It’s unfortunately true that not all case studies are successful. As I read and research case studies, it’s usually not hard to see why. The top three reasons, in my opinion, that case studies fail to live up to their potential as powerful marketing tools are these:
1. The case study was not a true representative example for the audience.
It all goes back to knowing your audience. It’s true for any marketing collateral; you must know your audience and speak to them about their needs in their language. That’s the only way you’re going to get their attention. If the case study was not a match by industry, size, or type of problem to the target audience, it may be of some interest, but it won’t make a big impact on the right people. If you’re targeting both business and technical decision makers, you can include high level “results” information and technical details in the same case study, but you can only write about one client’s problem in each case study. Make sure it’s a good match for your desired target audience.
2. The case study did not provide enough detail about the customer and their situation.
It’s all about the back story, the context of how the customer came to have the problem, and what they were trying to do to solve it that wasn’t working, until you came along. You want your target customer to empathize with the problem so they can experience the relief, albeit vicariously, that your customer experienced in having their problem solved. Your audience isn’t going to know unless you put the problem in context, showing exactly how your customer went from A to B, and how much of their success was due to your solution (making your company all the more the hero).
3. The case study did not provide enough information about the solution.
The story is in the details. A generalized case study will not tell a unique story, will not have a focus, and will leave the reader with that “so what” feeling. In trying to be succinct and focus on the main points, sometimes too many details are sacrificed. There can be a fine line between too little and just enough information. How much is enough? A good writer has an instinct for what it takes to tell a compelling story. It requires gathering information from multiple sources and asking a lot of questions. If every case study starts to sound alike, you know you have a problem. You might as well have a brochure. Find out how the solution was implemented, how the customer integrated the solution into their day-to-day work life, and what was their actual return on investment. Also consider what questions readers might have about the solution. Provide enough detail to bring the solution to life and in doing so, you’ll ensure that you have a unique story.
Are there other pitfalls in writing case studies? There are, but if you focus on preventing these three, you’ll avoid other pitfalls as well.