could even form part of a regular catch-up if the timing works.
Record the conversation so you can refer back to it while writing. Like on Zoom.
You may find you can take some direct quotes from your recording. If not, ask the customer for a testimonial you can use in the final content.
Step 5: Set the Customer’s Expectations
Let the customer know your next steps (e.g., writing and editing the content, sourcing direct interview quotations). Explain that you’ll be back in touch if you need any further information.
Provide a timeline so the customer is prepared to review your drafts, give extra detail, and seek further approval if necessary.
Be clear that you won’t take up much of the customer’s time as you don’t want to distract them. If the process were to become demanding for them, you risk souring your relationship.
How to Structure Your Case Study
Follow a standardized process when creating any business case study to ensure you:
- Include all the core elements
- Keep your page content consistent and easily navigable
Follow the instructions in the case study structure section of our free template.
1. Choose a Descriptive and Specific Headline
A case study headline is the first thing readers see. Use yours to grab attention and set readers’ expectations. Otherwise, it could be the only part they see.
A good case study headline answers common questions that go through every reader’s head, like:
- Is this relevant to me?
- What will I learn?
- How will this help my business?
Take this Textel case study:
Image Source: Textel
The business texting platform uses just 77 characters to tell us a story, including:
- Who’s involved (“Valvoline…”)
- What they achieved (“Increases Coupon Send Rate by 76%”)
- How they did it (“with Textel’s MMS Picture Texting”)
From this information, readers can immediately determine whether the content is:
- Relevant: Either using the brand name (e.g., “I recognize this business; are we comparable?”) or the achievement (“I’d also like to increase my business’s coupon send rate”)
- Valuable: An impressive headline stat implies what’s possible for the reader
2. Highlight 3-5 Points Summarizing the Story and Its Results
Include a snapshot of results early on so people are encouraged to keep on reading. You can present them in a bullet list or even as custom icons.
For instance, if the headline in Textel’s case study isn’t enough, their “At a Glance” column allows readers to make sure the content is relevant to them.
Image Source: Textel
Think of it as an executive summary of the main body copy. Putting it together is easy: just go through the finished content and pick out the most important points.
3. Include Relevant Images
Images serve to break up the text and engage readers. Use high-profile logos to communicate status quickly, screenshots of results, images of happy customers, or custom designs.
The Textel example takes up valuable real estate up front with a large image.
It also includes the client’s logo. Valvoline’s chevron will be recognizable to its audience and can help build credibility.
4. Introduce Your Customer
Give your case study context with a short introduction. Background information on the subject will paint a picture of your story’s main character.
Provide customer details such as their industry and product offering, company size, and location. Optional profile additions can include their mission statement and major milestones.
This introduction helps readers care about the actions and achievements they’re preparing to explore. The more relatable your subject is, the more invested readers will be.
In one of its marketing case studies (“Local Hospital’s Social Media Engagement Soars 892%”), marketing agency Captivate introduces its client with basic information on location, history, and purpose.
Image Source: Captivate
From then on, the reader can envisage the organization going through the challenges and receiving the benefits. The case study suddenly feels more real.
The final sentence in Captivate’s introduction adds a human element, encouraging the reader to empathize with the subject:
“On top of treatment, Navicent maintains deep involvement in their community.”
The more color you provide here, the more potentially impactful your case study’s results will be.
5. Describe the Challenge
The beginning of your story should lay out the customer’s problem: their difficult position before finding your product.
Ensure your customer is always the most important figure. Focus too much on yourself, and you’ll jeopardize the sincerity of your case study.
You don’t need to provide a lot of detail here. A couple of short paragraphs should give your outcomes enough context.
Answer important questions like:
- What stood in the way of the customer achieving their goals?
- What were the consequences?
Make the challenge relevant to your target audience by using language they can relate to and including your customer’s words.
Take this case study from Rev:
Image Source: Rev
The copy clearly states that without a reliable transcription service (i.e., Rev’s product), the client wasted time correcting the errors made by automation tech.
Knowing there’s something significant at stake—in this case, employees’ time and students’ learning experiences—gives your audience a reason to continue reading.
Have the customer describe the challenge in their own words. It’s a great way to add honesty and emotion to your story, making it even more engaging and relatable.
6. Highlight Your Solution
This is where your business enters the customer story.
Briefly introduce your product. Explain what it does and what makes it unique, then apply it to the problems your customer was experiencing.
Here’s a hypothetical example:
“Our customer needed IT support for teams in different time zones to avoid service delays. Our 24/7 IT support package meant those teams could get the help they needed at any time, with 30-minute response times guaranteed.”
Talk about which teams or employees benefited from the product and how they used it. Details of any premium features or add-ons create an even clearer picture, ensuring readers understand how to achieve similar results.
