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Writing case studies: adding impact for 2023

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Writing case studies to the classic formula of background, challenge, solution and results, feels tired in 2023. Companies are presenting their case studies differently now. Those four bones of the story still need to be there but the story may need a fresh look. Customer case studies have many uses but they need to work in the digital funnel and may need more impact.

People are not placing long screeds of text online. They are telling the story in fewer words, in smaller stages, maybe with more bullets and quotes. Today’s content management systems let you divide text into smaller, easily digested sections and display them graphically. Then you can highlight key comments as “pull quotes”, like in a magazine.

I’ve found from experience that the way a story comes across depends very much on the person giving the brief or the interview. If a customer’s story is based on an interview, the customer’s enthusiasm can shine through. If it feels a little dull, a writer needs to bring it to life with colour and punchier words.

Why not use a Q&A to tell the story in smaller, logical stages? Case studies are based on conversations with clients, so this is not a huge change.

What is the easiest way to add impact? Add interesting images. We often see a picture of the customer’s building, but wouldn’t it be better to use images of “people doing something”? We can learn from magazine editors who usually prefer action pictures. Editors know the value of eye-catching images, and strong images are always useful for marketing and social posting.

Consider telling the story in the customer’s own words, not as the vendor described it. If you can turn the story round like this, it explains the topic from the customer’s point of view and reveals the motives and results that matter to them. And, if a customer is happy to support this, it’s a powerful endorsement for your business. A video conversation can work well too.

Video is easy to view and digest and it can be more engaging than text although the attention span for video may not be as long as you think. Generally three minutes is enough for a casual first look. However making a video takes more work simply writing case studies, it costs more and it may need an edit and some consideration to its hosting. But it should bring useful SEO benefits.

Leads generation is always important, and case studies work well as downloads. Plenty of companies offer their full-length customer story as a gated download with a 50 word introduction. The reader enters their details to gain access to the full story. Although not all readers will do this, for those that do the data will feed into HubSpot or Pardot and could produce a marketing qualified lead down the line.

Always name the customer organisation. I know that the hardest part of creating a case study is gaining permission to start, then getting sign-off for the finished job. But a story that doesn’t name the subject has little value. Besides, readers may know who it is anyway, so publishing the story without permission betrays your customer’s trust.

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