How to Avoid Common Case Study Mistakes

BY Holly Yoos
August 11, 2022

A quick survey of customer case studies that exist in the wild reveals that not all of them are created equal.

Many of them don’t do justice to what was (undoubtedly) an amazing client success story. Sadly, the power of that success story is lost in the telling, which is a real shame—and a major lost opportunity.

Where do these case studies go wrong? Often by committing one (or more) of four common case study mistakes.

Here’s how to avoid four of the most common case study mistakes:

  1. Start with the story, not the customer
  2. Describe the experience, not the features
  3. Describe the impact, not just the results
  4. Tie your CTA to the story

1. Start with the story, not the customer

Most case studies start with a description of the customer. So instead of an attention-grabbing lead, the first paragraph or two are taken up with a boilerplate description of the company and industry.

Putting this boilerplate at the very beginning is a longstanding convention that’s long outlived its purpose (if there ever was a good reason for it).

It’s fine to have a description of the customer, but for goodness sake put it in the sidebar or at the end of the case study. If the type of company or industry is important because you’re selling to a niche area, put that information in a single bullet point (e.g. “Industry: Software”).

Because really, that generic (and boring) description isn’t why people are there. They’re there for the story, not a breakdown of who the previous company is. So plunge them into the story right away. Set the stakes and create tension from the very first sentence.

2. Describe the experience, not the features

The meat of every case study is the middle solutions section. But unfortunately, many marketers use this section to talk about product and service features and, perhaps, the steps they walked through to solve the problem.

That’s all well and good. But people won’t hire you just for product or service features and what you did with those features. They also want to learn how you think.

So if there was a sequential process to your customer’s success, highlight it. But don’t leave out the WHY. Describe the experience of the feature or the product. Not just a “we did this, then we did this, and then we did this” narrative.

3. Describe the impact, not just the results

Results are good, but impact is better.

It’s great to have a big, sexy metric, like “4,500+ leads and 2X traffic.” But what do those results make possible for the company? Did they grow to a point where they had to hire more staff? Could they open a new location?

For example, we recently wrote a case study for a client that sells software for office managers. We had a metric of something like 200% more efficient. Which is great—but what does that metric really mean?

We were able to get a quote from the office manager that drove the point home. He described how he used to carry a stack of 400 envelopes and deliver them one-by-one to different offices in his building.

Now, with the push of a button, the software performs this task for him. Now that’s relatable! Not having to get out of your chair and go door to door like a postal worker, delivering envelopes, is a pain point we can all visualize and understand.

4. Tie your CTA to the story

It’s surprising how many case studies use the same old call to action. Typically, it’s some standard, boilerplate verbiage with a “contact us” link.

That’s a lost opportunity. Every case study tells a different story. So why not make your call to action (CTA) specific to the story you just told ?

For example, our team recently wrote a case study that described the ten-year relationship between a call centre and their CRM software provider. In the always-changing world of telemarketing and CRMs, 10 years is an eternity, so this metric spoke to the CRM provider’s ability to evolve to meet the constantly changing needs of that call centre and its customers.

So instead of going with a boilerplate CTA, we tailored it to the story: “Start a long-term relationship with your CRM. Book a demo.”

We made the CTA “promise” commensurate with the story you just told, not a generic “contact us.” We tied it to the specific pain point described in the case study: call centres having to change their CRM every few years to get the features they need to scale.

By tying your CTA to the story, you’re helping to ensure your case study propels your audience to take action. It’s the very last part of your case study, so it’s important. You don’t want to whiff at the last minute.

Don’t undermine the power of your customer success story

When you succeed with a customer, you want (and deserve) to shout it from the rooftops.

Don’t let these four common case study mistakes undermine the power of the story you have to tell.

Need help telling your customer success stories in written and video formats that your leads will devour?

Contact us to start the discussion.

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