Case studies are popular today. They have likely always been popular. That may seem surprising because there is obvious bias when a company creates a case study for potential customers to read. Those customers know they are likely not getting the full story. They know that it’s probably going to be overly positive.
But case studies are still sought after by customers. They want to know what to expect from the brand. They want to get an idea for how their needs may fit with the solution the company is offering. And even if the study is about another type of business, the story can have a way of allowing the reader to see themselves in the same or similar situation.
That story is important. It’s probably the most important aspect of a case study.
Here are a few tips for telling a story with your case studies…
1. Initial Attention Grabbing Anecdote
I like what autobiographies typically do these days. They start with an attention grabbing anecdote that kind of immediately puts the reader into the world of the protagonist. You can do the same with your case studies. You could share a story about how you were working with a client and suddenly there was a breakthrough and you worked through the night on the solution because you were so excited.
Think back on the relationship with the client. Identify a key moment that occurred and use it to start the case study with a few paragraphs that recap what happened.
2. Background Info
After the initial anecdote, start going into the background information. It’s a fine balance of not divulging too many details to the point of boring the reader, but also providing enough information so the reader understands what is happening.
You can share a little about what the company was doing in their early days and growth days and up to the point where they started working with you.
You’re looking to give the reader a good understanding of who the client was that you worked with.
3. The Big Challenge
Perhaps the biggest key to a case study is identifying the big challenge. This is the reason the client was in need of what you were selling. Try to explain this challenge from the perspective of the client as much as possible. You can also add your point of view.
You’re looking to connect with readers that can put themselves into the same or similar situation. They can read it and have that “a-ha moment” where they feel like they are having the same issue as this other person was.
4. The Solution
And then you want to discuss the solution you provided. Do it as honestly as you can. Just work on telling the sequence of events. The more you stick to the facts the less bias there will be. The more you try to pump up the results the more people are likely to click away and look for other solutions.
It’s a tricky thing, but you can’t go wrong if you stick with the facts as much as possible. Not underselling, but not overselling.
5. One Sentence Stories
Finally, look at creating a case study that is about 1-2 pages long in PDF form. You can go shorter or longer in certain instances, but there is usually an acceptable length for a case study.
And from that I would recommend creating short, one sentence case studies. These can be used as little intros to the full case studies. They can sometimes even tell the full story with just one sentence. It’s not easy, but when you pull it off it can be really effective.
This is one method for creating a story within your case studies. You can tweak it to fit your style and your audience. I would recommend looking at your favorite stories. They could be books or films or something else. These are stories and many times you’ll notice themes and story arcs. Use those as inspirations for your case studies. But be sure to stay within the structure and length of common case studies. People have certain unwritten rules about all mediums including case studies.