How to Write a Good Case Study [Free Template]
Referrals are a powerful tool for attracting valuable new business. One way you can tap into this power is through case studies that highlight your client's challenges and how you solved them. These indirect referrals become powerful marketing materials you can leverage to help close deals.
Use our free template to build better case studies. But first - explore what a case study is, how it differs from reviews and testimonials and how best you can use your case studies.
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What is a Case Study?
First, let's go over exactly what a case study is because it's sometimes used interchangeably with reviews and testimonials.
A case study is a narrative of a challenge a business or person faced and how it was resolved. Most often, case studies are done by businesses to highlight how they helped another business or person resolve a challenge. This is done to show potential future clients real-world examples of services in action.
Reviews and testimonials on the other hand are typically shorter and come directly from the subject. They may be included in a case study to help support the narrative. Reviews and testimonials are often used interchangeably as well, but the key differences between the two are intent and usage.
Reviews are generally left by clients for other clients and as such may be more detailed and may also highlight negative experiences as well as positive ones. Clients may be prompted to leave a review or leave one without being prompted on sites like Google, Facebook, G2 or Yelp.
Testimonials are solicited directly from a client by a company. These are overwhelmingly positive and are typically used on a company's website or in marketing materials to help sell their product or service.
Of the three, case studies take the longest to produce, so you want to stick to only your best examples. Case studies can be blog posts, pages on a website, videos or even white papers. Our template below can be used for any of these mediums.
Case Studies vs. Reviews vs. Testimonials: Which is Better?
As a marketing agency, clients sometimes ask us if they should focus on case studies, reviews or testimonials. Generally, you want a mix of all three, but it depends on your industry. The less tangible your output, the more valuable a case study - in other words, if you're not selling a physical object, case studies become more important as they help paint a picture of what you do. On the flip side, if you're an eCommerce business, reviews are generally more valuable as customers.
Case Study Template
Title: Case Study: [Name of Client] or Case Study: [Solution] for [Industry]
Brief introduction of client. What industry are they in, what do they do, who do they serve?
- Pain Point 1 - What was the client experiencing?
- Pain Point 2 - What was the client experiencing?
- Pain Point 3 - What was the client experiencing?
- Solution to Pain Point 1 - How did you address this pain point?
- Solution to Pain Point 2 - How did you address this pain point?
- Solution to Pain Point 3 - How did you address this pain point?
Open this section with a brief narrative summarizing their overall results - Were sales up? Were processes improved? Did they increase brand awareness?
- Results of solution to Pain Point 1 - This could be specific KPIs or a narrative.
- Results of solution to Pain Point 2 - This could be specific KPIs or a narrative.
- Result of solution to Pain Point 3 - This could be specific KPIs or a narrative.
[Include any other additional numbers, graphs or charts as relevant]
"Customer quote - I had a great time working with Company ABC, they really are the bee's knees."
- Person Name, Person Title
Now that you have the roadmap of a case study, let's go over these sections in a bit more detail so you know exactly what to include.
Case Study Sections in Detail
The title of your case study is important, and it should be able to stand on its own. On your website, case studies will be crosslinked on multiple pages with the title alone, so a clear title is important.
There are two main ways to approach a title: client-based or solution-based.
Client-based titles are the preferred and recommended method and the one you'll most often see. This is simply: "Case Study: [Name of Client]." Here's what that looks like in action:
- Case Study: BizzyWeb
This title convention helps speak to your expertise and your client's authority. Attaching their name to your case study not only taps into their recognizability but also helps establish credibility to the reader. A case study is much less likely to be made up or exaggerated if another company's reputation is attached. Don't forget to link to your client's website if you name them - that helps the SEO of both websites.
