It can be hard to express the day-to-day work and problem-solving that goes into a successful client project. You might want to tell the world about the great e-commerce mobile app you built for one client or how you approached designing a multilingual website for another, but you’re not sure how to share the story—and that’s where case studies come in.
Case studies help convey your expertise and build trust with potential clients or customers because they tell real stories about the services you provide. Here are five actionable tips for building a great case study, sourced by OSP’s writers.
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1. Write up a set of questions before you write
For most case studies, we recommend interviewing a subject-matter expert, your client, or someone involved in the project. Even if you were involved in the project yourself, it’s helpful to have an ‘outsider’ perspective because that’s how your readers (and potential clients) will approach the subject.
Before your interview, develop a set of questions. These will serve as an outline and guide the narrative structure before you’ve written a single word. Even if you end up asking other questions—and you probably will—writing them down ahead of time helps you firm up what context your readers will need to know about the project and what kind of story you’re hoping to tell.
2. Define the problem space
Your average case study might focus on the solution, but we think the problem space is just as important. Readers might not understand the solution if they don’t understand the problem first: they need the right level of context to appreciate the case study. In describing your client’s needs or challenges, you show that you take the time to understand project goals and that you’ve thought through everything that needs to be addressed in the course of an engagement. This adds credibility.
3. Quote the humans involved
A case study tells a story and often involves some reporting.
If you’re already interviewing people involved, quoting them in the case study itself helps establish trust and tell a more compelling story. Don’t worry too much about getting the “perfect” quote. People express more relatable emotions when they speak naturally and fluently.
Readers will get a sense of how your subject-matter experts felt about the project, what they worried about, and, near the end, what success felt like.
4. Describe the journey there
While most people expect a case study to share a success, the journey getting there can be just as telling. Describing your approach offers many opportunities to highlight your expertise. Clients and customers like to know about abandoned paths and mistakes made along the way — these can show that your organization learns from experience and knows how to respond flexibly. If you include these pivot points, clients will have a better idea of how you weigh decisions.
5. Highlight metrics or statistics as benefits
Towards the end of most case studies, there’s typically a buoyant note: you celebrate your client’s success (and therefore your team’s accomplishments), and preview what’s coming next. At this point, you should highlight metrics or statistics. While numbers can’t tell much of a story on their own, they can add color once people already understand the other elements. Metrics and statistics help readers understand the size of your impact and give them data points to bring back to their own organizations.
Anecdotal evidence is also evidence. If you’re writing a case study about a newly completed project, it might not be delivering numbers (metrics, data) yet. This situation lends itself to talking about your solution process, the collaboration between your teams and the client, or other, more human successes. Including one or two brief, enthusiastic testimonials from end-users or your client can be just as valuable as “hard data” in some cases.
Try writing a tech case study yourself
Case studies are a valuable tool and method for sharing the strengths you bring to a partnership. If you’re ready to start writing case studies but want some support, OSP can help.
We write compelling case studies for you. Find out more about our case study services.