How to Write a Case Study in 7 Easy Steps (AI Included)
One of the most valuable weapons in a content marketer’s arsenal is the case study.
While a blog draws customers to your site and web pages explain your products or services, a case study shows your products or services in action. It makes their impact tangible and relatable, and proves the claims made by your other content.
What’s most important to understand here? Your case studies are for people who are close to making a purchase decision. They might have buying power, they might have influence over those who do. But they are far enough in the scouting process to be weighing different options against each other and seeing how others fared with this or that solution.
Case studies are helpful because they flesh out your solution for your prospective customers. They show how it worked to solve another customer’s problem. Case studies serve as evidence for the promises you make all over your website.
Simply put, a case study’s purpose is to demonstrate your solution’s practical impact on real customers for prospective customers.
This is not a journal entry for a company achievements scrapbook. This is an outward-facing marketing and sales tool that speaks directly to your prospects in direct, practical terms, showing how another customer in a similar situation found your solution to be exactly what they needed.
The Basic Elements of B2B and B2C Case Studies
Case studies can come in all shapes and sizes—longform reports, condensed one-pagers, blurb-filled infographics, or even videos—but they all involve the same basic elements.
Boiled down, a case study can be described in two words: problem, solution. How you flesh out the problem and solution will depend on your strategy, your audience, and the particular story you’re telling.
Here’s what you’ll want to include:
1. A Descriptive Headline
A quick glance at your case study’s headline should give your audience a clear idea of the takeaway—and whether or not it relates to their situation. This may be the last part of your case study that you write, but it’s the first thing your audience sees and may be the only part that they actually read, so it’s worth spending extra time crafting your headline.
What makes a good case study headline? Specificity.
The headline should sum up your case study’s core takeaway. This could be the specific outcomes your solution led to, the particular action your customer took with your solution, or the unique problem that was solved. Maybe it’s all three. Make sure you mention your customer — either by name or with a concise description of who or what they are.
A simple subject-verb statement starring your customer could suffice:
Elderly residents keep sidewalks clear amid record-breaking blizzard with SnowForce.
Award-winning interior designer saves nonprofit $500K on office redesign.
Channel your inner newscaster as you draft headlines. What’s the most direct, concise way to describe this case?
2. TLDR Section
Too long, didn’t read. You can see those four words as the bane of your existence — or as an opportunity to flex your writing muscles.
For case studies, a TLDR section enables people to grasp the main points without reading every word — and it may entice some to read further.
The concept is simple: In one to three sentences, summarize the main points of the case study. You’ll want to include the problem, the solution, and the outcomes (i.e., beginning, middle, and end).
Housebound adults may face fines if they don’t shovel their sidewalks within the city’s required timeframe, but these elderly adults found the timely help they needed through SnowForce, a snow removal program.
3. Customer Problem
Depending on the length of your case study and the complexity of your customer’s problem, this section could be anywhere from a paragraph to several pages long. It describes the problem your customer was dealing with when they sought out your solution.
Along with the what of the problem, you’ll also want to make clear:
- Why this problem was important and difficult to solve
- How it impacted the customer and/or their business functions
4. Previous Failed Solutions (If Applicable)
Before they came to you, did your customer try multiple solutions, all of which failed? Your case study should mention that.
Your business can decide whether or not to name the failed solutions, but showing that your solution worked where others failed will help your solution stand out. Be sure to get specific on what those other solutions lacked, whether quality customer service, software integrations, understanding of the customer’s industry, or something else relevant to your target audience.
You can write this as its own section or weave it into the “problem” section.
5. Customer Concerns and Limitations in Addressing Their Problem
Did your customer have a tight budget or privacy concerns or a brief time window to work within? These sorts of concerns and limitations are relevant to your target audience, who may have similar restrictions. You can put these details in their own section (if there’s a lot to cover) or make them part of the “problem” or “solution” sections.
6. Company Solution
How did your company solve the customer’s problem, while respecting their concerns and limitations? What steps did you take with the customer to solve their problem? How did this compare to the previous solutions they tried? Did you exceed their expectations? Finish well within their timeframe?