However, talk only about features that are relevant to the story’s theme. And link them to specific challenges the reader is likely to face.
Sticking to only one or two features will keep readers focused on what you want them to take away. Otherwise, you risk distracting them.
Also, note that a solution can involve more than just a product’s tangible features.
The reader should know that your personalized service helped the customer’s business achieve something faster. Or that your smooth onboarding process minimized their disruption.
If someone reading your case study has experienced bad service before, this knowledge might persuade them to convert.
7. Shout About the Outcome (Using Data to Illustrate)
Data is the best way to illustrate impact. It allows readers to tangibly compare their experiences with your customer’s.
All effective case studies have a happy ending. Explain how your customer is better off than before using your product, with real data to prove your point.
We use a lot of data in the artisan bakery SEO case study we mentioned earlier.
Stats appear in the text (e.g., “By that time organic traffic to the bakery website had already increased by 214%”), but we also designed an infographic to make our achievements stand out:
Plus, we included more data to make our project’s outcome as tangible as possible for our readers.
These are the types of charts and graphs our audience (marketing agencies) is familiar with. The positive data in our case study is a clear demonstration of what’s possible with Semrush’s support.
8. Validate Your Story with a Strong Closing Statement
Summarize your results and get readers thinking about the next steps by showing where the featured client is heading now they’ve solved the problem. Don’t forget to include a call to action (CTA).
Include an individual/employee name, job title, and first-hand comments to humanize your case study content.
You can weave customer comments throughout the piece to validate or expand your points. A direct quotation is also a great way to end your case study.
If they didn’t during your interview, ask your customer to summarize your product’s and your relationship’s impact on their business.
Global IT management platform Hofy uses a fully interview-based case study format. This final comment from its customer acts as a highly effective conclusion:
Image Source: Hofy
Key messages here include:
- Hofy’s unrivaled level of service
- The customer has no regrets
- The customer explicitly says, “I’m happy. Everyone’s happy. The users are super happy.”
Allowing your customer to conclude your case study gives readers one final reminder that this is an honest account involving a real, comparable business.
If the comment is a glowing review like Hofy’s, it could even act as a subtle CTA.
Use These Three Case Study Examples for Inspiration
Captivating case studies from other businesses can provide valuable ideas for how to write a case analysis for your brand. Tips may include:
- Specific case study topics to cover
- The tone of voice you want to use
- Your case study’s visual layout
- Accompanying imagery to enhance your analysis
Here are three examples of great case study content to get you started.
Household Names: Adobe and The Home Depot
Adobe carried out an in-depth case study of a highly successful customer.
Image Source: Adobe
The first part alone has enough to engage and intrigue the reader:
- A snappy headline
- Three impressive takeaway stats
- A customer quotation and image
- A list of the products The Home Depot used
It then details all of the most important story elements in around 2,000 words.
There are quotes throughout, explanations of achievements, and some impressive outcome figures at the end.
Key takeaways from this case study:
- Real customer headshots add a human element to your case studies
- Opening with a direct quote immediately emphasizes the customer, where your focus should be
- Internal links to product pages allow inspired readers to learn more about your offerings
Small-Business Success: ShipStation and The Burlap Bag
ShipStation appeals to its small-business audience in this case study of its work with the primarily soy candle selling store.
Image Source: ShipStation
It summarizes the story using a small takeaway section on the right, allowing readers to check the relevance of this content quickly.
Then, it explains the relationship in more detail using text, feel-good imagery, and embedded social media content.
Key takeaways from this case study:
- Video content can complement text to offer more authenticity
- You can set the tone with your choice of imagery
- Sometimes, all it takes is one impressive statistic to grab attention (“95% quicker label printing”)
Helping Customers Help Others: Semrush, Re:signal, and Learning with Experts
In this case study, we look beyond the immediate impact of our product. And explore how one of our partners has used Semrush tools to enhance its service.
By doing so, we appeal to marketing agencies that aim to deliver high-quality customer experiences.
Our analysis uses simple language throughout. We illustrate our main points with metrics and screenshots that our target readers will immediately understand.
Key takeaways from this case study:
- A desirable headline statistic (59% organic traffic increase) inspires audiences to learn more
- Basic client introductions help set the scene and invite readers to relate quickly
- A scannable table of contents tells your target customer what to expect
The Bottom Line on Writing Case Studies
While nailing how to write a business case study can take time, it’s an incredibly effective way of showing prospective customers you have the best solution to their problems.
Real-life examples and accounts of your product in action can instill trust in ways that other types of content can’t. They consolidate your reputation and make buyers more likely to convert.
So, maintain strong customer relationships, apply relevant market insights, look to other brands for inspiration, and follow the processes in this guide. The result: engaging, results-driven case studies to help your business grow.