A case study can be a great way to demonstrate to a prospective customer your ability to help them solve an important business challenge. Done right, a case study validates your claim that you’re the right partner to meet your customer’s need. Get it wrong and you leave your customer with more questions than answers.
The first step in the lifecycle of a good case study is gathering information. Knowledge management, or compiling, storing and organizing you’re a company’s work history, is a challenge we’ve seen consistently among companies of every size and across a wide cross section of industries. Typically, companies are so focused on addressing their customers’ most urgent challenges that they fail to keep track of project details along the way. Once the project is concluded, stakeholders move to the next challenge and on to new roles, locations or even employers.
So, the real keys to information gathering are timeliness and being proactive. Keeping detailed records of projects in progress can be very helpful. But we advise our clients to develop project closeout documentation that prompts them to summarize on project conclusion the key difficulties overcome, methodologies and approaches used, roles and responsibilities fulfilled, project metrics, and accomplishments both subjective and quantifiable.
Guidelines for usage
Once you’ve successfully gathered the necessary project details, your challenge is to present them in a way that best appeals to your customer, addresses their concerns about you, and supports your case as a partner of choice. A case study can be presented as a standalone piece of collateral or as part of a proposal, presentation or other document. In any instance, we adhere to the following guidelines when producing case studies for our clients:
Organize it. Divide case study content into at least two, but preferably three or more sensible sections. We typically describe the customer’s business problem, our client’s solution, and results achieved separately.
Format it. As with all deliverables we help our clients develop, we discourage presentation of monolithic blocks of text. Rather, we recommend use of tables, color and font variation, bullets and graphics like timelines, maps and process flow diagrams to make case studies less intimidating and more digestible to the reader.
Focus it. Many projects solve more than one business challenge. Similarly, case studies can be used to address certain customer concerns specifically and deemphasize less relevant aspects. Accordingly, we frequently develop and archive separate case studies for the various aspects of a given project or client relationship. We review client case studies carefully prior to each usage to measure their applicability overall, but also to ensure we are addressing any known concerns or objectives on the part of the prospective customer.
Quantify it. We always try to include important facts and figures describing the prior work. How many people were involved? How many work locations and where? Over what period of time was the work conducted? What was the total value of the project? What time or cost savings was achieved? What quality or safety improvements did we make? Such facts and figures grab your customer’s attention and help him establish a context for your story and its relevance to his current challenge.
Substantiate it. We recommend inclusion in the results portion of the case study any evidence that validates our claims of project success. Customer scorecard data or satisfaction survey results, reference information and/or testimonials are all outstanding ways to substantiate your story.
Opacity or transparency
Many of our clients have confidentiality agreements with their customers that prevent them from disclosing details about their relationship or even the relationship as a whole. Such agreements can impact what you disclose in your case studies but shouldn’t prevent you from using them entirely. Typically in such cases, we’ll provide some project details without disclosing the identity of the customer. For example, instead of naming an insurance industry customer, we’ll describe it generically as a “Fortune 100 Global Insurance Company”. Or, rather than identifying a specific global oil company, we’ll call it a “Fortune 10 Oil & Gas Producer”. Similarly, where we have a testimonial but do not wish to identify the source, we’ll describe the source’s title while keeping the name confidential. Obviously, the optimal situation is where we have permission for full disclosure of all these details, but in the absence thereof we seek to provide the best case study we can under the circumstances.
In short, if you take the time to gather the right information and present it in a compelling way, a case study can be a vital weapon in your business communications arsenal. Enacting the simple measures summarized here are an excellent first step toward painting a clear picture of your capabilities and expertise. As always, should you need assistance improving your knowledge management or business communications capabilities, the professionals at Kinetic stand ready to help.
About Kinetic Group, LLC
Kinetic Group provides business communication services including brand/identity creation, website and marketing collateral design and content development, video production, and outsourced proposal/presentation writing. The Kinetic team brings decades of expertise developing the branding, positioning and communication tools that help clients establish unique identities, grow awareness and win business. The company serves companies around the world and across a wide range of industries with a distinct orientation toward practical, compelling output designed to achieve specific results in an efficient, client-centric fashion. Kinetic can be reached at (323) 465-5296 or email@example.com.