Top tips: how to write a good case study

You’ve worked tirelessly for months to produce a job that exactly matches the customer’s creativity, price and perhaps environmental criteria. The run has been completed, you’ve billed the client, and the feedback is glowing. All done. Aren’t you?

Rather than sitting back satisfied, printers would be well advised to squeeze as much value from this success story as possible. With new business tougher to come by, a happy customer can be valuable currency, enabling a printer to show off to other clients and prospects.

In a sales pitch, casually referring to how pleased another customer was with your services might not hold that much sway. It will be more effective if the client them-selves sings your praises in the form of a well-researched and structured, written case study. Here’s how to produce one.

1 Identify the ideal story

Pick relevant examples The best case studies will be ones where the customer has entrusted you with a service that others are contemplating, but perhaps need a little extra push to sign up for. 

Case studies can be surprisingly time-consuming to research and write. It’s vital to identify examples with broad enough appeal to make producing them worth-while, but unusual enough that they will grab people’s interest and show the innova-tions on offer (no one will be impressed by case study after case study about run-of-the-mill jobs successfully completed).

Check the client is happy Always make sure that the subject of your prospective case study is happy with what you are doing. Some customers might not want 

to be included in an awards entry or have their case study posted online. Ensure the client doesn’t have to share any sensitive information for the case study to work. You can reassure the customer about the possibility of accidentally including such details by offering them full copy approval once you’ve written the piece.

2 How to write the piece

Start sooner rather than later Once you’ve decided on a project, strike while the iron is hot. Leaving it too long before you ask the customer and your colleagues for help will mean details won’t be as fresh in their minds, so start as soon as the job has been successfully completed.

Ask lots of questions Get a colleague to give you an idea of how the job was executed but be sure to also get the whole story from the customer and write the case study from their perspective. Ask what the original brief was, what challenges were overcome, what options there were for fulfilling the brief, why certain choices were made and what the benefits were. 

Include hard evidence The more you can emphasise the results for the client, the better. This is what prospective customers will be interested in. Ask the company for stats on how effective the job has been, such as how much less costly the job was than expected, how quickly it was delivered or, in the case of a direct mail piece, how much higher the response rates were than anticipated. You might want to include a ‘Key benefits’ box-out, clearly summarising what was achieved.

Include testimonials The reason a formal case study is so much better than anecdotal evidence from your sales team is that promote you through the unbiased – and so much more persuasive – medium of your customer’s words. So be sure to include lots of direct quotes.

Structure in three sections Have the fact that you are telling a story in mind when you write the piece. The reader needs to be led logically through its beginning, middle and end, from the problem that existed to the solution you provided to the result it achieved. This will give the story a narrative structure. 

Be sure to strike a balance between including a good level of detail, to ensure the reader is not left with unanswered questions at the end, and making the piece is accessible enough that it doesn’t bamboozle all but the most experienced and techy print buyers. Once you’ve finished writing, proofread it thoroughly for grammatical and factual errors, and send to the client for approval.

Attention-grabbing headline Something catchy like ‘Response rates soar with new format’ is more apt than ‘Company X produces another print job’.

Add pictures Get relevant images of the completed job and its implementation, in a retail setting for instance, or with the person giving the testimonial holding it or standing proudly by it. Pictures will make the document much livelier and more enticing to read. Print is a visual medium, so visually showcase what was achieved. 

3 Getting the story out 

PDFs are a good format This can be the best way to email and print case studies as you can incorporate both text and images into an eye-catching format, rather than relying on the recipient to open various Word documents and image attachments.

Choose recipients judiciously Make sure you’re targeting companies that might be interested in using the services outlined in your case study. A lot of companies reserve case studies for use in one-to-one meetings with clients, where a print-out of the case study PDF acts as strong marketing collateral that the customer can take away with them.

Incorporate into sales pitches Make your work go further by editing the case study into bullet points for the sales team to use, where relevant, in presentations.

Post them on your website Some companies protect these with a data wall, whereby the viewer has to enter their details to read the piece. This is a way of gaining data on who might be interested.

Conferences and exhibitions Joint presentations between you and the client at trade fairs are a great way of showcasing the success story. The conversations you’ve had to produce the initial case study will hopefully have paved the way for a successful presentation partnership. 

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