5 Mistakes That Kill Your Case Studies – And What To Do About Them

Writing case studies takes time and effort. When you get them right, you build your credibility and win more work.

When you get them wrong, you waste precious time, and worse of all, you can undermine your brand.

Read on to discover the simple mistakes to avoid.


Short term, reactive thinking

Short term reactive thinking is the number one challenge with case studies.

Imagine the scenario. You need a case study – for a marketing event, proposal or client pitch  – and you need it right now, but you cannot find it. Perhaps you didn’t get around to writing it or perhaps you started writing it and got distracted by other priorities. Either way, you decide to pull it together now, at the last minute, to hit that deadline.

What do you end up with? A case study that doesn’t do your business justice.

Stepping back, thinking strategically, deciding which case studies are right for your target market, and then giving yourself the time to write them is the sensible way to go.

It cuts down on your admin time too, as getting client buy-in for a case study early in the process saves you an awful lot of email back and forth when it comes to review and sign off.


Too long, too techy

Going ‘full techy’ is a classic mistake.

When you’ve worked on a product or project, it’s inevitable that you are going to be close to the detail. Before you dive into the detail, ask yourself:

1. How well do you know your audience?

2. What will keep them reading the whole case study through to the end?

3. Will your audience appreciate a display of deep technical expertise or will it confuse them?

500 jargon-free words can have more impact than a 2000 word in-depth technical case study, depending on the audience.

If your case study does needs to go into technical detail, make sure that you include an executive summary at the start so that the reader can understand it at a glance.


Too salesy

The other extreme is using your case study for the hard sell. Don’t. Do. This.

It’s very easy to spot, and it will put off potential clients.

Your case study is a story about how you help your client solve a problem. Similar clients with similar problems will relate to it so trust that they will be able to understand how you can help them too.

Reign in the sales language and the pushy tone. Audiences connect with an authentic voice.


Overly rigid adherence to templates and brand

OK OK – so here at Case Study Ninja we live by the mantra of ‘challenge, solution, impact’ and we are always happy to share a template or two. We know that when it comes to a looming deadline, starting with a blank Word document is a miserable experience.

As important as it is, the structure is only the foundation of the case study.

To shine you need to tell a story. The story is about how you helped your client, and what you helped them to achieve.

You can be flexible here as the key is to write a narrative that flows, combined with a very clear and positive impact for your client.

If the story works better when you merge the challenge and solution, and call it ‘project approach’ – that’s fine, go with it. If it reads better with 400 words and bullets, don’t try and drag it out to meet at 1000 word ideal word count.


The slow death of sign off

We’ve all been there. The case study has been drafted and reviewed by a couple of the main parties, and everyone is waiting on one person for sign off.

It’s too late to go back in time and get the client’s buy-in during the project, so how much chasing do you carry out before you drop it from fear of irritating your client?

Sign off is the final hurdle for many case studies, so make sure that the emails you send help your client to understand the benefits of the case study for everyone involved. A deadline helps too.

If you’ve already sent out a couple of emails, be brave and pick up the phone.

Of course, you can always outsource the chasing to some super polite case study professionals (*ahem*).

You save time and can be confident that we will handle client liaison will in a courteous manner, as part of an established sign-off process.

(This Article was first published on Case Study Ninja)

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