tips to write a persuasive case study
By Debbie Weil
Publisher, WordBiz Report
the words case study into
your subject line and most online readers will snap to attention. White papers
may get a yawn, but a case study promises real-life solutions and insider
tips on how it all really works.
not talking Harvard Business School, although the HBS
case study approach has revolutionized business education. Short case
studies fashioned as marketing vehicles can be surprisingly effective.
what is the formula for a case study that packs a punch but is
digestible enough to appeal to an online reader?
organize your information with sign posts
2. reveal real business pain
3. include specific, quantifiable results
it's the lead article in your e-newsletter or featured content on your site,
a well-written case study should:
- have a satisfying conclusion
- solve a generalizable business problem (make money or save money)
the objective is to showcase your organizations capabilities, it may
also propel the reader into the first step of the buying process for your
product or service
In other words, good content isnt just fun to read. It should set in
motion a sequence of visitor thoughts and actions that ultimately lead to
profiles, success stories or case studies
It doesnt matter what you call them. Just be consistent. And recognize
that visitors to your site arent dumb. They know why youre including
I like case study. It suggests a story with a beginning, middle
and end a tidy resolution.
it a challenge with a result? A problem with a solution?
Whatever nomenclature you decide on, stick with it. Three subheads work well
as signposts for your readers. As an example:
- current situation.
consistent organization to your case studies makes them easier to grasp
and also easier to write. If the case study is on your site, use a consistent
layout on the page as well.
(Thanks to E-Write Online for this
phrase which is a good reminder of how to write for the Web.)
other words, consider writing a case study in several levels. The top one
is your signpost subheads with a summary blurb under each. Readers who want
to know more can click through to a complete version that goes into more detail.
makes a great case study
I asked Ellis Booker, editor of BtoB magazine, for his tips. Hes been
publishing a from the trenches case study in BtoB Hands-On, the
print pub's free weekly e-newsletter, since January, 2002. He swears by his
candid and revealing
The best case studies, Booker said, are ones that sound like a legitimate
problem. The reader wants candor. They want to see the pain point. Readers
want something to be revealed.
more effective is a story that says, We screwed up. It should
offer a dialectic. Readers like opposing points of view.
case study has to be specific and easily digestible. It has to be tactical
information that can be generalized, he said. Unless you have
results, the case study is not nearly as powerful as it should be.
to a word count
Booker assigns a limit of around 300 words to his writers, although most of
BtoBs case studies are a bit longer. A more reasonable word count is
500 words. If your readers cant skim quickly to get the gist, youre
wasting your efforts.
of letting PR folks write your case studies
GE Commercial Finance is a mega, content rich site filled with case studies
(GE calls them success stories) that showcase the conglomerates many
corporate financing capabilities.
someone included the sub-head "GE Advantage" in every one of them.
This significantly undercuts their usefulness as credible marketing tools.
you must delegate the writing of a case study to your PR folks, be prepared
to take an editors pen to the copy they submit. Strike out the Pollyanna,
oh-were-wonderful tone. And slash the marketing speak.
case studies is part of knowledge management
Whether your company is large or small, youve got stories to tell
about customers, competitors or yourself. Generating case studies for your
Web site or e-newsletter is one way to harness your knowledge-based assets
case study from BtoB Hands-On
Ellis Bookers 500-word case study about Motorolas use of eBay as
a channel to sell refurbished goods.
stories on GE Commercial Finance site
See drop-down menu on top nav bar. Theyre organized by industry, financing
need and company revenue.
of knowledge management
article was first published in the Aug. 14, 2002 issue of WordBiz Report.
It may not be reprinted without permission.