However, there are some industries where you can't call out your clients by name - it could be a formal NDA or an informal agreement not to reveal any information to the public. Whatever the case is, this is where you would use a solution-based title. A solution-based title instead looks at what you implemented for a client: "Case Study: [Solution] for [Industry]." Here's an example of that in action:
- Case Study: Custom Client Database for a Marketing Agency
You'll want to reference the industry in the title if possible, to help give more context to readers as to what to expect. This type of case study is common in certain industries - particularly those with high privacy concerns. If that applies to your business, stick to this type of case study.
2. Client Introduction
Start your case study with a brief introduction and biography of the client. Even if you reference their name in the title, it's a good idea to offer a summary so any reader who may be unfamiliar with that organization can be up to speed. This section shouldn't be too long: think of it like a bio on a social media platform. Cover the basics like industry, size and service offerings. This is even more critical if you do not name the company in your title. Here's an example of what that could look like:
- BizzyWeb is an SMB digital marketing agency based in Minneapolis serving clients nationwide. They offer Web Design, Digital Marketing programs, Inbound Marketing programs and HubSpot onboarding. They are a HubSpot Platinum Tier Partner and primarily work in HubSpot and Inbound Marketing.
Keep this section brief - spending too much time summarizing your client and not enough time in the actual case study is easy.
A conflict is at the core of every good case study - just like every good story. Begin your case study by establishing the conflict(s) your client was facing. This is the inciting incident that eventually led them to you. Did they need a service built from the ground up? Were they looking for a better version of an existing service? Or did they come to you thinking they needed one thing, but they actually needed another? Another way to think of these is to start with the pain points your client was facing - if it's been a while or you're not sure, don't be afraid to ask them directly!
The choice of how specific you want to get is up to you and how long you want your case study to be. There are two ways to tackle this section: with a small paragraph, or with a bulleted list. We recommend bulleted lists. There are two key reasons: it's easier to write and it's also easier for readers to scan. But whichever option you choose, keep it consistent in the next sections.
This is the meat of your case study - the how and what of how you addressed the problem. The key here is consistency with the previous section: for each problem, mirror the solution. For example, if your Problem section covers Pain Point A, Pain Point B and Pain Point C in that order, then in the solution section you'll want to address the solution for each of those pain points in that same order.
If you're using a bulleted list, keeping consistent is easier: you'll just want to ensure the first bullet in the Solution section matches the problem or pain point in the Problem section. This is the more narrative area of your case study, so you don't need to worry (yet) about pulling specific numbers.
Finally, end your case study by highlighting the results of your overall efforts. The strongest case studies cite KPIs wherever possible - e.g. "A 13% increase in webinar registrations."
However, that's not always necessary to create a good case study. Results might not be tangible or tracked, it might need more narrative explanation. For example, if your solution reduced friction with internal handoffs, there may not be a specific number to cite but instead the narrative result: "reduced friction with internal handoffs, leading to better team cooperation."
6. Client Quote
Ending with a direct quote from a key person helps reinforce the authenticity of your case study. These will generally be testimonials for your brand since you'll want to stick to the positive, but you could include a review instead.
Even if you're keeping the client anonymous, you can still solicit a quote for this section from a key player - you'll just have to keep that anonymous as well. Instead of attributing it to "John Smith, Operations Manager" you'd just attribute it to "Operations Manager."
Now, look me in my metaphysical authorial eyes: DO NOT WRITE A FAKE QUOTE. Yes, many companies do this. Don't be one of them. It's better not to include a quote entirely than make something up. The chances of someone outside the company learning it's fake are low - but never zero. If they did learn it, it would tarnish your reputation and make every case study worthless. Just don't do it.
Case studies put your work into action, to paint a picture that helps potential clients decide to work with you. Incorporating case studies into your marketing strategy is valuable for building that trust. Use our template above to get started creating compelling case studies.
BizzyWeb is a Minneapolis-based digital marketing and web design agency that helps companies get the high-quality leads they need to grow and thrive. Our tactics include inbound marketing, SEO, advertising, web design, content creation and sales automation. We are an accredited HubSpot Platinum Partner and we offer full-service HubSpot onboarding, enablement and strategy for new and current users.