Five tips for writing great technology case studies

Great technology case studies tell a story. They start with a problem and move swiftly to a satisfactory conclusion.

The best case studies in newspapers are readable, credible and informative.

If you want your marketing case studies to have the same impact, follow my guide:

Keep it tight, relevant

Nobody reads long case studies. If you still print documents, then 1,000 words – two A4 pages – is plenty. Readers can’t hold their attention as long online: keep it under 600 words.

Use short paragraphs and crisp sentences. Pull out and highlight the best quotes. Add a key points box so readers can see at a glance if the material is relevant.

Interview real people

Interviews are the heart of great case studies. Interview the most senior person at the target company, preferably the boss. Also interview the account manager who handled the sale.

It works best when these people are open, honest and articulate. Sometimes the senior person knows the business, but doesn’t have the technical know-how. In that case I look for the most senior technical person as well.

Avoid massaged quotes

Get rid of corporate BS and jargon. While you’re at it strike a line through business clichés. Tidying up language and re-organising thoughts from the interview to make your story more coherent is fine.

Companies often like to massage quotes to make sure people are ‘on message’. This results in tired, clichéd nonsense which kills credibility and undermines the entire case study.

Tell ’em things they didn’t know

Great case studies have the drama of good fiction with suspense, screw-ups and revelations. Focus on the pain points and the near misses along the way. Don’t be shy of naming the competitors you beat to win the sale.

Have specific results

Everyone knows a marketing case study will have a happy ending. The best have specific, quantifiable results. Put a dollar value on the savings or increased business.

Finish with the interviewee commenting on the result, but don’t spoil everything by getting carried away with hype at the last moment.

One thought on “Five tips for writing great technology case studies

  1. Good stuff Bill – not sure why your 2010 article is being re-posted via LinkedIn but the message hasn’t changed one bit – getting rid of the BS being the classic mistake PRs make.

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