Some of my friends say, “Dude, you’re a headcase.” And you know what? They’re not too far off. I can be. A headcase is something that a psychologist would study, but I want to talk about a case study for your business and why it’s important to make a case with a case study.
What’s a case study?
Well, a case study often gets confused with a white paper. A white paper is something that provides benefits and rationale for the implementation of a proposed solution. Yeah, I didn’t write that. But a case study actually gives examples of how a solution has fixed a problem. I constantly ask businesses to tell me what their solution is to a client’s problem. From there, you should have a story that you tell. And that’s what a case study does, it’s a story. It’s not a press release and it shouldn’t be advertising, and more importantly, it shouldn’t be about you.
A case study is generally about a client that you worked with and how you helped them. Not every company will allow you to use their name in the final report, but you can generalize it. That’s what I did in the case study that I just finished. It will give the sense of what their problem was, what the solution is, and what the results were. So when we look at a case study, it’s like a story.
The Hero’s Journey
Maybe you’ve heard of something called “The Hero’s Journey”. The hero’s journey is kind of the cornerstone of every movie that’s ever been out there. You could think of Star Wars or Rocky or something like that, where somebody has a normal life and then all of a sudden they’re faced with a challenge. And then they end up finding a mentor and the mentor helps them grow through this challenge. And then they’re faced with the big fight scene, where they overcome the big obstacle and then their life changes and they invent a new normal.
As grandiose as that sounds, that’s basically what a case study is. A company has a normal world, but they face a problem, and you, as the service provider become the mentor. But the story is really about the challenge and how they overcome it. Problem, solutions, and results are the formula that I use in the case studies that I create.
Building The Case
The case study I recently completed started out as a graphic. In my book, the Bacon System, I talk about the marketing trifecta. The marketing trifecta tells you that first, you have a killer website, and then you have to understand the site analytics, and finally, you have to constantly create some content. That content should drive traffic back to the website and then the analytics is used to measure the effectiveness of it. There are some additional parts to the complete system. You have to get the content out there, so how do you do that?
Well, you distribute it via email and social media. Both of those drive traffic back to the website and you measure the effectiveness of those with the analytics. So is the content good? Is the social media good? How is it all working together as a system?
In the case study, I break down each one of those pieces and broke it into a problem, solution, and results. So with the website, what was the problem that was hampering new business? What was the solution to those problems and what were the final results? Then it was the same with analytics and then I went on to content marketing, Finally, I talked about email and social media and how all of that worked like a complete system. In the original graphic I created, I also dug into LinkedIn. It was the missing link to the biggest problem with that B2B company. They wanted a way to effectively use their marketing to help them generate more sales.
Closing The Broken Link
It’s one thing to get somebody back to your website, but is it much harder to convert visitors into sales conversations considering purchasing? So there, I added two additional pieces and that started with relationship building. This was achieved through training their sales team on how to set up and use LinkedIn the right way. The training also concentrated on using that content inside of LinkedIn to generate conversations.
That case study, in its entirety, broke down a fairly complex ecosystem and defined the problem, solution, and results in a step-by-step strategy. Step one defined the problem with the website. What was the solution to the problem, and what was the result? And then we moved on to the analytics and went through the same steps of a problem, solutions, and results with content marketing. Now readers could follow along just like they would in a movie or a hero’s journey.
Bring It Home & Tie It Together
At the very end of the case study, there’s a summary of everything that came out of it. What was the result of taking this entire system and making it work?
Each case and study will be different. Yours may not be that complex, or it could be more complex, but the key thing I want you to try to remember is to keep it simple. Make it readable, make it enjoyable, and most importantly, make it about the client and the results Remember, it’s not about you.
That’s one of the hardest things to do. You want to show your work but not brag or give away your 11 herbs and spices (or recipe). Next, you need to use data and you may want to use charts and stats. Then, you want to make them real and realistic. Finally, you don’t want to oversell it. We all know that statistics can be set up to benefit the statistician, but you want to use realistic numbers that make sense and are repeatable with other clients
The next thing that you want to do is use graphics. I started out with that graphic and then I took pieces of it and interjected it throughout the entire case study. Then I added more where it made sense and blended it all together into a cohesive package.
The other thing that you want to do is you want to generate hope. You want to make somebody feel empathy for the client, but also the hope that they could learn something from this and they could maybe implement it as well. The bottom line is you want the reader to feel akin to the success. You don’t want to make them feel bad for their past mistakes. You want to encourage them to have a conversation with you about how you can help them or someone they know. That’s the whole point of creating the case study in the first place!
Here are some things that you definitely should not do. Number one, don’t bash any of the past players. Number two, don’t exaggerate your numbers, make it real. And number three, try to make it entertaining and keep it short.
With creating your case study, it is truly a story and a journey. What was the challenge that you and the customer faced at the beginning? What did they have to overcome? How did your mentoring or your services get them to that point of satisfaction? And what changed in their business, what was the end result? How did it change the way that they were able to do business?
Ultimately, if you’re in the B2B world, you’re hoping that the client is going to have continued success and in the end, what you want people to do is tell others, “You’ve got to read this case study.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about case studies. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?