Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM President & CEO Rhino PR
Marketing and public relations consultants all agree: content is king. Consistently developing and delivering valuable content across a variety of marketing vehicles is critical to showcasing expertise and thought leadership to potential and current clients.
Case studies are a way to present details of a project or highlight a common challenge that readers might relate to. A well-written case study should explain the client’s challenge and describe the expertise your firm brought to the project. A compelling case study packages how your firm solved the problem, in a short, concise way – typically with only one page of text and graphics – and highlights the results your solution provided or benefits realized by the client.
Rather than a self-promotional piece, a case study should provide a client’s personal viewpoint with an example that is relatable to your target audience. Keep the writing simple and free of industry jargon and acronyms, with a third person tone that conveys objectivity, authority and professionalism.
What to Include: Case Study Format
Generally, a case study defines the client’s challenge, your firm’s innovative solution, and the successful results. One paragraph per section is adequate, and it is acceptable to include bullet points with quick “at a glance” facts. Client quotes are an integral part of demonstrating what it is like to work with your firm.
- Challenge: This section summarizes the situation facing the client, explaining why they needed help. Provide background on the client’s company as well as a detailed description of the decision-making process that led them to hire you.
- Solution: To make a connection to the reader, this section should describe how you solved the problem in a way that summarizes what it is like to work with your firm. Avoid putting the final outcome in this section. Instead, focus on your firm’s expertise, how you devised this solution, and the advantages to it.
- Results: Here is where you describe how your firm met the client’s expectations and helped them achieve their goal. This section should include measurable outcomes and quantifiable data, such as facility benchmarks and statistics on energy usage, productivity, or employee retention rates after an interior fit-up, for example. Occupant feedback and end user experiences provide powerful testimonials for how people perceive the completed project.
- Images: An accompanying photograph or image makes the story more engaging and helps create a connection with the reader. For an online case study, professionally created project videos are an invaluable tool for increasing readership rates.
- Client quote: A powerful client quote adds credibility and authenticity to a case study. The quote should illustrate why the client selected you, and emphasize why your work was so great.
Finding Your Focus: How to Select a Client to Highlight
To create a strong case study, start with a strong success story. A client who experienced an unexpected benefit from your service makes an obvious choice. Look for examples that add value – perhaps a client approached you from an industry you don’t often work in, or a client came to you after an unsatisfactory experience with a competitor. These clients have powerful stories that help define your competitive advantage.
The Client Interview
Your goal is to extract as much information as possible from the client about their need for your services and what led them to select you. Prepare to devote 30 to 60 minutes for the interview, and invite elaboration by asking open-ended questions that encourage detailed, thoughtful responses. To tell a compelling story, ask for numbers and statistics that put the project into context.
Compose a short, compelling title that grabs the attention of the reader – especially a potential client. Build a keyword into the title for search engine optimization, and include two to three more applicable keywords as well as the name of your client in the body of the text. Follow the case study with an “About Us” paragraph that includes notable company details and contact information.
After your case study has been approved internally, it should be reviewed by the client. Most clients like to be made aware of how their company and project are presented in your marketing materials. It is a common courtesy to get approval on case studies, and convey how the text will be repurposed into a variety of marketing vehicles, including:
- Social media posts
- Website blog posts
- Testimonials to accompany proposals
- Industry publication feature articles
- Email marketing blasts
A quality case study is well worth the investment of time and resources, especially when it can be repackaged for different audiences. Great content helps promote your firm’s accomplishments, and the case study provides an excellent opportunity to feature these achievements. In an era where content reigns supreme, utilize the case study to enhance your marketing efforts.