Here’s a thing: people aren’t particularly interested in cold, hard factsheets about how you deliver your business. Same with history, processes or mission. In fact, most of the time they don’t even care what services you offer.
What they are interested in is improving things.
By that I mean being more efficient, better at what they do, or doing the right thing. They like eliminating obstacles and challenges – anything that holds them back. They want cures, but even more so prevention – finding and fixing problems they might not even be aware of yet.
So with this fact in mind, ask yourself a question:
How do your case studies look in light of this knowledge?
Do they give people what they really want? Or do you offer cold, hard, factual accounts of times you delivered outstanding service? Plus a few features and benefits, and maybe a client testimonial quote for good measure?
If you’re anything like everyone everywhere, I suspect your case studies are the latter.
Don’t worry though – you aren’t the first (and certainly won’t be the last) person whose case studies are way off the mark.
My job is to fix this problem, and now I’ll do just that.
First, let’s rethink what case studies are
Most people think they’re just evidence to back up claims that you’re good at what you do. When case studies get written, authors have just one thing in mind: sales. So their focus is demonstrating competence, features and benefits, statistics, and glowing endorsements.
Sorry, but this just isn’t good enough anymore. Especially in a high-value, information economy, where readers are ever short of attention. We must give new purpose to your case studies if they’re to work the magic they’re really capable of.
Our new objective is to engage with the right people on issues that matter to them. And your case studies should be useful in such a way as to help people – to educate, inform and inspire them. They’ll be honest and transparent, forging stronger, trusting relationships because of it,
Let’s call these people readers, your audience or prospective clients and customers – for the purpose of this article they’re one and the same thing.
Now, try a different perspective
As writers of case studies, it’s on us to get read and engage with readers. And to do that we must write in a way that presses all the right buttons. We must give readers is what they so badly crave – all that problem-solving, thought-provoking insight described earlier.
How? This all comes down to how you frame and focus your case study.
Right now, average case studies are framed in terms of your company, your processes, your achievements. And quite probably those of the business whose problem you solved. The focus is a successful outcome – so that’s what the case study showcases.
When we choose what goes into a case study, what we write about, and the conclusions we draw from it – everything gets presented through that frame and focus. And all too often, the framing is from the outside – written from your perspective, and the focus is on the final outcome.
We need to alter our frame and focus to meet our new objective.
Try this. Frame your case studies from the perspective of a specific kind of person you’d like to do more business with. Chances are it’s an ideal customer. Pick one now. Write about a problem they faced from their perspective (rather than objectively from the outside), and the journey they took to get things resolved.
Your case studies should put questions like these to your subject (the client or customer you helped):
- What did it feel like to have this problem?
- How did they weigh up their options?
- Why did they try outside help?
- Why did they choose you?
- What was it like working together?
- What obstacles did you run into?
- Did you have any profound realisations?
- What did everyone learn from the experience?
- What would they say to people in a similar position?
Notice how our perspective has shifted
Because we’ve framed things from the inside, our focus is on the personal journey towards fixing a problem, and how that developed in the context of a nurturing relationship. That’s much more aligned with the worldview of prospective clients. They’re far more likely to identify with that, than what it’s like to be you, and you delivering your product.
The outcome (a successfully delivered service) still forms part of the conclusion. But it’s much more of a happy byproduct of the right people working together on the right kind of project (= sustainable business model). Plus, think of all the insight we’ve shared along the way – the kind of advice our readers crave.
A quick example
I write case studies for someone who coaches creative people. If I wrote traditional case studies, I’d write about the workshops people attend and why they’re structured in a certain way. I’d explain the mentoring process and how it’s customised. Then I’d describe the business outcomes of people who attended. It’d read (boringly) like this:
‘Jane is a graphic designer struggling to find work. We recommended our coaching course, and three weeks later she boosted leads from X per week to Y.’
Instead, I write human stories about delegates – their lives before, during and after the coaching. We explore how they’ve developed as people – their wider creative evolution. As well as the insight they picked up along the way, and what they’d say to people in a similar position. You can read an example of a case study I wrote here.
Using the new perspective I suggest above, we’ve written something that resonates deeply with readers, because they’re also on a similar journey. Our case study is now a vehicle for conveying our shared worldview.
It also just so happens that as a case study copywriter I love doing all this. Like learning new things, sharing that knowledge and helping people using my expertise. Because my client does that too, we end up with case studies that come across as genuine (because they are). We’re drawing in the right kind of people with a similar worldview, thanks to sharing a worldview just like ours.
The premise emerging here is that you’re best placed to serve the right kind of clients. By writing about the ‘right kind of clients’ you already have, new ‘right kind of people’ see themselves reflected back when they read these case studies.
Brilliant case studies give something back
I accept that writing insightful case studies isn’t easy. They take time and skill to write. Then you’ve got planning, research and knowing how to conduct the right kind of interview (if you want a really authentic case study – do this!). Not everyone is lucky enough to have that, which is why they hire copywriters like me to take care of everything.
Yet if you’re handy with words, it is possible to capture the essence of what I’m advocating here, and improve the case studies you’ve already got. I’d wager all that’s missing is that bit about the journey; what it’s like to be a client of yours. Just give your readers a perspective they’re more likely to identify with.
Look at what value is in there too – have you used your case studies to share helpful advice – the kind you’re best placed to deliver?
If you think about it, a case study is just another way for you to do what you enjoy most: solving problems for people, and finding fulfilment in making their lives better.
So aim to share genuine stories about the world as you see it, through the eyes of like-minded clients and customers. Share insight on how you helped someone help themselves. That way readers can recreate that same success, by collaborating with you and spreading the good word to breed more of the same.
Do that and you’ll write brilliant, magnetic case studies that cultivate more of the right kind of business.