How to write case studies | a template

How to write case studies
Image: © Jakub Jirsák | Dreamstime.com

When you are not sure how to write case studies, this simple question-based approach may help to get you started.

Today, most people conduct research online before ever contacting a potential service provider. Even if most of your new business comes through client referrals, you can be fairly sure that your new clients have checked you out online before contacting you.

Case studies provide helpful information for potential clients and demonstrate that your firm has the experience and skills to meet their needs. This is why more firms now include some case studies when creating content for their websites and blogs.

When writing up your case study, remember to keep your focus on the reader. Case studies are stories and like most good stories, they are more interesting when they show that difficult hurdles had to be overcome before success was achieved.

The questions to focus on are the same questions that journalists often answer in the first line or two of their reports — Who? Where Where? What? When? Why? How? Result?

WHO is the subject of your case study?

WHERE is the subject — location and/or sector?

WHAT was the client’s problem?

WHEN did the client decide to contact you?

WHY did the client decide to get help and why did they choose your firm?

HOW did you help the client?

Finally, what was the RESULT of your actions?

When thinking about how to write your case study, try to include some colour and drama. For example, perhaps you can describe how some unexpected adverse event forced the client to seek external help. Or perhaps you met unexpected resistance when you tried to implement your solution. Explaining difficulties and how you overcame them makes the story more interesting and is an opportunity to show off your experience and skills.

Remember to include a conclusion that summarises the problem, solution and result.

Finally, if your firm does not have the resources to create the case studies you need and would like some help, please get in touch to discuss your specific requirements.

If you found this article useful, you might also like these tips on how to check your firm’s online visibility.

Content Marketing Strategy | Creating B2B content

Content marketing strategy is a growing interest for B2B business development teams.

If you’re the marketing manager of a professional services firm, the chances are you’re spending more time than ever thinking about your content marketing strategy. A recent survey by the Marketing Insitute of Ireland and 256 media found that 56% of respondents intend to increase or significantly increase their spending on content in the next 12 months. In the professional services sector, firms generally create content to support:

  • Content Marketing StrategyLead generation and referrals
  • Brand awareness
  • Lead nurturing
  • Client acquisition
  • Customer service
  • Thought leadership

This article explores some content types and explains when to use them.

Lead generation

Generating leads is usually an important part of the content marketing strategy. Content that can be used to generate new leads includes website landing pages, articles, blog posts and press releases.

Maybe your firm has expertise in traditional accounting areas such as financial accounting, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions or tax? Perhaps you have developed expertise in new areas such as data analytics, digital insight, cyber security and forensic accounting? Whatever your specialism, when it comes to generating leads, you’ll want to connect your firm’s expertise to the topics that are of most interest to your potential clients.

The idea is to produce content that resonates with your target audience by showing that you understand their problems and can offer effective solutions.

Google provides some useful tools that help you understand your market since searching for information online is usually the first step in a potential client’s journey. If you are not already using them, check out Google Analytics and Google Search Console, both of which provide useful insights into your website’s traffic.

Example

Let’s now look at an example: The owner-manager of a small business currently  looks after his own accounts. The work is time consuming and he suspects it is not a productive use of his time. He is vaguely interested in outsourcing this work but he’s never taken the time to focus on what that would involve. From time to time, he Googles ‘accounting services’ to see which accounting firms provide services for businesses in his sector and locality but because he has never found a firm that ticked his interest boxes, he’s never pursued the search.

From an accounting firm’s point of view, content that might catch this potential client’s attention includes articles or blog posts bylined by a local accounting firm or a firm that specialises in the owner-manager’s sector, that explain how outsourcing accounting can save his business time and money.

The right content — whether that is a website landing page, article or blog post — may help move this potential client further along in his journey towards purchasing accounting services.

If the content on your website is effective, it will persuade this potential client to put your firm at the top of his list of potential service providers. Remember to make it easy for potential clients to contact you by including easy-to-access contact information. It is also a good idea to include social sharing buttons as they can help generate further leads when your website visitors share your content.

Brand Awareness

The objective of lead generation is to help potential clients recognise a problem and to show how your firm solves that problem. Once the potential client is aware that he has a problem, he is more likely to move to the next stage which is when he begins to research potential service providers. In addition to the content types already mentioned, case studies and testimonials are often persuasive when potential clients are at the research stage. If you don’t already use these content types, they may be worth including in your content marketing strategy.

Let’s return to our example. The owner manager recognises that he needs help with accounting and is now researching potential service providers. He is interested in firms whose clients include businesses similar to his own. He thinks that these firms will understand his business and he won’t have to spend time explaining the obvious. Case studies and testimonials are content types that are useful at this stage. Testimonials from satisfied owner-managers who describe how your firm’s services saved them time and money will help to move this client closer to doing business with your firm.

Lead nurturing

In business, trust helps to build relationships. Content types that help your firm’s credibility and establish trust include articles that you contribute to news and industry publications, presentations delivered at industry events, slideshares, content and links that you share on social media and so on. These content types also build brand awareness which in turn supports further lead generation.

In our example, our owner-manager has a pharmacy business. While he’s researching potential accounting service providers, he comes across an article that you contributed to your industry magazine. The article dealt with cost reduction and shared some valuable tips. The owner-manager bookmarks the article for future reference. He sees the article as an endorsement of your expertise. Your firm is now likely to be his first call when he’s ready to make his move

Customer acquisition

There are three stages on your potential client’s journey— awareness, research and conversion. In our example, the owner-manager has passed through the first two stages: he is now aware that he has a problem and he has researched potential solution providers. He now has a shortlist of three or firms that he plans to speak to. Content that will interest him at this point on his journey includes the website profiles of relevant people in your firm and links to their LinkedIn profiles. This information will help with trust and reassure him that he is making a good choice. Obviously, it’s also important that you have easy-to-access contact information on your website, blog, newsletter, social media profiles to make it easy for the owner-manager when he’s ready to make that call!

Customer Service

Content doesn’t end when you’ve captured new business. Good content is also a useful tool for building customer loyalty.  Many businesses proactively monitor customers’ frequently asked questions and create content to answer those needs. Other content types used in customer service include email and newsletters,  client briefings and events. Personalisation tools can be used with many different content types and platforms to improve customer service in real time.

Thought Leadership

In the professional services sector, thought leadership content can help you win new business. When your firm is recognised for its expertise in a particular area, you are likely to win referral business from your peers. Activities that can help you become recognised as a thought leadership activities include providing expert commentary for the media in your area of expertise. Content types associated with thought leadership include research and surveys, reports, white papers, published articles and studies. Leadership implies influence and influence requires a broad audience so your firm’s distribution of its thought leadership outputs is an important aspect of this activity. For more insight into thought leadership, see What exactly is thought leadership and how do you become a thought leader?

Conclusion

In this article, I have touched on a variety of content types — web landing pages, articles, blog posts, case studies, testimonials, keynotes, reports, white papers, email, newsletters and social media.  It is likely that your firm already produces some of the content types outlined in this article. Thinking about that content from the perspective of your potential client can improve the return on your investment. If you need help in creating, updating or making your content work harder for you, please contact me to discuss your specific requirements.