3 pitfalls of writing a business customer case study

Putting on my copywriter hat to share what I’ve learned over 15 years of writing and editing business customer case studies. I’ve learned the hard way that these case studies are valuable—but not easy to write.

These stories matter. Writing an effective one takes practice, patience and attention to the elements that need to work together.

This post covers basics of what a case study is and pitfalls to avoid when writing one. Next, I’ll cover basic elements to include in a fundamental template. In the final blog post of this three-part series, I’ll discuss enhancements to make your case study more effective.

A business customer case study is proof of the company’s results.

Case studies are a type of business-to-business (B2B) marketing collateral used that details how one customer uses the company’s product or service to solve a problem or improve upon what they’re already doing.

  • Company sales teams use case studies as supporting proof in their pitches and conversations with prospective clients or customers.
  • Marketing departments use case studies in targeted campaigns and supporting collateral at events and tradeshows.
  • Company websites post them for increased search engine optimization SEO and web traffic through the inclusion of keywords and links to their own pages as well as the customer’s website.
  • Prospective customers read case studies as they evaluate the company’s claims and aid them in determining whether or not to do business with that company.

Everyone wins…when a case study is done properly. Company proves that it’s a solid investment, and the prospective customer gains a little more confidence that it’s making the right move.

Which brings us back to not easy to write and segues us into those top three gaping “I’m going to swallow you whole before you even draft me, foolish writer” pitfalls.

Pitfall 1: Not telling the story.

Writing a case study like it’s a brochure (all about the product or service and what it can do) is easy. And ineffective. Easy to write, a bitch to read.

Throwing a bunch of facts, numbers and product details together without a coherent story results in an ad hoc, hot mess that eliminates any authority the case study could have because the damn thing doesn’t make sense.

Business customer case studies are stories. Like any story, case studies need to have a natural flow and logical sequence of events. They have a beginning, middle and end. Stick to the story.

Pitfall 2: Not respecting the customer.

When a company’s customer participates in a case study, that customer is publicly opening up with a large degree of vulnerability.

  • They needed help or a solution to a problem or shortcoming.
  • Sharing their experience with that company’s services or products includes putting their brand name and reputation with another’s.
  • Trusting the company to tell the story their story also means trusting that company with their brand and sometimes, confidential results. (They’re sharing a lot of information that won’t be published).

Their participation is a Big Damn Deal. Honor that trust. Treat them with respect. Show them in a positive light. Involve them in the review process, and within reason, give them final approval.

Remember: Their customers can read that case study, too. If you wouldn’t want it written about your own company, don’t write it about theirs.

Pitfall 3: Not doing your research.

(tiny vent) This bugs me. I’ve read too many case studies that show a complete, absolute and utter lack of knowledge of the company, customer and products. On more than one occasion, I’ve edited case studies that had the product’s name misspelled throughout the entire draft. C’mon. (okay, done venting.)

Yes, writing about something you don’t know is difficult. Been there. Not easy. But we live in an age where information is out there for the finding. Take the time to find it.

Not having expert knowledge of an industry or technology is one thing. Not taking 30 minutes to perform fundamental research is unacceptable and reflects poorly on the writer.

  • A case study’s sole purpose for existing is to help establish authority.
  • The more you know, the more authoritative the case study will read.
  • The less you know, the more pointless and useless the case study becomes.

Know your basics before you even interview the customer, so you can ask questions. Look information up. Reach out to people who can fill in your knowledge gaps. Ask for help. Question, question, question. Research, research, research.

So, now you know business customer case study is and what it’s for. Plus, you’ve learned about three primary pitfalls that are easy to fall into and easy to avoid.

In the next post of this series, I’ll cover the fundamental elements of a case study template and what each one needs to include. See you then.

Stay safe, Ducky

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