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The Why

Elsewhere on the site, we recently covered why case studies are so effective. For us, perhaps the strongest reason case studies always pick up gongs at the ‘What Wins In Marketing?’ awards lies in social proof.

Let’s play a quick game. You’re spending the night in an unfamiliar hotel room. At midnight, the fire alarm starts honking away. Do you:


Follow the steps of the fire alarm protocol you memorised at check-in, or

Peer out into the corridor in your dressing gown to see what everyone else is doing?

For most of us, it’s (2). See, we’re social animals. We tend to look to others when deciding what to do. Case studies – at least, well done case studies – focus on a user’s journey with a particular product or service. They paint a picture of a complex problem – from a real person, like you – and see that problem overcome.

That’s powerful. The power of case studies also lies in their ability to:

Show real-world value
Be more easily recalled
Be fairly low-cost and quick to do
Showcase and celebrate success.

Because it’s all very well and good you telling someone how good your product or service is. But someone else singing your praises? That’s psychological utopia for customers-in-waiting. Yet there’s an elephant in the room.

And it’s an elephant hovering over a keyboard looking hesitant. Because, well, how do you actually put together a case study that does the material justice? What are the pitfalls? How can you make a case study shine? And why on earth should you include magnetic headers? Here’s how.

The How

A good case study always starts with a good amount of research. Research the product or service. Research the companies that have used the product or service and benefited from it. Speak with customers who have used the product or service. If your research is done well, the rest of the case study has a good chance of flowing effortlessly.

Next up: structure. A case study should have a neat beginning, middle and end. Or, a problem, a solution to that problem, and the outcome or results. Scaffolding for most case studies will include:

  • a heading that demonstrates clear value to the reader
  • An eye-catching image, or perhaps even a video, showing the user’s success
  • an arresting opening that will grab your reader’s attention
  • a snapshot of the situation
  • sections where you identify the problem
  • sections where you overcome the problem
  • lessons learned and wider benefits, including stats and data proof points
  • a summary and the gleaming future that lies ahead.

So: you’ve done your research and have a framework on which to hang your case study.

Next, you’ll want to cover that scaffolding with material. Here’s how.


Create an arresting title

Something that will draw readers in and address their problem. Take the title of this piece, for example: it’s jam-packed with alliteration – which ‘strategically arouses attention’ – and gives a clear picture of what to expect.

Start with a hook

Reel readers in with an attention-grabbing first few lines. Set up the universal storytelling question: what comes next? Get your reader curious.

Tell a story

Here’s a little – yet often overlooked - secret. Case studies aren’t really about you and your product or service. They’re about your customer - and their journey. Since your customer’s journey is likely to include a beginning, middle and end, your story structure is in place. Shine the spotlight on them.

Add some stats

The more the merrier. Metrics at the top-end - showing all kinds of stuff, whether that’s ROI, CPL, MQL, ROAS, or any other initialisation of your choosing - and throughout helps put real-world problems and real-world solutions into real-world perspective.

Make your headings magnetic

As readers, we skim. Popping in functional-yet-compelling headings neatly detailing what’s to come is a sure-fire way of keeping your audience on your side. A lot of our case studies follow a simple-yet-effective pattern: ‘The problem’, ‘The brief’, ‘What we did’, ‘Why it worked’ and ‘The outcome’ – simple, straightforward language. This allows readers to skim, should they want to, but also focus on the sections that matter most.


Make it a joy to read

Okay, this is the tricky bit. If stuck: start simply. At SBC, we love simple prose. Short sentences with short words help our brains process information so much more smoothly. ‘But what about the odd idiomatic pinata?’ we hear you cry. ‘Those flourishes that set off fireworks in your audience’s minds – don’t they work?’ Indeed they do. Just use them sparingly. Curiosity effects, bizarreness effects, the Keats’ heuristic, input effects, the labour illusion … these insights help make messages more memorable. Just don’t overdo it. Say what you want to say simply and cleanly.

Include strong visuals

Always include strong visual elements. If you don’t have any great photos of the actual person or people available, try and include illustrations, or some photos that represent and reinforce the energy of the story. Readers are visual creatures with an increasingly short attention span, so this could really help capture (and keep) their attention. Adding a video – ideally under two minutes – to your written case study can really add that extra layer of interest and engage your audience.

Have a clearly defined next step

Finally, what does the reader need to do after reading? There’s no point putting in all that hard work if the reader is thinking at the end: ‘Okay. Great. But what now?’ Add a clear call to action – whether that’s picking up the phone, sending an email, clicking a button, or, you know, actually buying something – for maximum impact.

Need a hand?

If you need a hand putting together your next batch of case studies – whether written, filmed, or both - or if you have any questions or just want to say ‘hi’, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.


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