A good case study is structured with a clear beginning, middle and end that holds your audience’s attention by creating tension of problems and cosequences… and the anticipation of resolution.
The format is simple. They can be as short as just one page. Because they are short, they can be especially useful as seminar or client handouts, direct mail inserts, and downloadable pages on Web sites. Most are conveniently divided into three labeled sections:
1. The Problem or Frustration
2. The Solution
3. The Results
The Problem or Frustration: Setting up the problem and the consequences
This is the place to set the scene… introduce the people or company, and present the problem or frustration that puts your case in motion.
First, simply describe the people. For example: Mr. and Mrs. Smith have been retired for two years. Mr. Smith had retired with a small pension and substantial retirement accounts. Mrs. Smith retired after 30 years as a teacher and has a generous pension and a small retirement account. They had recently moved from the large house they raised their family into a more manageable townhouse. Their desire was to travel 6 months out of the year.
For the Problem present both the problem to be solved (or the opportunity that may be reached) plus the consequences. — the reason why the problem or opportunity matters. It’s not enough to say that Mr. and Mrs. Smith were worried about running out of money. You have to address the–So what? You need to articulate the meaning of the challenge to the customer, whether it’s a negative consequence to overcome, or a positive outcome that might be gained:
Negative: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith were losing sleep and having arguments about whether they could rely afford this jet setting lifestyle causing both strife and loss of travel opportunities.”
Positive: “Mr. Smith would love to travel as long as he knew there would be more than enough money to do it. And Mrs. Smith had been dreaming about and planning for these travels over the past decade.”
The second part of your study, you introduce the Solution: The product or service your company provides that solves the customer’s problem or helps them achieve their goals. Here, your objective is to paint a picture, to illustrate the solution so graphically readers can “see” the evolving events in their imagination. Specificity is critical: Every detail you contribute makes the solution more tangible, more real. Don’t over stress the numbers here… instead emphasize the process.
The Result, the third part of your study should have them yearning for the end result. “What happened?” The Problem established a conflict between “what-is” and the desired “what-could-be.” Then the Solution detailed a response to the Challenge. Now every reader will want to know what happened: Did the Solution work? And what change did it bring about? The Result is, as its name suggests, presents the results; your job is to present the rewards of the Solution. As you had in your description of the Solution, make the Result as specific and detailed as you con. If possible, quantify the results with numbers, perhaps with an amount of money saved (or earned), a percentage as well as the emotional result. Whenever possible, put the most important result in your client’s words. If you can get permission to use a direct quote, use it — it’s the most credible source of information. A great Result quote might look like this: “We just got back from a one month cruise to the Mediterranean and our accounts didn’t go down… they went up!” says Mr. Smith.”
The case study is a simple format that packs a lot of punch in a small space. This is an important marketing and selling tool, don’t be afraid to invest lots of time in research — gathering the facts and quotes you need to give your case immediacy and credibility. Once you have your basic information in front of you, the 3-step structure makes the writing the case study easy.