Say your business has some great client stories, and you’d love to write them out to share with prospective clients, sponsors or funding bodies. Except, you don’t know how to make your case studies interesting enough to help you promote your achievements effectively.
Maybe you’re dying to let the world know how you’ve helped your clients solve their problems, and how satisfied your clients say they are with your products or services.
And maybe you feel it’s just not good enough to simply copy and paste their testimonials.
You want new prospects to read the background behind each job so that they can see how much you care about your clients.
And you know they would love to read these stories (which, by the way, can help convert them into customers).
But how do you improve your case study to help you tell these great stories?
In this article, I share some ideas to help you achieve this.
Rethink why you’re writing the case study
Put simply, we write this type of case study because we want readers to understand “how” and “why” the solution provided to the client worked, and “why” the client was satisfied with that solution.
We want to know five main things:
- What made the client come to you?
- Why did you recommend the solution that you did?
- How did you implement this solution?
- What results did you achieve with this solution?
- Why did the client say your solution was appropriate?
This is what I like to call “what you did to get the client from here to there”, where here is where the client has a problem that needs solving, and there is where the client is happy that their problem has been solved.
I also say case study writing is really writing a story about what you did to bring happiness to the client.
Even better, here’s a funky equation you can use:
Smart Decision(s) + Best Solution(s) = Fantastic Result(s) = Happiness
It’s super simple.
For example, you’re a landscaper and you’ve designed a beautiful garden for a client who is so happy with the work you’ve done.
Tell us what you did to bring happiness to the client.
With the “what you did to get the client from here to there” sorted, it’s time to start improving what you’re writing.
Only cover one problem-solution per story
Some businesses will have clients who need multiple problems solved. That’s a fantastic opportunity for you.
However, when writing your case study, it’s better to keep it simple. Avoid cramming multiple stories into one case study. Instead, write multiple case studies.
I’ve found the best way to write a case study is to focus on a single experience for that client.
This means if John Smith first needed a new house built and then a year later asked for a new pool house, write one case study about the house build project, and then another about the pool house project.
The reason I recommend splitting the two is you want to spend your time and effort showcasing each solution properly. This way, the prospect reading the case study can get the complete story clearly, without unnecessary information about some other solution they don’t need.
Ideally, you want to target the right audience … the prospect who wants a house.
You want him to say:
“I want an amazing house that functions how I want it to … John Smith says these guys built him an amazing house that functions how he wants it to … These guys sound like they can build my house … Aha! I should call these guys!”
If you included the pool house project into the same case study, the prospect who only cares about getting a new house will ignore the bit about the pool. That’s because he’s not your ideal pool client.
I’d leave the pool story for pool clients.
Plus, the more stories, the more content to share with your audience.
Only use a multiple-case story when…
The only times that I recommend using the multiple-case design is when you have multiple clients who all needed the same solution or a client who needed the same solution across different areas.
Here’s what I mean:
Multiple clients who all needed the same solution: An example would be you invented a new software that you sold to 10 different organisations. Tell us about this new software, why it was needed, what problem it solved for these organisations, and so on.
A client who needed the same solution across different areas: An example would be you designed a unique software for an organisation and delivered it to all its regional offices. Each team also needed their software customised to suit their unique activities. Your case study would be broken into mini case studies because you want to show us how each branch adapted the software.
Now that you know how when to select single versus multiple stories, my next piece of advice is about asking questions to extract stories.
Interview your clients
As a professional case study writer, I don’t like sending a questionnaire to clients and asking them structured questions for my case studies.
A good case study interviewer should be able to create rich dialogue and ask questions that extract useful information. You can do this over the phone, in person, via Skype, or through some other video conferencing tool.
You’d be amazed how much clients are willing to open up if you’re having a live dialogue with them.
If you haven’t done this part before, I’m going to recommend an easy solution…
Consider having a conversation with another business owner who has just finished helping a client of their own.
Use an app on your mobile phone to record the conversation.
During this conversation, ask questions that would help you understand what they did for that client. Don’t stop asking until you’ve heard enough about the story.
Some of the questions could be:
- Why did the client come to you?
- What problems were they facing before they came to you?
- What had they already tried before they came to you?
- Did they try other services before they came to you?
- What happened? Why were they unhappy?
- Which solution did you have in mind right away? Why was that a good solution?
- Is that the solution you went on to provide? Why? Why not?
And so on.
Another tip is to learn to listen for useful information, as well as cues so you can to dig deeper. You need to be flexible with your questions. That’s because it’s impossible to predict how the conversation will go.
So, even if you wrote down some questions before your conversation, you can ask additional questions to get the answers you want. If you’re not good at listening, you will miss the opportunity to ask more questions.
It’s what and how you ask that will determine the answer you receive.
This exercise will help you come up with the insightful questions to ask your own clients. Once you have your questions, sharpen them by removing the fluffs and making sure they’re clear.
If your business has unique stories that can help you attract new clients, then I highly recommend writing some case studies. The tips that I’ve shared will help you write interesting stories and sharpen your story angle.
This way, you can focus on the important stuff that prospects would want to know.
Remember, sometimes you may have a lot you’d want to write about, and sometimes not much at all. Don’t worry too much about the number of words per case study.
Just keep it succinct, relevant and interesting.