EVERY business that provides a service needs to have case studies to share with prospective customers. Case studies are important because you can use them as a sales tool to earn the trust of potential customers by demonstrating your team’s ability to meet the needs of your customers.
A case study (also known as a “use case” or “customer success story”) is a detailed summary of an instance in which your business successfully implemented a service for a customer.
This blog post will help you craft a compelling case study by:
Explaining the purpose of case studies,
Providing criteria for choosing the right jobs for case studies, and
Identifying what should be included in your case studies.
Purpose of a case study
A compelling case study will help your prospective customer feel comfortable working with your team and will allow them to feel confident they are making the right decision when they choose to do business with you.
Your case studies will also give you the ability to control your narrative by:
Highlighting the unique value your business provides customers,
Expressing your business’s philosophy and values,
Demonstrating your team’s capabilities and expertise,
Showing the way your team approaches the challenges, and
Distinguishing your business from your competitors.
Keep in mind that each case study should tell a story of what challenge your customer faced and how they were able to overcome it by working with your business.
If crafted well, your case study should lead prospective customers to see themselves, their problems, their needs, and their desired outcomes in the story. Choosing the right stories to talk about will help you achieve this outcome.
Choosing the Right Jobs for Case Studies
The first step in crafting a compelling case study is to identify the right stories that you want to share.
When selecting jobs to write case studies about, choose jobs that:
Earned you the most money. There’s no use in promoting stories of jobs that weren’t financially beneficial to you!
Highlight the most common problems, needs, goals that bring people to request the service.
Best showcase your team’s ability to deliver the solution or offer your unique value proposition.
Resulted in happy customers in case you want to add them as references (this is a bonus).
If you’re thinking back to all the successful jobs your team completed, and can’t narrow them down, don’t worry. There’s no limit to how many case studies you should create.
Ideally, you’ll want to have at least 1-2 case studies per service you offer. This will ensure you’ve got enough materials to assist in any sale your team will make.
What to Include in Your Case Studies
Once you’ve selected a handful of customer stories you want to share, you can begin to write case studies for each of them!
An effective case study follows a specific framework so the right information is shared at the right times in the story. The framework will also help you organize the information to help you avoid sharing too many or too few details.
The following sections represent the items that should be included in each case study. Each component is listed in the order in which they should appear in your case studies.
The headline is going to be the first part of your case study that a prospective customer will encounter, so it’s imperative that it captures the essence of the case study while in a succinct and engaging way.
The headline should:
Mention which service or product that was involved.
Describe the customer or reveal the top result or benefit.
Use 8 words or less.
Example: If you run a floor covering business, some possible headlines could be:
Durable Vinyl Flooring Installation for Real Estate Investor
Waterproof Laminate Upgrade for a Family Lake House
Trendy Tile Replacement for 1960s Bathroom Renovation
Carpet Replacement for Recent Home Buyers
Hardwood Flooring Refinishing for a Vintage Fixer-Upper
As we mentioned earlier, your case studies will be more effective if your prospective customers can see themselves, their problems, their needs, and their desired outcomes in the story you share. This is why it’s beneficial to include details about the customer you helped.
Depending on the type of services your business offers, the customer description might also include details about their property, circumstances, business, nuances, requirements, etc.
Whether it’s an abbreviated customer snapshot or a longer-form customer description, your case study should include the details listed below.
Property or Yard Specs (e.g. square footage, style, age, location, etc.)
Location (neighborhood, city, or state depending on your territory size)
Family Type (e.g. multigenerational, bachelor, family of 5, etc.)
Nuances or Circumstances (e.g. has pets or is a caretaker)
Property Specs (e.g. square footage, style, age, location, etc.)
Location (neighborhood, city, or state depending on your territory size)
Type of Business
RFP Requirements (e.g. restrictions on time of day for service)
*Note: If you’re sharing information that could be too revealing for a person or business, it’s best practice to get their permission and/or to make the case study anonymous.
The Challenge or Need
This will be the most important section of the case study because it will help your prospective customers identify their own problems and needs. It will also demonstrate the range and difficulty level of projects your team is able to handle.
The best way to create this section is to describe the problem the customer shared when they approached your team. You can also include the circumstances under which they approached your team as well as the issues your team observed as they assessed the situation.
As you craft the challenge, be sure to highlight the underlying problem or need because it will resonate the most with prospective customers – allowing the case study to be more compelling.
