Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Seven Steps to Writing Case Studies

Executive summary

Case studies are a vital part of your company’s future strategy. This article gives you practical advice on seven aspects for you or your copywriter to consider in the design of your articles. By being aware of the wider aims and audiences targeted and through the design of your texts, you can write interesting case studies. Ultimately, they should take your clients through to a call to action – to get in touch with you.

This document also gives you an idea of our writing style and approach to working with you.


Did you look at this image? See section 5, “Headline & Image”
Photo of Richard Wishart, Delivery Management –
Postal logistics and disruptive technologies.

1. Aim

The main purpose of your case studies is to provide your company with an additional marketing tool. Case studies demonstrate your competence in finding solutions for your current and future clients.

There is also a secondary objective - to throw a positive light on your existing clients. By writing about their success (even though achieved through your input), you are providing them with a positive marketing message. This in turn reflects positively on you.

2. Your Audience

At first glance, your audience would appear to be the individuals or departments with issues that you can resolve; i.e. new clients.

In the long term, however, most of your business is likely to come from existing customers. Case studies give you an excellent way to keep in touch with them. Your existing clients are also made aware of the other services that you can provide. By acting as a touchstone for progress in your field, you become the trusted partner that they turn to first when new issues arise.

Your immediate contacts in the client company are not necessarily the financial decision-makers. A clearly written case study, with an executive summary that appeals to the financial director could help both you and your contact clinch the contract.

The final audience for a case study includes your staff. It’s a way of recognising, engaging and motivating them. A good case study can help your own board present the company positively at their level.

As well as distributing case studies yourself, consider sending them to magazines in your field. Often, such trade journals and magazines are looking to feed the constant need for copy. If you can demonstrate a unique application or solution to a problem without overtly pushing your company, there is a high likelihood of getting published and read.

By creating case studies that reflect and inform these different audiences, you can turn them into ambassadors for your organisation and your services.

3. Telling a Story

People remember a good story. So grab their interest right from the start and follow with a thread that leads the reader through the scenes that you set. People relate to people, so include some of the players involved, where possible, to bring additional life to the story.

There is also a subtext. Your writing style and language give an impression of more subtle factors. By demonstrating ability, integrity and confidence in your work you build trust. By showing your passion, company ethos and guarding your reputation, you increase your status with the reader.

I personally also follow a further strategy; making the text as readable as possible.

4. Content

If we believe Christopher Booker and his book “The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories”, then there are two plot types appropriate for your positive case studies!

There’s “Overcoming the Monster”, where you and your client set out to defeat a problem which threatens the client company’s existence.

Alternatively, there is “The Quest”, where you and your client set out to acquire an important objective or to get to a result, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.

Of course this is all couched in language that is appropriate and associated with the work of your clients.

5. Structure

The story needs to be packaged in a certain structure, so that you maximise impact for both your company and the reader.

Headline and Image

Most of us are under considerable time pressure and are confronted with conflicting demands. A good headline can arrest the eye so that the reader is tempted to continue to the rest of the text.

With many people searching the internet for a solution to their immediate problem, a good headline is one that promises to answer their question or offers them a solution.

We humans are also visual people. The presence of an image at the beginning of a document can have a significant impact on whether we stop and read further.

Executive Summary/Teaser

An executive summary has two functions; to provide a summary for those without time to read on and as a promise of what will be revealed in more detail further in the document.

The executive summary is often mirrored in part in the conclusion at the end of the document.

The Body

This is the actual story.

Summary and Conclusion

At the end, remind the reader of the key elements of the story just told. Often the summary and conclusion reflect the executive summary at the beginning of the document.

6. Call to action

The call to action is perhaps the most forgotten and underestimated element of a case study and therefore deserves its own heading.

We hope that your reader will have followed through the story and emerged after the summary and conclusion with a conviction you and your team are the people they should talk to. A call to action following immediately may prompt them to call you.

It can be as understated as “For more information on this project and others by Eagle Genomics, please contact (named individual) on (telephone number or email)”.

7. Design

The final consideration is the design and styling of the content of your case study.

It is important to have a template so that future case studies have a recognisable style. This will be influenced by the way you share your case studies. Are they purely web documents, displayed in browsers? Or are they intended for web and print, where PDF is definitely the preferred format.

Your documents should be hyperlinked to enable fast access to the company website.  If the case studies are printed, then either QR Codes (open source availability) or Aurasma Auras (proprietary technology) can be incorporated. These make the documents web-enabled to anyone with a smartphone or tablet.

Conclusion

Case studies are a vital part of your company’s future strategy, as they communicate the skills and competencies of the company to your existing and future clients. The seven aspects covered in the text should allow you or your future copywriter to generate informative and interesting case studies that your audience will want to read.

Please feel free to use this document as a guide your own case study writing.
Milton Contact would be happy to work with you, to write and produce professional documents to showcase your company.

My call to action

If you think that we could work together, please contact me: 
Chris Thomas on 01223 440024 or chris@miltoncontact.com

Dr Chris Thomas
Director, Milton Contact Ltd
3 Hall End, Milton, Cambs. CB24 6AQ

Helping you communicate in print, picture and person

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