written by Writing Angels
The adage goes that the
best form of endorsement is word of mouth. A case study takes that
and sets it in stone. If a happy customer tells an average of 10
other people about you, then the same endorsement in a case study
will recommend you to hundreds when you use it in a direct mail
campaign, and tens of thousands when you post it on
the Web or place it in the
That’s why the case study is arguably one of the most powerful
pieces of marketing literature you can ever use. It proves that
you’ve delivered such a valued service that you’ve
turned a customer who simply bought from you, to an advocate who
puts their name behind your business.
So if you want to kickstart a case study programme how do
you convince your best customers to be included? - and when up
and running how do you make sure you're getting the most business
Is a case study right for me?
First of all, you need to determine whether a case study programme
will work for you before you allocate marketing budget
Those organisations for which a professionally written case
than price-led, industries, or who have products or
services that are
complex – the
obvious example being the IT industry. When it’s easy to
get confused by jargon, or a decision maker can compare your products
feature by feature with an alternative provider, then a case study
can be the deciding factor in making them choose your solution
over your competitors.
A well-written customer reference story
will showcase the tangible business benefits your solution has
delivered, and how it has commercially helped a real organisation.
It will tell your prospective customer what makes you stand out
from the crowd in a way they can easily relate to and understand.
Case studies are equally useful to companies that work on large,
complex projects that involve not only products but training, support
and after sales care – such as major build and interior design
contractors, facilities management companies and corporate telecommunications
providers. They also offer fantastic, ready-made supporting information
for organisations that tender for projects, and companies that
compete for business from major players – such as point-of-sale
providers for large retailers.
If your company will get definite business value from case studies
then the golden rule is to get your customer’s permission.
You should never use a testimonial or case study that’s not
been seen and approved by your contact, and any corporate representative
who may have ultimate power of veto. Months of hard work building
a good working relationship can be swept away in an instant if
you attribute a piece of work you have done to a company without
their explicit permission.
And this is where so many companies reach a hurdle that seems
insurmountable - getting approval to proceed.
To add to the frustration, it’s
often the big, household names that can be the most un-cooperative – and
they, frustratingly, are the ones you most want to shout about.
As a result many companies run a ‘poor man’s version’ of
a case study – one that doesn’t name the customer that’s
supposedly endorsing them. But a case study without a name is like
a dog without a bark.
If it's going to impress it has to make a real noise by naming
Getting a customer’s co-operation, however, is relatively
easy if you conduct a professional approval process from the outset
and, critically, reassure them that they have ultimate control
over what is written about them.
At Writing Angels we have a tried-and-tested process for securing
customer permission and final approval. And although our writers
have written and managed hundreds of named case
studies you could count
on less than one hand those few that couldn’t get past the
first post – and this includes studies on high security military
operations, and public sector organisations in the midst of an
aggressive media backlash.
What’s vital to note is that it’s not just the permission
of the contact to be interviewed that needs to be secured, but
that of any corporate department that may well hold a policy against
any case study being written about their organisation. You don’t
want to pay for a study to be written only to find out at the last
minute that you were never going to be able to use it.
is everything – and nothing
To get the very best result for your case study you should also
cleverly time your approach to your contact. If it’s going
to sing about the business benefits you have delivered to a customer – and
we can’t emphasise enough that it should - then they need
to have had enough time to have seen those benefits and preferably
quantified them. But you shouldn’t leave it too late – your
customer ideally needs to still have the warm afterglow of satisfaction
that came from you doing a grand job.
That being said, don’t be put off producing a case study
on an ‘old’ customer – in fact, these can be
some of the most convincing to a prospect. To be able to state
that you have built
a long-term relationship with a customer who will still happily
sing your praises is almost the Holy Grail of the case study. Even
if you intend to use these in the press, by taking the angle of
writing about an upgrade or an additional purchase this old story
can easily be made newsworthy.
When size matters
Finally, how long should a case study be? Well, you’ll get
conflicting advice on the optimal length of a case study, and ultimately
it depends on how you plan to use it and how good the story is.
But in our experience, for a case study to give you maximum versatility
in how it can be used it should be a minimum of 800 words. A meaty
be done justice
words – and
if really warranted you could push that to 1,500 words. Anymore
than that and unnecessary waffle has probably crept
If you need to use an edited version of a case study, however – as
a scannable snippet on your Web site, or to fill the 600-word gap
you’ve negotiated with a publication – then a well
written study can easily be edited down to fit that shorter format
without it losing its power.
Which just leaves the killer question – what makes the difference
between a carefully drafted and poorly-written study? Well, you’ll
have to forgive us for keeping that particular golden nugget up
our sleeve. But what we will state is that
a beautifully crafted case study will give you endless marketing
mileage that is almost priceless.
If you would
like us to discuss your customer case study needs
simply call us on 01634 389100, or complete
our enquiry form online for one
of our Project Managers to contact you.