I’ve been writing several case studies recently and I thought it might be helpful to set out what I think are the essential components of a good one.
I see a case study as a story that shows the company who supplied the product or service in the best possible light. Here’s how to do it.
Set the story in context
You might choose to present this section as a narrative or you might prefer to do it as a bulleted list or similar of brief facts to give an executive summary.
Provide details of the client you did the work for
You might want to give an overview of the company as a whole and also the specific department / area you were involved in. If you can give the name of the company, that’s great. If you can’t or don’t want to, talk in general terms, “a national chain of shoe shops”, “a local environmental trust” etc.
Provide brief details of what you provided
This gives a quick snapshot so people can start to get a feel for where the story is going. Crucially, it’s also a helpful signpost so people can stop reading right there if it isn’t relevant to them…
Provide details of the size of the contract
This is very helpful for other people who might be interested in working with you because they can get a feel for whether you’re too big / too small for them. However, only put details if (a) you are comfortable doing it and, more importantly, (b) the client is comfortable with you doing it.
Provide details of the timescale involved (if it’s relevant)
This is very helpful for people to understand the sort of company you are. Are you comfortable working over extended timescales? Do you specialise in quick turnarounds? Again, including this is a matter of discretion depending on your client’s preferences.
Provide details of the location (if it’s relevant)
Again, this helps people understand what sort of company you are. Do you work locally? Nationally? Internationally? In multiple locations? This might be less relevant if you’re working on an e-project where it doesn’t really matter where you or your clients are based.
Provide details of the outcome
Tell people briefly what your work for your client achieved.
Set the scene
Provide details of the problem the client was facing
This is a great opportunity to paint a picture that other potential clients may recognise. Even if they don’t recognise the specific problem, they need to see that the problem was causing your client difficulties – their website was out-of-date so the image they gave out on the web was damaging their brand. Their computers were old, slow and out-of-date so they couldn’t keep pace with orders. You get the idea.
Provide details about why they chose you
This is great way to establish your credentials. If they came to you via a referral, you’ve done a good job somewhere else and someone has recommended you. If you won a tender you provided the best package of work. If they found you on Google then gave you a call or asked you in to talk to them, you gave them the confidence to trust your ability to deliver the solution. And so on.
Tell the story
Describe the situation that you were working in
This sets the scene so readers can understand the project in more detail and the reality of the implementation.
Describe any specific challenges you faced and how you overcame them
This is another opportunity to establish your credentials. Very few projects run smoothly, but your ability to tackle obstacles will demonstrate your experience, expertise, patience, creativity etc.
End the story
Tell us the outcome!
This is your opportunity to show what a success your work has been. The new website has already secured sales of several thousand pounds. The new computers have speeded up order processing so orders are despatched more quickly and customers are happier. And so on.
Tell us what the client thought
If you’ve got quotes or testimonials from the client, it’s great to use them throughout the story because it brings it to life and shows that the client was so happy with the work they wanted to play a major role in the development of the case study. But even if you don’t have lots of quotes, always try to get one strong quote you can use at the end of the piece that thanks you for the work you did – it’s a great way to close it and leave your readers on a high.
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