How to Write Your First Case Study for Your Small Business Website
Case studies—business students analyze them, successful businesses feature them, and marketing experts say most businesses should have them. But how do you write them?
The case study creation process is sometimes a big roadblock for small business owners, especially those who don’t have an MBA or marketing experience.
In this post, we’ll walk you step by step down the road from deciding whether you need a case study to promoting your finished case study.
What Is a Case Study?
A case study is a story about how a business helped a customer solve a problem or achieve a goal. Case studies offer more detail than a bite-size testimonial. They also frame the story so readers who are similar to the customer see why that business is the one to solve their issue.
People like stories, and marketers like case studies because they offer social proof, help businesses show their expertise, and help prospective customers understand complex or unusual products and services.
Does My Business Need Case Studies?
Almost certainly. If your business sells something expensive, highly technical, or so innovative that most prospects won’t be familiar with it, case studies can overcome cost objections, educate prospects, and demonstrate value.
For example, international smart home company Loxone sells its equipment and services to homeowners and builders. Loxone has a slew of case studies featuring smart houses from tiny modern to large Victorian, to show how individual homeowners use their products to make their home lives easier:
Case studies can help you if your business offers simpler products and services, too. A well-written case study can anchor a marketing program that helps you compete on value rather than price. Dog groomers and cleaning companies can and sometimes do use case studies to show off their results and benefits to clients.
How Do I Write a Case Study?
Follow these 7 steps to write your first small business case study. We followed these steps ourselves when writing this HostGator small business case study.
1. Find your story.
Every good story starts with a challenge that the main character has to overcome, right? Think about the biggest challenges your customers expect your business to solve for them. Pick the most common one to build your first case study.
Let’s say you’re a residential remodeling contractor who specializes in retrofitting homes to be accessible for people with mobility issues, so most of your customers come to you looking to redo their entrances, room transitions, bathrooms, and kitchens.
2. Next, find your keywords.
Study the way your customers and would-be customers search for information on the problem you want to talk about in your case study.
- What do your customers ask about when they first call or email you?
- When you look at Google Analytics, which search terms are visitors using to find you?
- Which social media posts generate the most likes and shares?
This is how you pick out the keywords and phrases that people use to connect to your business. Include them in your case study so prospects can find it, too.
3. Pick your case-study subject.
Ideally, you’ve got customers who love your work and send you referrals. These are the folks who are most likely to agree to talk with you about their experience. Ask them if they have the time and interest. When you get a yes, set up an interview.
Besides the time and date that works best for your interviewee, find these things out in advance:
- How much time they have to talk. An hour is more than enough time for most small business case study interviews.
- Whether they want to do the interview in person, by phone, via email, or another way.
- How much personal info they’re willing to share. First name only? Family name only? Full name? Ideally, you’ll get a first and last name and a city, but people have different privacy preferences.
- What photos will appear in the case study? In this example, before and after photos are the obvious choice, but photos of the client can add credibility, too.
4. Do the interview.
Record audio or video and take basic notes. Keep the tone conversational so they’ll feel comfortable talking. Ask about their challenge, why they chose your company to help them, how you solved their problem, and what the result was for them.
Focus on details that prospective customers can relate to: Were you able to widen a hallway that was too narrow to accommodate a wheelchair? Does your client enjoy cooking for friends now that the kitchen counter height has been changed?
If your customer’s results include facts and figures, use them (with the customer’s permission). If your home remodel saved a customer the cost of moving to a new home, or if you did a remodel for a landlord that allowed her to expand her market and fill more units, the numbers can impress prospective clients.
5. Write the first draft of your case study.
After the interview, use quotes from your customer, your chosen keywords, and any numbers that support your customer’s story. The simplest story structure is
- Your customer had a problem.
- Your customer chose your business because…
- You worked with your customer to deliver…
- You solved their problem by…
- You saved your customers X amount of time or money.
- Your customers’ lives are now better because of your product or service.
Let that first draft sit for a couple of days, revise it, and then ask someone else to read the revised version and offer feedback. Add your photos and graphics. When you’re happy with it, ask the customer to look it over in case there are any errors.
6. Publish your case study.
You can add it to your website’s About Us or Testimonials page or create a separate page for case studies.
Thank your customer for working with you on a marketing tool to help your business grow.
7. Promote your case study.
Share your case study with your email list and on social media. You can also blog about it, create a print version for in-person meetings and events, and even turn it into a video or podcast.
Congratulations! You’ve got your first case study.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.