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Case studies help technology companies sell by showing customers what to expect. Buying technology is less risky when you can see others have successfully been there before.

Editorial case study, marketing case study

Most of the case studies I’ve written are editorially independent. They were published in newspapers like The Australian Financial Review and The Sydney Morning Herald. Other appeared in specialist magazines.

I’ve also been paid by companies to write case studies for their marketing.

There’s a difference between writing a case study for a newspaper and marketing.

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 at least two 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.

Maybe that’s why sophisticated companies ask writers like me to emulate the newspaper style when they want case studies written for marketing purposes.

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.

2 thoughts on “How to write a great technology case study

  1. Agree it’s about the story. The 3 big mistakes I see are: Not a compelling/interesting read, too long and not being focused on the readers’ needs.

    The story in a way should not be about the subject company, product etc. The reader while reading should be saying ‘hey, that’s me’.

    So you need to have a really good handle on the target audience’s requirements.

  2. It’s worth adding that many of the mistakes are made not by case study writers – frequently tasked with making a silk purse from a sow’s ear – but by the organisation that’s convinced itself it has a fantastic success story but hasn’t.

    Either the customer doesn’t agree with the vendor’s heady estimation of how its project went, or the vendor is too quick off the mark to tell its success story. If you have no quantitative measures with which to compare the ‘before’ with the ‘after’, you have neither a solution nor a case study.

    Too often, supposed case studies are a summation of vague qualitative improvements – “things are better now but we can’t tell you why” – and the organisation commissioning the case study hasn’t a hope of identifying a third party target readership because it cannot even agree with its customer on the facts of the project they supposedly completed together.

    If the end result is more fiction than fact, you didn’t need a case study writer, you needed a novelist and Kafka is dead.

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