For example: A family might want a screened porch built behind their home. The underlying problem is that the parents want more family time outdoors without being affected by bugs or rain.
If you’re unsure where to start, answering some of the questions on this list will help you build out this section.
What did the customer want or need?
Why did the customer need it?
What frustrations was the challenge or need causing the customer?
How will the customer save time or money once the need is filled?
Did the customer need this challenge to be solved to please stakeholders?
How long did the customer have this need or challenge?
Why hadn’t the customer already addressed this need or challenge?
What were the circumstances surrounding the need or challenge?
Did the customer try to have this addressed in the past? What went wrong?
How does the customer’s details affect or influence the challenge or need?
Were there any time or budget constraints? If so, what were they?
Were there any nuances or requirements? If so, what were they?
To prevent the case study from being too long, we recommend selecting 3-5 of the questions above.
*Note: This is the perfect section to add before photos of the project. If your business historically hasn’t taken photos before and after a job, we recommend you start! Incorporating photos in all of your marketing and sales materials is an effective way to win more business.
Why the Customer Chose Your Business
This section gives you the opportunity to distinguish your business from competitors. As you explain why a customer chose to work with your business, you should include all the factors that contributed to their decision and for which you’d like your business to be known.
Possible reasons why a customer chose your business over competitors could be that your:
Sales team was responsive and patient.
Team demonstrated knowledge and an ability to provide value.
Reputation speaks of great customer service or quality work.
Team is known for being reliable or honest.
Pricing was competitive.
Team has a certain way of implementing or approaching the service.
Previous customers spoke volumes about how great your team is.
Team follows best practices and guidelines.
Team can deliver within budget.
Your Solution and Process
This is another section that allows you to distinguish your business from competitors and to showcase your business’s way of doing work for customers.
As you explain the solution your team delivers and the process for delivering it, try to include some of the following items:
An overview of how you planned to address the challenge or need.
Why your team chose a certain plan of action.
Key decisions your team had to make before getting started.
An overview of procedures and steps your team followed to prepare for the job.
Adjustments you made to the plan to accommodate nuances or requirements.
An overview of procedures and steps your team followed to complete the job.
*Note: This is also a good section to include photos. You could add pictures of your team working on the job site or of the project before completion. Regardless of the complexity of the project or service, photos can be taken during the process of completing it!
Though it may seem counterintuitive, including a section explaining challenges your team faced and how they addressed them builds credibility for the case study and for your business.
Highlighting unforeseen or out of the ordinary issues shows your humility, honesty, and ability to acknowledge that challenges do arise when delivering the service.
By explaining how your team overcame the challenges, you’re demonstrating your team's ability and competence – allowing the potential customer to feel comfortable letting you address their problems and needs.
It’s important to note that you should not mistake challenges from negligence with challenges that arise even though the job is done correctly. Simply highlighting mistakes or shortcomings will not earn any credibility with potential clients!
Results and Benefits
So you might be thinking, “what is there to talk about for the finished job?” There’s a lot!
In the Challenges section, we identified several questions you could answer to paint the picture of the challenge or need your customer had. In answering those questions, you’ll reveal some real problems that the customer faced.
In this section, you’ll explain how the service or completed job alleviated the problems that you revealed. Below is a list of questions you can use to fill out this section. Be sure to answer the questions that correspond with those you answered in the Challenges section.
What did the customer get that they wanted or needed?
How did the service or job address the reason why the customer needed it?
What frustrations were cleared once the service or job was completed?
How did the customer save time or money after the need was filled?
Will the customer be able to please their stakeholders now?
Did the solution improve the circumstances surrounding the challenge or need?
If the customer’s first attempt at solving this challenge didn’t work, why was this time different?
How did the service or finished job accommodate the customer’s details?
Were time or budget constraints met? If so, what did that mean for the customer?
Were the nuances or requirements met? If so, what did that mean for the customer?
Testimonial (If Possible)
Adding a written or video testimonial from the customer you covered in your case study will add to the credibility – making it even more compelling. Though it’s not required to form a great case study, we still encourage you to ask your customer to provide a testimonial.
If your case study keeps the customer anonymous, you can still ask them for a written testimonial that doesn’t include their name, their title, or the business name.
The benefits of creating a thorough and compelling case study far outweigh the inconvenience of having to sit down and write it. What’s valuable about the case study is that you can use it as a sales and marketing tool long after it’s written – meaning the return on the time you invest in creating it will be worthwhile!