Imagine this: you're looking for a new productivity tool and find the perfect one online. However, this is the first time you've heard of this brand.
How do you know you can trust the tool to transform your work?
Two words: case studies.
What Is A Case Study?
A case study
is a piece of content published by a business that outlines its success in resolving a client’s (or customer’s) problem.
Case studies are part of a marketing strategy
to promote a business’s services to potential clients. They go beyond testimonials and instead provide real-world examples of how your service or product works.
Sales teams can also use them to convince leads to trust them. Why? Because they help potential customers understand how you’ve achieved results in the past. Would-be customers can read stories of people like themselves and imagine themselves experiencing the same success.
The bottom line: Case studies ultimately help you prove that your business’s services or products work—and that readers should try it out.
(It’s why they’re rated as the most effective way
to convert and accelerate leads lingering in the middle and bottom of the sales funnel.)
How To Create A Case Study In 7 Steps
Step One: Identify Your Topic & Angle
The first step in any case study writing process is deciding which solutions, outcomes, or challenges you want to write about.
All case studies should showcase your business's value and your work's impact. But remember: the goal is to stay ultra-focused on one or two specific topics with a clear overall angle.
It’s best to build each case study around just one client. That way, you don’t risk overloading readers with details.
(Plus, case studies that appeal to one specific buyer persona tend to get the best results. They can picture themselves as being the company you're writing about. They think, “if that company got these results, I can too.”)
When choosing which clients to focus your case studies on, think about the following:
- How much the customer uses your product or service.
- Whether they experienced dramatic positive results.
- If they switched to your product from a competitor.
To find this information, talk to your sales team
to see if any prospects may be willing to participate. Or, ask your customer support department if they have any exceptional customers.
These people talk to customers day-to-day. They likely have a mental list of those who saw excellent results (and would make a good case study.)
Step Two: Get Permission To Tell The Story
It’s one thing to write about your own company. It’s a different ball game if you’re writing about past clients.
Don’t just pull data and personal information about previous customers and publish it as a case study without permission.
If you take one thing from this guide, let it be this: you need explicit permission from past clients before you start writing a case study about them. Otherwise, you risk ruining that relationship altogether.
If a client doesn’t want their name attached to the case study, you can always offer to keep case studies anonymous to protect identities and possibly sensitive data.
Here’s how you can make the ask, protect your company, and avoid upsetting any past clients.
Create A Permission Letter
To keep your case study writing process moving swiftly, you must predetermine expectations and the timeline from the outset. This will help you create the right setting for clear and open communication between you and the client.
If you’re writing multiple case studies, design a pre-written permission letter tailored to each participant.
Your letter should include:
- Details about which case study format you’re using (video, web page, etc.)
- The exact subject matter of the case study (initial challenges, strategies, and data)
- What they could get out of the case study— including an incentive like a discount, backlinks, or brand exposure to encourage people to participate.
Consider Using A Legal Release Form
Another potential step is asking your case study subjects to sign a legal release form
. While it might sound like scary legal stuff, it’s just a form that allows you to use a client’s information.
You don’t always have to take this step in your case study creation process. But if you decide to have your subjects sign a legal release form, consult with a legal specialist first to double-check it’s strong enough to protect you should anything go wrong.
Step Three: Create An Introductory Questionnaire
Once your client or customer has agreed to participate in your case study, start to format your introductory questionnaire. This will help you get the information you need to shape the story.
Try using open-ended questions that encourage your clients to use their own words and go into further depth when responding.
Let’s face it: yes or no questions won’t get the impressive story you want to impress people with.
Use these research questions as a starting point for your case study interview:
- What problem did you experience before using our product/service?
- Why did you select our product/service instead of a competitor?
- How did our product/service solve a problem you were experiencing?
- What are your goals as a business or organization?
- Are you comfortable sharing data and metrics demonstrating your success?
You can adjust your questions based on how your customer uses your product to get specific answers or quotes
that you can highlight in your study.
