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How to write a great technology case study

A case study can help a technology company sell by showing customers what to expect. Buying technology is less risky when you can see others have been through the same experience.

Editorial case study, marketing case study

There are two types of technology case study. Newspapers, magazines and media web sites publish independent editorial case studies.

The company at the centre of the case study, usually a technology product or service provider, does’t pay for the story although they may pay for a public relations professional to work with the journalist writing the story.

They have little control over what appears in print but this lack of control makes the case study more useful to readers. That, in turn, makes it more valuable for the business.

Paid for case studies

Other times, companies pay a technology writer to prepare case studies for their marketing. These can be placed in media, usually as paid advertising or through an advertising-like arrangement. More often the case studies appear on the company’s web site or in marketing material.

Companies who pay for case studies get editorial control over the finished article. They can cut angles they don’t like or, in some cases, add material. The end product aim to help sales.

It’s a sophisticated form of advertising and, done well, can be indistinguishable from an editorial case study. The further it goes down this path, the more credibility and believability it has with potential customers.

There’s a key difference between writing case studies for newspapers and marketing departments.

The best editorially independent case studies are warts and all war stories. The company concerned goes on the record talking frankly about the problems it faced before starting the project.

Include the negatives

Editorial case studies often discuss other technology companies who failed to deliver hoped-for benefits or couldn’t keep up with the play. The best editorial case studies also contain valid criticisms of the project and the chosen technology partners.

A good hard-hitting independent case study includes low points along with the high points. Extra tension and interest can come from talking to customers of the company at the heart of the project who may or may not be impressed by the changes they see.

Newspaper editors work on the principle there’s no real story if the project went like clockwork.

Although there will be parts of the story which will make technology marketing managers wince and possibly upset their bosses, the smartest operators view a good independent case study as priceless publicity. It is credible and realistic. This is more valuable than a story that reads like advertising.

That’s why sophisticated companies ask writers to emulate the newspaper style when they want case studies written for marketing purposes. It’s a job that is best left to an expereinced writer.

Typically the story – and case studies are stories – still involves ups and downs, but without some of the sharp edges which might affect relations with other business partners.