Large companies generally devote considerable resources to identifying case study candidates and producing eye-catching, focused marketing pieces. Companies below this top tier can also produce excellent case studies, but not as easily. In this post, I will outline the basic procedure, and then devote a few posts to discussing techniques that can help writers and their direct managers work as efficiently as possible while calling attention to pitfalls and showstoppers that can waste time and resources.
Before You Begin
At this stage, you acquire a customer and a product to feature. This is also the stage at which you must make sure that you have all the right permissions and contacts. You should set a schedule with due dates, especially if you need the case study for an event, such as a trade show or customer-sponsored conference, or a product launch. It is also important to find out how complex the review cycle will be on the customer side.
You cannot anticipate every problem, but the more work you do up front to clarify expectations, the more likely your case study will be completed on time and as efficiently as possible.
Needless to say, you need to know your own product thoroughly, but what will impress your customers most is how well you know their products, company history, etc. Company websites and Facebook pages generally make this step easy, and will help you understand how customers market themselves to the world and to their prospects.
A great case study generally requires a great interview. I have sat in on interview calls in which PR agencies or inexperienced writers ask a canned set of questions with no specific product or customer knowledge. Unfortunately, the resulting piece is generally full of hype and lacks the knowledge and detail that prospects look for in a case study designed to sell a product effectively.
Review Cycle, Layout, and Next Steps
If you worked intensely on preparation and interviewing effectively within the “classic” structure, the case study should be easy to write. And if you have a firm review cycle agreement in place, the final stages should be completed quickly. Normally it is worth paying for professional help with layout if your company is too small to have a dedicated graphics staff.
Once everyone is happy, you can begin using the piece to increase sales and create co-marketing opportunities.