Step Four: Write Your Interview Questions
The next step in your case study research is to draft your interview questions.
The questions you ask are critical. It’ll ensure you have the information to use when it comes to writing case studies—getting this stage right will set you up for case study success—and stop the endless rounds of revisions that will undoubtedly frustrate your client!
Remember: your clients or customers are busy. You don’t want to have to ask for more details multiple times.
Based on the responses that you received from your initial questionnaire, you can adjust questions to get any additional information you need.
Choose from these 20+ case study questions when conducting your interview
Getting To Know Your Client Or Customer
Your first few questions should be similar to the ones you sent in your questionnaire. These help you gather any additional information you may have missed and get to know the person you’re interviewing.
Potential examples are:
- What industry is your company in?
- How long have you been using our product or service?
- What is your work process like?
- How many members are on your team?
- What goals do you set for your team?
What Problems Were They Experiencing?
Your business’ case study participants were obviously experiencing a problem before they turned to you for a solution. Give the readers of your case study even more context by getting as much information about their problem as possible.
Some questions to include in your interview are:
- When did your team first realize there was a problem?
- What solutions did you try before you came to us?
- Did your problem happen suddenly, or did it occur over time?
- How did the team decide that you required outside assistance?
- What factors led to the problem developing?
What Helped Them Make Their Decision?
Finding out what helped your client decide to work with your company is informative for potential new business and can help you determine which materials to publish.
Try these questions during your interview:
- What materials did you read or watch that influenced your decision?
- What criteria did you have when you were looking for a solution?
- What competitors did you look at (if any)?
- How did you convince your team to make a change?
- What sealed the deal when you chose to work with our organization?
How Does Your Solution Help?
Talk to your customer and find out how your solution helped them fix the key problems that they were previously experiencing. Chances are, your future customers are dealing with the same thing.
Add these questions to your case study interview list:
- What [product/service] helped solve your problem?
- What did our product or service replace in your current work process?
- What tasks did our [product/service] simplify for you?
- How much time do you save?
- What tasks did our [product/service] eliminate?
How Did They Implement Your Product?
Another relevant question to ask during your interview process is how your subject implemented your product or service into their existing process.
That’s likely a pain point
potential customers are trying to overcome—hence why answers to these questions may help eliminate nerves (and ultimately drive more sales from the case study.)
Here are some questions to ask during your interview:
- How easily did your team adapt our product into their routine?
- How was your onboarding process?
- What process did you use to switch over to using our product?
- What difficulties did you face in the transition process?
- What advice do you have for anyone implementing our product into their work process?
What Results Did They See?
Results speak volumes. Why not let your customer or client data do the talking for you?
Data-backed results are critical for helping new customers see why they should choose your business over a competitor. Results give prospects a tangible idea of what they can achieve with your help.
Try including these questions, always adapting them to fit your business:
- How much faster are you at completing [task] now that you use our product?
- How did we help you reach your goals?
- Did you see any significant jumps in the data that your team collects?
- How has your productivity changed since implementing our [product/service]?
- What positive results have you seen?
Step Five: Line Up A Time & Conduct Your Interview
Now you’ve found your subject and your interview questions are ready, it’s time to set up your interview.
First, you need to set up a time for your interview on a synced calendar
. Input your availability into a tool like Calendly
, and send a personalized link to the person you’re interviewing. They can pick a time and date that works for them.
Then, decide how you’re going to conduct your interview. Here are some options:
- Phone interview. Use a phone call recording app like Rev Call Recorder or Otter.ai. We recommend recording your conversation for accuracy. Ask permission before you start.
- Video call. If you’re using a Mac, Quicktime makes it easy to record video calls on your desktop. Windows users can use Skype. Zoom is good across the board.
- Face-to-face meeting. If your client is local, this may be the easiest option. Chatting face-to-face (especially over coffee) is less intimidating for the person you’re interviewing.
Step Six: Use What You Learn To Write A Compelling Story
Following the interview, you should store your client information in one place.
