Case studies provide a great tool to share examples of how you help your clients achieve results. Although the way customers make decisions has evolved, sadly, the format of the case study has not changed in decades. If you are still using the old formula, then you might be repelling instead of attracting clients.
The Old Method
Traditional case studies generally follow a structure: 10% of the content is about the client's situation. 30% of the content talks about your company and its capabilities. 40% then focuses on the solution and the details of your products and services in the solution. Finally, traditional case studies share 20% of the benefits to the client. On the surface, it seems like a logical structure.
Why The Old Method No Longer Works
In our research across thousands of executives, we discovered the questions CEOs and executives ask when approving decisions. The top questions come down to 1. What problem does it solve; 2. Why do we need it; and 3. What is the likely outcome or result?
Notice that the traditional case study formula does not align with how today's clients make decisions. So, your old-school case study might not help your clients feel better about what you offer.
In the traditional case study, you might include details about your solution. For the given client, perhaps you used a specific tool (it might be a method, a piece of software or hardware, or an approach). You used that tool in the case study example because it appropriately fit the unique goals of that client.
However, your potential client might have different needs, or might have slightly different circumstances. Your additional detail could allow the client to get distracted because of their negative experience with that same tool, or they might not think that the solution applies to them.
Furthermore, and this may be tough to grasp, the reader does not need to know how you solved the issue.
Enter the Same Side Selling Case Study
In the Same Side Selling Case Study, you align the case study with how customers make decisions. You start similarly with 10% on the client's situation. Then you devote 50% of the case study to the impact of not solving the issue. This helps to illustrate why the issue might be worth solving. We then give you 10% to say that you helped them - though they'll figure that out if they are reading the case study on your site. You then allocate 30% to the measurable results associated with the solution.
Show - Don't Tell
In the Same Side Case Study, notice that it includes measurable results. Case studies are about showing results, not talking about them. The more tangible and measurable, the more meaningful. The goal is for a potential reader to think, "I'm facing that same issue. I've not considered some of those impacts that could be hurting our business. But, boy would I like to see similar results." Saying "sales improved" is nice. Saying, "Sales to existing customers grew by 14% within four months" is better.
Notice that we allocate no space to a discussion of the solution. The solution, ironically will only serve as a distraction. If you included the solution itself, then the reader would have no reason to contact you. They might even just search for the components of the solution. Instead, by describing the situation and associated impact, and then highlighting the results, an interested party might think, "How did they do this?"
Your goal is for them to pickup the phone and contact you.
What To Do When They Call
The right case study might prompt a prospect to call and ask, "How did you solve that issue in the case study?" What you do next is what separates good from great companies. Despite your temptation to jump into a description of the solution, instead simply ask, "What was it about that case study that caught your attention?"
The best thing you can do is to connect with their issues, and talking about your products or services won't help build their confidence.
It's Your Turn
What examples can you share of great case studies? How about ones that make you cringe? Share your observations in the comments below.