The solution section should answer these questions, leading with the most significant and compelling information.
Be as specific as possible about how you solved their problem — but keep the customer the main character. One trick for doing this? Instead of adopting a first person narrator that refers to your company as “we”, use third person perspective (like a newspaper reporter) and make your customer the acting subject of as many sentences as possible.
What were the outcomes of your company’s solution? Are there any statistics or measurable benefits you can detail here?
The results section is also a great place to include customer quotes describing their happiness with your solution, how effective your solution was, and what they can now do because their problem has been solved.
Just make sure to favor quotes with more concrete information. A few breathless “SnowForce is a godsend”-type quotes are fine, but quotes describing tangible outcomes carry more weight.
Sometimes, the results section is enough, but longer case studies are served well by a conclusion that:
- Sums up major takeaways
- Integrates a final customer quote
- Includes a relevant call to action (CTA), if applicable
If you’re writing a one-pager, though, skip the conclusion. The TLDR section covers this and the results section will end your case study in a strong spot. You can always add a quick CTA.
💫 Just like you can use Wordtune's Summarizer tool to pull out key points for the TLDR section, you can also use it to identify major takeaways to cover in the conclusion.
7 Tips for Writing Effective Case Studies
1. Choose customer case studies based on your target audience.
Your content marketing department has limited resources — maybe you’re the only resource! So don’t waste your time writing a case study about every happy customer your company has helped. Instead, decide who to write about by focusing on your marketing and sales goals.
Is there a certain corner of the market, a certain “persona” or audience, that your marketing or sales teams are targeting?
If so, what is that audience’s key pain point? Has your company addressed that same issue for another customer already? Were they pleased with the results?
If so, that’s the customer you should write a case study about.
2. Treat your case study like a story.
The main character is your past customer. The audience is your prospective customer. The plot is your past customer’s journey from problem to solution. Your business and solution are mere supporting characters.
Use your storytelling skills to bring the case study to life and entice your target audience. Craft a killer headline and an attention-grabbing hook. Focus on the most compelling details. Show and tell. Answer the why as well as the who, what, when, where, and how.
Even if your case study is only five paragraphs long, your reader should reach the end and feel like they went on a journey.
3. Be as specific as possible.
A vague sentence helps no one. Your prospects have specific problems that need specific solutions. They’ve already waded through too many company websites that make bold, vague claims but never really explain what they do or how they do it. One reason case studies are useful is because they’re not vague — so prioritize specificity.
This means you’ll need to gather specific details in the research stage, ask specific questions when you’re interviewing your customer. Do the hard work up front and the writing process will be much smoother.
4. Focus on your customer’s (and prospective customer’s) perspectives.
The customer is the hero, not you, so make sure the case study keeps the spotlight on them. Your solution is just a way to help them achieve their ultimate goals. When you revise your case study, pay attention to who is doing most of the action—and make sure it’s your customer as much as possible.
5. Stick to the point.
This is typical writing advice, but: only take as much space as you need to tell the story. If it helps, write long and edit down (Wordtune comes in handy for that editing process!). Don’t waste readers’ time.
6. Break your case study up into scannable sections.
These sections will generally correspond to the basic elements we described earlier, but instead of using generic “problem”, “solution”, and “results” headings, write descriptive headings that are specific to the case study. Match them to the style of your headline — or play around with themes and puns — but make sure they’re understandable at a glance.
💫 Wordtune can help you write headings by summarizing your sections refining them!
7. Make the takeaway crystal clear.
The takeaway is mentioned in the headline, TLDR, and conclusion — and it should be clear in each of those places. If you’re muddy on what the takeaway is, focus on the problem and solution sections. Work on summing up the takeaway in a simple, declarative sentence, and then riff on that sentence in those three places.
A case study is a great tool for showing your prospective customers that your solution works — and it’s right for them. Take the time to craft a vivid, well-structured case study and your sales teams will thank you. Your solution won’t be vague and hypothetical to customers anymore.
This article was co-written with Wordtune. Wordtune didn’t write the whole piece. Instead, it contributed ideas, suggested rephrasing alternatives, maintained consistency in tone, and of course - made the process much more fun for the writer.