Now comes the fun part; putting it together into the case study template you downloaded earlier.
Writing An Intriguing Title
The first step in writing a case study is to create a catchy title. Your title should include your client's name, their logo, and a reference to something related to their pain point. That will grab the attention of potential customers experiencing the same thing.
Your subheading should also be short and include information on the product/service they used to solve their problem.
In your case study template, add your title and your subject's logo:
What does a quality title look like? Well, it doesn't have to be complicated. It should:
- State who it's about.
- Explain what was done.
- Communicate a clear result.
Take a look at this example from bit.ly
This title works because it clearly explains:
- The problem the company faced.
- The type of company involved in the case study.
- How bit.ly tackled the challenge.
Do This With CoSchedule: Did you know that CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer Studio
can help you write better case study headlines?
Your executive summary is a two- to three-sentence paragraph summarizing your case study's main points. You can also include a statistic or two to share quick-fire successes for readers who want to scan.
Here's what this section looks like in your template:
Check out this executive summary example about Patagonia
This works because:
- The company's mission is explained clearly.
- It highlights the problem the company was experiencing.
- The last sentence tells the reader how the company solved that problem.
Who Is The Case Study About?
The next part of your case study should explain who your case study is about. This is where the information you gathered from your initial questionnaire would go.
Here's what this section looks like in your template:
To see what this section could look like, here is an example from Adobe
This works because:
- Adobe's purpose is clearly established.
- The reader is told exactly how Adobe used a LinkedIn service to solve a problem.
- It illustrates the clear benefits of using LinkedIn's Sponsored Content.
Problems They’ve Faced
In this part of the case study, write about the top two to three issues that your case study participant was experiencing. Remember: you want readers to imagine themselves in their shoes, so be as specific as possible.
You should provide some background information on the challenges they faced, as well as their goals:
Cirque du Soleil's
case study is an excellent example of addressing problems a company faces in a case study:
This works because:
- The case study cuts right to the heart of the problem.
- It mentions the specific part of the company that helped Cirque.
- There's no fluff. This copy gets to the point.
How Did You Help?
This section should clearly explain how your product or service solved the client’s problems.
Detail the exact strategy and lasting changes that your organization brought to them in as much detail as possible:
This case study from Callaway Golf
explains how its researcher helped solve their problem:
This case study is effective because:
- It shows people how LinkedIn has access to Callaway’s target demographic.
- The case study also explains how they created an app to help solve Callaway’s problem.
- While data can be challenging to understand, this example clearly explains relevant insights into Callaway’s target audience.
Progress & Results
The final section of your case study should share the progress made since the customer began using your product or service. You could show this through progress towards their goals, changes in metrics they track, and more.
Here's what this section looks like in your template:
Draw inspiration from Contently’s
case study on Weebly
Why is it effective?
- The results are one of the most visual aspects of the case study.
- The facts and figures are easy to scan.
- You can quickly tell what type of growth or improvement they experienced.
Step Seven: Design & Develop Your Case Study
All the information you’ve collected from your interviewee may initially seem overwhelming.
But remember: the key to a great case study is correctly formatting it, making it user-friendly for anyone looking at it. So, be selective about what you include, and don’t feel the need to include every detail you pull from your research.
There’s no one design rule when creating your case study. So long as it’s easy to understand and presents all of the critical information, you can choose to present your case study in a way that makes sense to your business’s target audience
Depending on your business type, industry, and target audience, you can test different case study formats and see which works best.
Generally, you’ll likely use one of the following formats.
Downloadable PDF Or Whitepaper
In-depth case studies that include large quantities of data, infographics, and quotes may best suit a downloadable PDF. Potential customers can download your case studies and read through them independently.
Furthermore, downloadable case studies can be gated; leads need to enter their email address to gain access. That helps you collect their information for future retargeting.
Another option is to format your case study as a public page on your website. While you can’t always gather your lead’s email addresses, you can share it on social media and optimize the case study for SEO to reach people actively looking for case studies.
