How to Write a Case Story
In Nine Easy Steps
Professionals marketing for their accounting, valuation, and finance already know that case stories can be powerful tools when selling your services. However, most case studies are dry, dull, and deadly. Even case studies built on the old challenge/solution/results model can be made more compelling. In this article, the author suggests severalÂ ways to present a compelling case story.
Professionals marketing for their accounting, valuation. and finance already know that case stories can be powerful tools when selling your services. However, most case studies are dry, dull. and deadly. Even case studies built on the old challenge/solution/results model can be made more compelling, by making sure they:
- Build credibilityâ€”By showing that you have solved complex problems for real companies
- Offer insightsâ€”By giving readers a taste of your approach and process
- Create empathyâ€”By developing a story that prospective clients can empathize with
In this article, I will share nine easy steps to writing a compelling case story. You can find more marketing tips like these in Hingeâ€™s How-To Guides from Hinge University, our online learning platform.
1. Interview Your Client
To get started, talk with a key contact at your clientâ€™s organization who is familiar with you and the services you performed. You are looking for:
- Their side of the story
- Any tangible results
- A few interesting quotes
Feel free to edit the clientâ€™s words to sound more succinct, positive, and snappy. Few clients mind if you make them sound more coherent!
2. Specify Your Results
For many readers, your results will be the most interesting part. So make your results as clear and strong as possible. Results are most powerful (and easiest to understand) when they are very specific. Here are a few examples:
- Revenues rose by 20 percent
- Users per month grew from 2,000 to 4,000
- Errors decreasedâ€”by a factor of four
If your results cannot easily be conveyed by numbers, look for other benefits your work may have created. For example, are your clients saving money, or better serving their customers?
3. Draft an Introduction to the Problem
Your lead-off sentence is your best place to let readers know why your case story is relevant. Before you dive into your clientâ€™s story, briefly put the story in a larger context. For example:
Major retailers are staggering under the increasing number, sophistication, and scale of cyber-attacks.
The next sentence should introduce your client and succinctly describe their challenge. Example:
After several well-publicized incidents in 2016 and 2017, national home remodeling chain BuildMore decided to address the problem head-on.
You have just hooked your readerâ€”and they are ready to learn more!
4. Describe How and Why the Client Chose You
Here, you briefly introduce your firm and, if appropriate, why your client chose you. Example:
After assessing more than a dozen security technology firms, BuildMore selected StopIT for its extensive retail experience and track record for detecting and preventing cyber intrusions.
5. Describe the Specific Issue the Client Faced
The more explicit statistics you can cite, the better:
- x more subscribers than the preceding year
- x% fewer cyber intrusions
- xx% fewer customer complaints
6. Explain How You Addressed the Challenge
Keep your narrative simple and use plain English (not industry jargon!) whenever possible. Let the voice of the client make the story more authentic and convincing by working in two or three relevant quotes. Example:
Within the first week, we identified the exploit, patched the problem, and inspected the point-of-purchase system and the companyâ€™s network for malicious software and obvious vulnerabilities. â€śThe StopIT team hit the ground running and shut down the infiltrations,â€ť said Jim Buchet, BuildMoreâ€™s CIO. â€śThen they began a systematic review of our entire network.â€ť
Over the next eight months we conducted a thorough risk assessment. We recommendedâ€¦
7. Spell Out Your Results
State your results clearly and simply. If you have a good results-oriented quote from the client, include it here. Example:
Today, with an ongoing managed security program in place, the threat is past. More importantly, less than eight months after the crisis, average store volume was up 32 percent, and profits had reached a record 37 percent.
8: Write the Headline
Once you know the basic shape of the story, you can structure a headline in various ways. Whichever approach you take, give it some flair. Examples:
- How a National Retailer Won a Cyberwar
- After Online Attacks, StopIT Restores Confidence of BuildMoreâ€™s Customers
- StopIT Slams Door on Cyber Attacks. BuildMore Posts Record 37% Profits.
Once you know the basic shape of the story, you can structure a headline in various ways.
9: Describe Your Firm
If your case story will be printed or distributed as a PDF, add four or five sentences about your firm at the end. Title this section, â€śAbout [your firmâ€™s name]â€ť, add contact information, and you are done!
- Make your language easy to digest. Use short sentences and simple terms.
- Use subheadsâ€”Break your story into small chunks, introduced by subheads.
- Consider leading with resultsâ€”Sometimes revealing your most compelling result, even in the headline, can be highly effective.
- Write in the first personâ€”Using â€śweâ€ť and â€śourâ€ť can make your story feel more personal and immediate.
- Use calloutsâ€”To help draw in the casual reader, highlight client quotes or key points from your story. If you are unfamiliar with callouts, we have included an example above.
For more ideas and guidance on practical marketing techniques to implement at your firm, be sure to check out our Quick Start Kits and How-To Guides on this and many other marketing and branding topics at Hinge University.
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is Managing Partner at Hinge, the leading branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.
Dr. Frederiksen can be contacted at (703) 391-8870 or by e-mail to LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.