Writing a good business case study can take some creative inspiration. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the technical processes and results. And while those things are important, so too are the writing techniques you use to convey them.
The words ‘case study’ can induce terrifying visions of lifeless corporate jargon, inconceivable charts, and big numbers.
But what if I told you case studies could inspire a new kind of image? Something – dare I say – people may enjoy reading.
There’s a real story behind a case study. A story that might turn a hopeful reader into a happy client. You just have to find it.
How do you turn something so fundamentally corporate into an enticing story?
You can breathe life into your case study by following some of these tips…
Start with a strong outline
You need to get the story before you can tell it. Here’s the basics of outlining your case study. Jump to story writing if you have an outline already.
Pick a case study format that works
The format is probably where you want to start, but it’s possible to go questions first too if you’re haphazardly figuring it out. Traditional case studies follow this line:
- Introduction – An aperitif of the trials and tribulations to come.
- Problem – A complicating factor that is preventing a business from reaching its goals.
- Solution – What was implemented to remedy the situation.
- Results – The impact of the solutions you implemented.
It’s common to switch these elements up. One example would be by providing a bulleted list of the results section near the top, often referred to as an “executive summary” – but please – call it something a bit more interesting.
Ask insightful questions
The interview is the foundation for your case study content. You should create a comfortable environment for the interviewee that allows them to open up. Here’s some tips if you’re doing your first case study:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Give the interviewee space to talk openly
- Listen closely and look for follow-up questions
- Dig for the details – don’t be afraid to ask more questions
Another bonus tip here is to ask questions related to the people involved. Not just results and technical processes. Think about the human impact.
“I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.”Stephen King
Craft a compelling story
Make the problem resonate
The problem is a complicating factor, and it should be used to develop a rapport with readers. Having a problem to overcome is essential for any case study, and arguably, any story. Use it to paint a clear picture for your readers using your storytelling toolbox.
- Use metaphors to highlight the scale of the problem
- Talk about the pain it caused people
- Elaborate on the human side
- Hint at what needs to change
You’ll want to know how to resolve the tension created by this. But first, some story writing techniques will help add colour and consistency.
Use emotive language
But our numbers are good! That’s why people will choose us!
People connect with stories, not numbers. Got it?
Numbers are abstract, and have little meaning beyond “that sounds big” and “that sounds small”. Now I’m not saying numbers aren’t important, but metaphors are a good way to create a feeling and sense of scale that numbers don’t really achieve.
In general, emotive language creates a dramatic impact. An inspirational source for emotive language is famous speeches. See this quote:
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”Martin Luther King Jr.
This speech is full of effective emotional rhetoric. Instead of just saying “a state of injustice”, he refers to it as a sweltering heat, which creates a tangible feeling, and makes it relatable. Try to think about how you can use metaphors to generate a sense of scale more often, in your case studies and all of your writing.
Write sentences that flow
How do you write sentences that flow? You can try using coherence markers next time you write a case study. Here’s what they are:
Referential coherence – repeat object mentioned in previous sentence.
Relational coherence – convey a causal connection (however, therefore, as a result).
“Your skin’s natural oils keep it silky and supple. But as you age, your skin becomes less elastic and the production of oil slows down.”Dove ad
Make it readable
Coherence markers are just one technique to improve readability. There are many more of course, but let’s talk briefly about parallelism. It’s sorely missed in much of the copy I see online. Especially in bulleted lists.
Parallelism is the consistency of phrases, clauses, and grammar in one or between multiple sentences.
Without parallel structure: “He enjoys singing, cooking, and to read”
With parallel structure: “He enjoys singing, cooking, and reading”
It’s obvious in one sentence. But I see this inconsistency more between sentences than within them. Keep your eye out for that. If you want to write a good case study readability is pivotal.
Highlight the benefits
It’s important not to lose sight of our goal. You’re providing a case study to sell something. As with most copy, you lead with the benefits. So, let’s say you designed software for a company – you’d speak of how it helped them and only use the features to illustrate the point when necessary.
Relinquish the problems
Remember when you pushed the reader down a spiral stairway of depression? It’s time to reach out your hand and help them up with a psychopathic smile.
I’m talking about the problems we agitated earlier, of course.
When we’re in the solution stage of the case study, we have to wrap up those problems with a simple solution: hire us, we’re really good.
- Talk about the solutions you implemented
- How they had a positive impact on the business
- How it affected the people you were working with
- What your processes were, how they worked, and why
Here you can change the tone of your emotive language to something positive. Replace the black and white jargon with colourful metaphors.
Wrap it up
After that, the job is done. The results section should speak for itself and can be formatted as a bulleted list or a brief summary. Show the most impactful results and any numbers you have here.
Alternatively, you can get in touch and I’ll do all of this for you.