Make the page easily scannable by using bold fonts and highlighting data (like percentage increases and other stats.)
You’ll also want to highlight the business’s goals, challenges, and how your organization created a successful strategy.
Slide presentations can offer a more visual and interactive
way of displaying your case studies. Formatting your case study to fit multiple slides is one way of ensuring they’re digestible and don’t become overly detailed.
For instance, you could choose to use separate slides to show individual challenges, then a series of slides to show each step of the strategy used to solve them.
To make your presentation more visually engaging, include color-coded graphs and moving transitions to catch people’s eyes.
Remember to limit the amount of text on each slide so as not to overwhelm your prospects. Only include essential details to make each slide more impactful.
Videos can help you tell the story behind each of your case studies. Instead of focusing on percentages, numbers, and other data, videos can engage users with the more human side of each business’s challenges, solutions, and results.
(It’s likely why 53% of half of B2B tech buyers
think video is the most useful type of content.)
Featuring interviewees is an excellent way of encouraging potential clients to connect with your organization.
Consider including an interview with the business manager or owner within your video case studies. This person should explain the issues they were facing before finding your solution.
You could then feature a member of your own team who talks through how they found a suitable solution and the final result.
How To Order Your Case Study
Here are the elements you'll find in most case studies, plus the order your audience expects to see them:
1. Title Or Headline
Your title should capture readers' imaginations and inspire them to keep reading.
2. Executive Summary
This one- or two-paragraph section summarizes the case studies challenge, solution, and results.
3. The Subject
This section describes the company/individual the case study is about, including their industry, niche, and background.
4. Problem Or Challenge
This section explains the challenges the case study's subject faced that made them turn to the product.
This section explains how the product solved the case study's subject's challenges.
This section shows the impact of the product. Use numerical data and percentages to deliver results where possible.
7. Call To Action (CTA)
The CTA brings the case study back to readers and invites them to take action based on what they learned.
4 Types Of Case Study Templates
General Case Study
This case study is suitable for all organizations.
Who Is Your Case Study About?
Explain who your case study subject is.
Write this section last.
In it, summarize the key points of the case study in 3-4 sentences. Use top-level statistics to support your points.
Show the reader the challenges the subject faced before finding your product/service. You might want to include solutions they tried previously.
How Your Organization Helped
Detail how your product/service helped the subject overcome their challenges.
If you can, include screenshots showcasing your product in action.
Explain where the subject is today as a result of using your product. Use statistics to back your arguments up.
Marketing Case Study
This template is suitable for marketing firms.
Summary Of Case Study
Dedicate one bullet point each to summarize the subject's challenges, your solution, and the results you achieved.
Explain where the subject is today after utilizing your marketing services.
Go back to before your subject found your firm and explain their marketing approach
. Highlight any challenges they faced and the consequences of these challenges.
Detail the marketing channels, techniques, and tactics
Use marketing KPIs to prove how well your marketing strategy worked.
Sales Case Study
Capture your reader's attention with a headline that stands out.
Get a quote from the subject that details why they are happy they chose your firm.
Explain the problems the subject faced before hiring your company.
Explain how you solved your subject's problems, including your sales techniques and strategies.
Prove the value of your sales strategy with data and statistics.
Call To Action
Bring the focus back to the reader and invite them to take action.
Business Case Study
This template is suitable for all B2B organizations.
Grab the reader's attention with a catchy title.
About The Subject
Introduce your reader to your subject, including where they fit into their industry and the services they offer customers. Don't go overboard, but show readers the environment the subject operates in.
List the most significant things you accomplished for the subject.
Detail the issues the client faced before they found you. Also, cover any problems you faced along the way and how you resolved them.
How We Helped
Explain your solution, including the tactics and strategies you employed.
9 Case Study Examples & What Made Them Successful
1. CoSchedule Case Study Sample
Here's an example of a case study CoSchedule created for Laerdal
, a customer whose industry focuses on creating medical equipment and helping save lives. It provides clear information about the challenge, solution, and outcome that CoSchedule supported.
