How to Design Strong Case Studies

Sarah Steimer

A well-crafted case study can showcase a mindful marketing strategy

Reflection is hip right now. Personal and professional mindfulness trends hype the benefits of contemplating and celebrating. For some, the act of reflection might mean meditation or journaling. For marketers, reflection often means building a case study.​​

The goal of case studies may be to attract new customers, present a new idea or promote yourself to a potential employer. Whatever the purpose, these structured reflections can have major implications. For example, Marketing Charts found that case studies help convert the most leads for B2B companies.

But where to begin a case study can seem overwhelming—and what works for one won’t work for all. Sometimes, the best-designed reflections come from good preparation, with wiggle room to be surprised.

What Projects Are Worth Turning into Case Studies

Kristie Ritchie, VP of marketing at Upshot, says that case studies should be crafted anytime a marketer or company tries something new or innovates the brand, product or its approach. Case studies can be crafted for product launches or when project results are outstanding. “Really, anything can be turned into a case study if you have the right infomation and story,” she says.

Case studies are being used to attract new customers, so they should include examples that are relevant to the audience. “Case studies are meant to mirror the diversity of customers to make it easier for customers to see themselves or their use case,” says Sam Balter, senior marketing manager at HubSpot.

Balter uses website building and hosting company Squarespace as an example. The company tapped well-known actors Keanu Reeves and Jeff Bridges to draw attention in its commercials, but then highlighted the actors’ stories to mimic how regular customers would use the product. The average Squarespace user hasn’t starred in a cult classic movie, but, the ad suggests, if Squarespace is good enough and simple enough for Bridges to make a website for his spoken-word and ambient sounds album, it’s good enough for the average user’s small business. ​​​​​

“You probably want to focus on people who are slightly above average in terms of name recognition,” Balter says, but those high-profile spokespeople should still have a use case that will resonate with the most common customers.

When to Begin Working on a Case Study

There are at least two schools of thought on case study writing: Start as soon as the spotlight project or campaign ends, while the details are still fresh, or start even sooner. “Work on it throughout the process by having someone document milestones, program changes and results,” Ritchie says.

There’s also an argument for postponing case study creation. Balter says that the hiatus depends on the type of project you’re highlighting. For example, a website redesign intended to improve traffic won’t show results for at least a few weeks. Balter argues that marketers should consider case studies to be evolving pieces of content that receive occasional updates rather than static pieces set in stone.


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