What is a Case Study?
Generally speaking, a case study involves the in-depth research of a subject over a specified period of time. Much like an analytical essay, a case study looks at a subject in order to validate the thesis. However, this definition is still pretty broad.
To better understand case studies, let’s say that a business wants to illustrate how one of its products can solve a specific problem for consumers. The business can simply tell people that the products works, but why should they believe them? Where is the evidence?
This is why a case study is extremely useful. The business can examine and record a situation in which a past customer had a problem and used the product to solve it. Then, the business can use this case study as evidence to promote their product in the future.
How to Write a Case Study: A Step-by-Step Guide
Every case study is unique to its subject matter. Case studies can cover a wide range of topics, and organizations can use different methods to research their subjects. That said, in order to write a clear, effective case study, you will need to follow a few simple steps.
Step 1: Identify the Problem and Solution
Most case studies are designed with the goal of promoting a specific solution to a specific problem. So, in order to write a case study, you will need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the problem?
- What is the solution?
The answers to these questions are extremely important, as they will form the basis of your entire case study. Once you have identified the problem and its solution, you can move on to more in-depth questions that will help you later on in the writing process:
- How does our product/service solve the problem?
- What are the key features of our product/service?
- How does our product/service differ from our competitors?
Step 2: Identify Your Subject
The term “subject” can mean many different things. In this case, we are not referring to the general topic of your case study, but rather the focus of your research. For example, let’s assume that you have already identified the following problem and solution:
- Problem: Businesses do not have in-house translators to translate documents into different languages.
- Solution: A service that provides expert linguists to quickly translate documents at a fraction of the cost of an in-house translator.
Based on this solution, we can assume that your organization specializes in translating documents for other businesses. As a result, you probably have a number of past clients for whom you have translated documents. So, how do you choose which client will be the subject of your case study?
This step will require you to research and analyze the experiences of your clients. You may find that you would like to write about more than one client, but this will require you to write more than one case study, as every case study should only have one subject.
To identify your subject, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- Which client(s) provided positive testimonials about their experience with your product/service?
- Which client(s) had a problem that most closely aligned with the problem you aim to solve?
- Do any of the clients continue to use your products/services? If so, for how long?
- Which client(s) have used your services recently?
Step 3: Research Your Subject
While Step 2 requires some research into your potential subjects, you will need to conduct more in-depth research once you have chosen the subject of your case study. If you have chosen a client that used your product/service more recently, this will likely be easier to do. You may remember specific details about the client’s needs, expectations, deadlines, etc.
In any case, you will likely need to contact the subject and request a testimonial of their experiences (as well as permission to publish a case study). While the specific information you need will depend on the nature of your product/service, you should generally ask the following questions of your client:
- How did you hear about our organization?
- What problem did you need our organization to solve?
- Had you previously tried to solve the problem on your own or with one of our competitors? If so, what happened?
- How would you describe our customer service?
- What positive impact did our service have on your business?
- How do you think we differ from our competitors?
In addition to the testimonial of your client, you will want to research other circumstances that could make this case study (or client) unique. Perhaps this was the first time the client had ever worked with your business to solve this problem, or maybe the client had an extremely tight deadline that your business was able to meet. Either way, look for details that will make your case study stand out and help market your product/service.
Finally, while you do not have to include statistics in your final draft, they do help give your case study a greater sense of legitimacy. For example, when you see an article with charts, graphs, or numerical statistics, you’ll probably think that it is well-researched and informative, right?
Needless to say, you shouldn’t include any facts or figures that would be in breach of your client’s privacy. However, with your client’s permission, you should consider using data related to your client’s budget, the final cost (especially if it is lower than your competitors), the timeline, and the steps that your organization took to solve the problem.
Step 4: Compile the Information and Write Your Case Study
Once you have identified the goal of your case study (including the problem and solution), chosen your subject, and researched the specific case, it’s time to put it all together! But you may still not know how to write a case study. Sure, you have completed all of the necessary research, but how do you give it structure?
Ultimately, every case study tells a story. Like any story, a case study needs to have a beginning, middle, and end. Naturally, you have freedom with how you choose to tell your story, but there are a few factors that you should consider to make your case study as effective as possible:
- Tone: Most case studies are professional in nature, and therefore have a tone that reflects the voice of the brand. You should always consider your brand’s voice when crafting a case study. That said, you don’t want your case study to be bland or uninteresting, so you need to write a story that you (and your target demographic) would be interested in reading.
- Structure: As previously stated, every story needs a beginning, middle, and end. Generally, you should start with an introduction of your client; talk about what they do and whom they serve. This is a great opportunity to really show off the best aspects of their business, because it is about their business as much as it is about yours. Then, discuss the problem they faced and how they tried to solve it before finding your organization (if applicable). Finally, talk about how your organization solved the problem, how it impacted your client going forward (increased profits, more conversions, etc), and how it improved your professional relationship with the client. While you the introduction is good for talking up your client, the end is where you can really show readers why your business is better than the competition!
- Length: The length of your case study will depend on a few factors, namely the complexity of the subject matter and details needed to effectively tell the story. That said, most marketing case studies are relatively short (500-2,000 words), as they are written to provide a concise example for potential clients in need of a solution to a specific problem.
Case Study Templates
Many times, you may know exactly what you want to write, but you don’t know how to format the information. Thankfully, there are a number of free case study templates available online. Keep in mind that you do not have to follow a specific structure, but the following case study templates can still serve as a good frame of reference:
- Demand Metric Templates – A basic case study template for a wide-variety of topics.
- Lightboard Templates – 4 templates for stat-heavy case studies.
- CV Partner Custom Templates – Multiple custom templates for brands, as well as preset case study templates for large organizations.
Case Study Examples
Finally, if you’d like some real-world examples to get your creative juices flowing, we’ve provided the following links to a number of high-quality case study examples:
- International Translating Company – HR Video Translations – A translation firm translates Human Resources videos at a fraction of the cost of their competitors.
- Microsoft – Global Steel Distribution – A steel company pioneers digitalization in an industry that requires modern solutions to internal and external communication issues.
- Wootric – In-Product NPS Surveys – In-product NPS surveys help an English teaching company track student feedback more efficiently.
- Dimensional Insight – New Balance Athletic Shoe – A data analysis tool helps a large shoe retailer submit and receive reports with greater speed and accuracy.
- UX Planet – Smart People Inc. – A new application based on data analysis helps English students have more fun on mobile devices.
We hope this guide was helpful! Learning how to write a case study may seem daunting. However, if you follow the steps above and look at some of the examples we’ve provided, you’ll be writing effective case studies in no time!