The Laerdal marketing team found everything they needed in one place AND tied their work to the company's goals.
2. Moz Case Study
This is an example of a business case study Moz created for TopSpot
, an independent search marketing agency in Houston, Texas.
The story details the challenge TopSpot faced: switching domains without losing search traction. It also includes the Head of SEO’s initial traffic loss predictions.
On the contrary, TopSpot increased their traffic within 90 days of switching domains using Moz’s help. They also identified a simple way of determining the strength and value of their links—something Moz’s target audience wants to do, too.
3. AdRoll Case Study
This case study shows how Adroll was able to help You Need a Budget
free-up time to concentrate on their higher-level strategy (as opposed to spending valuable time and resources trying to manage multiple ads.)
YNAB faced the initial challenge of managing several different platforms and getting marketing insights quickly. The case study explains how AdRoll was able to help YNAB increase their ROI and exceed their marketing goals
during both peak and non-peak seasons.
It’s an inspiring read for their potential customers, likely convincing them to give AdRoll a shot. They want to see the same results.
4. Apple Case Study
Apple displays multiple case studies
on their website, using impressive stats and standout results to show potential B2B clients how they can improve their workplace systems.
However, instead of outlining the client’s initial problems, Apple focuses on how they could improve workplace efficiency, save time, and boost productivity.
Take Vestas, a leading sustainable energy provider that uses Apple products to help them manufacture, install, and service wind turbines. Using Apple iPhones and custom apps, their service technicians can save 400,000 hours annually.
Apple supports their success stories with videos telling the story of each client. It helps prospects envision how the company could solve their problems.
5. GitHub Case Study
GitHub, an internet hosting provider for software development, uses this case study
to demonstrate how they helped 3M, a manufacturing company that struggled with knowledge silos which made code sharing challenging.
Code was scattered across different repositories, in Bitbucket, and on shared drives. These issues often caused duplication of work, dragging on productivity and efficiency.
GitHub was challenged to speed up research and development time while sharing best practices at scale. But since using GitHub to deploy on their multi-cloud ecosystem, 3M has gone from 400 deployments in 60 days to 6,000. All of that success is shared in their visual case study.
6. Lokalise Case Study
In this visual case study
, Lokalise helps Any.do automate and simplify localization processes, so they don’t stall when they release new versions of their app.
Any.do, a productivity app, is localized into dozens of languages (with more in the pipeline.) Given that the majority of translations on the app are crowdsourced, any user of the app can add translation in their desired language.
But they needed help with complex localization processes.
In their case study, Lokalise showcases how they created a smooth and efficient translator management process using an API. Future customers can see they know their stuff.
7. Google Case Study
Google created a case study
to explain the challenges Luxe, a building logistics firm, faced when users signed up for and started using their service.
Since users typically sign up for and begin using Luxe’s parking service app on the same day, Luxe needs to make sure they have intuitive sign-up flows.
Google demonstrates how using Google sign-in increased the registration and activation rates. It inspires other companies to use the same process and see similar results for themselves:
8. Instagram Case Study
Instagram has written many case studies, including this one
for the South Korean cleaning brand All My Way.
Their goal with this case study was to showcase the value of Instagram Shop to a small business. They succeeded because this case study:
- Uses statistics to compare All My Way's success before and after using Instagram Shop
- Shares persuasive quotes from All My Way's marketers
- Dives deep into All My Way's strategy
- Includes a GIF showcasing one of All My Way's ads
9. Facebook Case Study
Facebook showcases the value of its platform through partner success stories like this one
This case study aimed to showcase how Facebook's dynamic ads increase conversion rates and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). What's great about this case study is that it discusses how COVID-19 impacted Kushal's marketing strategy, explains how dynamic ads work, and includes an infographic that describes which Facebook products the brand used.
Want more ideas? Check out these 30 marketing case study examples to inspire your own.
This blog post was originally published on July 26, 2021. It was updated in December of 2022.