Case Studies

Case Study: The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a case study as "an intensive analysis of an individual unit (as a person or a community – and, may I add, 'thing') stressing developmental factors in relation to environment." In the world of marketing and content management, this simply means a detailed analysis of a company, project or item that describes its earlier state, explains the factors that lead to failure or success and then documents the result.

For business professionals, the Case Study is one of the best ways to really demonstrate for clients and potential clients that you know what you are doing. In today's business climate, case studies are critical pieces that are very popular and eagerly devoured. That's also why there are so many of them out there.

Writing a Case Study

The key to writing a case study is to give the reader an insight they can use, an approach they can try or a principle they can apply.

Many case studies today have a big problem. It’s not with their information but their style. The study can be so dry, lifeless and abstract that it holds little appeal in the competitive world of content development.

When composing a case study, you’re writing a story, not just presenting statistics and analytics. Think of developing a case study like you would follow a recipe.

Ingredients of a Good Case Study

A good case study is a blend of a number of different ingredients including:

  • Analysis – the actual figures, facts and metrics from before, during and after
  • Personality – how you approached the project; your care, integrity, interaction, etc.
  • Ingenuity – the resourcefulness and creativity used in the project
  • Resources – the tools, skills and due diligence applied to the project

Instructions – How to Write the Study

They key to every Case Study is very simple: Tell the Story!

  1. Before: Begin with the original situation (emphasizing pain, problems, obstacles, challenges, etc.) that your client faced. Use any analytics and other measurable data to provide further understanding or insight into the situation they faced. This is where you can talk about personality –you’re your company approached the project – as well as ingenuity – some of the creative ideas that you initially brought to the project.
  2. During: Next, describe the steps you followed in solving the problem. This is where you can really talk about your resourcefulness and creativity as well as documenting the resources you had available both in tools and skills. Be sure to document any smaller issues that developed or problems that were solved along the way. This also is a great place to describe how your company worked with their client during the process, which let’s readers know what they could expect.
  3. After: Now it’s time to document the results. Be sure to describe how the project looked when it was finally resolved and the what the outcome looks like. This must involve analytics as well as a description.
  4. After action report: A case study isn’t complete until you summarize any lessons learned, any new approaches and why they worked plus other insights that might benefit the reader. Be sure to place a call to action at the end.

How Long Should The Case Study Be?

The challenge with most case studies is to do all of the above but keep the content short; normally try to hold them between 500 and 900 words. If they are used for a portfolio section on a website, they need to be much shorter than that, no more than 150 to 200 words.

For further thought

For case studies, remember that everyone loves a good story. When you put some life in your case study, readers will stay with you and get the message. They will also respond.

Also, case studies have a long shelf life and can be expanded. You can always go back and add additional information showing the longevity of your solution and longer-term metrics.

Next week – A Wrap-up on Content Marketing