• By Galen O'Hanlon
  • 14th July 2015

How to write a case study that doesn’t suck

Give your case studies a bit of bite: cut them short, make them work harder, and you'll reap results.  

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Writing a case study should be a simple thing, as should reading one. It needs to tell a simple story: ‘we helped a company solve a problem and get results’. Case studies make great content for your website: at their best they show exactly what you do, how you do it, and why it works. Nothing explains what you do better than a real-life example.

But most case studies suck. They turn into long-winded, boring, meticulous run-downs of who did what when, and how it all plodded out to completion. Here are eight ways to write a case study that doesn’t suck:

1. Stick to what’s interesting and useful

Think of your reader – and the absolute core things they need to know. Do they need to know that Janet arranged the meeting? No. Do they need to know that you sorted out timescales, phase plans, and strategy? Maybe. Do they need to know that it took just three short meetings and a week to get the project done? Yes.

2. Keep it short

If you stick to what’s interesting and useful, then your case study will be shorter anyway. Read through the first draft and comb out everything that isn’t entirely necessary – there’s nothing worse than trawling through a case study that could have told the same story in a quarter of the space.

3. Leave out the history

‘The Big Lights Company was founded in 1909, on a sunny day in September. In 1959 Bill, the founder, died, leaving behind three children and his beloved dog. It wasn’t until 2015 that the company decided to expand its offering to include light fittings as well as lights, which is when they contacted us.’ Leave it out. Nobody cares.

4. But do make sure there is a story

Pick out the single most important bit of information – ‘we helped this company increase sales by 500%’ – and make that the focus point. Put all the crucial bits in the first paragraph, and explain anything complex later on.

5. Give it a headline and subheaders

Whatever you do, don’t call it ‘Company case study 1’. Boil the whole story down into a headline, so if your reader gets no further they know pretty much what happened.

6. Follow an arc: this is the problem, this is what we did to solve it.

You don’t have to be chronological in your write up. Often the most interesting parts of your project will happen later on – or after the project is completed. Break it down in the problem, the solution, and how you made it all work.

7. Include pictures

You must have pictures. Seriously. If it’s a digital project, screenshots may have to do. Ask your client for some images – or nip round and take some yourself. Your picture doesn’t have to be literal – it doesn’t need to illustrate exactly what you did. If what you do isn’t very photogenic, then just use an image to give a suggestion, a bit of context – and an all-important bit of colour. For instance, here's a tiger that's just about had it with your boring case studies. 

8. Call to action

What’s the point of this case study in the first place? To demonstrate what you do, and get more customers to buy it. If you’ve followed steps 1-7, then your reader thinks you’re pretty great right now, so get them to do something – sign up to the newsletter, get in touch, buy buy buy.

Got a case study that sucks? Send it to us, and we’ll sort it out

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