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What Is a Case Study & Customer Success Story?

Learn the definition of a business case study, its meaning, benefits & use in marketing. Get best methods to research, write & design business case studies.

Dominika Krukowska

10 minute read

What is a case study
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Short answer

What is a business case study?

A case study, also called customer success story, is a product marketing document used to show how your clients solved a business problem with the aid of your product or service. Case studies include statistics, quotes, and concrete examples with the goal of credibly demonstrating your capability to deliver results.

Bad case studies are not just ineffective - they lead to lost sales

A poorly done business case study can be a real bottleneck in your marketing funnel.

Sure, you have to have them; they're a non-negotiable part of the buying process. But if they're not compelling, you might as well not waste your time on it.

It’s bad enough that it’s hard to make a case study that gets results. But making a weak case study can actually cause you to look less attractive than the competition and cost you leads and sales.

Sometimes more is less.

This post is your roadmap to transforming your case studies from forgettable fillers to customer magnets. And ultimately, turning more prospects into customers.

Let's jump in!

What are the benefits of case studies in business and marketing?

Case studies are an essential part of any well-oiled marketing engine. They demonstrate real-life applications, showcase your unique value, build trust, address concerns, and connect with your audience.

Let’s get a bit into detail.

  1. Demonstrating real-life applications: Business case studies show your product or service in action, offering a peek into how it can be used in real-world situations. It's like offering a test drive before asking customers to commit.

  2. Showing your unique value: Customer success stories let your product or service shine. They illustrate exactly what you bring to the table and why customers should choose you over anyone else.

  3. Building trust: Think of business case studies as your brand's personal advocate. They show how you've helped others succeed, which makes potential customers more likely to trust you with their business.

  4. Easing concerns and objections: Got customers sitting on the fence? Business case studies can gently nudge them towards you by addressing common doubts or worries. It's about showing potential customers that you can deliver what they need.

  5. Connecting with your audience: A good business case study is like a mirror—your potential customers should be able to see themselves in it. It's all about tapping into their hopes, their worries, and their needs.

What to include in a case study?

A successful business case study is the product of a strategic blend of essential components. Each one carries its weight, shaping a narrative that is both engaging and impactful.

  1. Introduction: Set the stage with a one-liner summarizing your unique value proposition. Tailor it to grab your readers' attention and pique their curiosity.

  2. Company overview: Give your audience a snapshot of your customer's business, helping them understand who they are and what they do.

  3. The problem/challenge: Dive into the nitty-gritty of the issue your customer was facing (from their perspective), making it relatable to your audience.

  4. Your solution: Detail how your product or service swooped in as the game-changing solution, addressing the customer's problem.

  5. Results: Showcase the impressive outcome of your solution, demonstrating tangible success that can't be ignored. Back it up with relevant data and metrics.

  6. Customer quotes/testimonials: Add authenticity and credibility to your case study with direct quotes from the customer who experienced the transformation first-hand.

  7. Next steps: Conclude with a call to action, guiding the reader on what to do next, whether it's contacting your company or booking a product demo.

Here's an example of a case study designed according to this structure:

UX case study example

UX Case study

This template for case studies in UX and UI comes with tons of space for text and many visual elements such as charts, timelines, or graphs. This one is perfect for those case studies in which you need to explain the process in greater detail.

What makes a good case study?

A good case study follows a story format of problem-solution-impact. It includes key details of the client’s problem, how they solved it with the help of your product, and the impact it brought them.

8 critical components of a successful case study:

  1. Talking from the client’s perspective
  2. Addressing well-defined business problem
  3. Telling the WHY, not just the WHAT and the HOW
  4. Giving concrete example
  5. Backing the story with statistics and facts
  6. Weaving quotes and testimonials into the story
  7. Making the content interactive
  8. Including a call to action

In principle, a top-tier business case study is more than a testimonial.

Think of it as a blockbuster movie, where your customer is the hero Luke Skywalker, the problem is the looming death star, and your solution is the trusted guide Obi-Wan Kenobi.

This gives readers an engaging narrative that not only captures interest but also propels action.

Now let's take a look behind-the-scenes. at the key elements that make a good business case study.

1. Story from the client’s perspective

The key to a captivating case study lies in whose story you're telling. Let your customer be the hero, not your product or service. By focusing on their journey, you'll create a narrative that resonates with your audience, making them more invested in the outcome.

A great example is Adobe’s case study with Under Armour:

In this case study, Adobe tells the story of how Under Armour used Adobe Experience Manager Assets to streamline and enhance their creative asset management. The case study is presented from Under Armour's point of view, providing a customer-centric perspective.

2. Common but well-defined business problem

The best case studies revolve around relatable, well-articulated problems. The issue should be common enough for your audience to identify with, yet specific enough to avoid being generic.

Shoot for the sweet spot that makes a specific segment of your prospective clients say, "That sounds like us!"

A great example is Slack’s case study with HubSpot:

HubSpot, a well-known inbound marketing, sales, and service software provider, grappled with the challenge of maintaining internal communication and collaboration across a rapidly expanding global team.

This case study by Slack outlines how they addressed HubSpot's problem - a common issue faced by many growing businesses.

3. Tell the WHY, not just the WHAT and the HOW

The magic of a compelling case study lies in the mystery of 'why' your solution works. It's crucial to share what happened and how, but digging into the reasons behind the decisions and outcomes adds mystery to your story and keeps your audience intrigued.

An example of this is Marketo’s case study with Panasonic:

In this business case study, Marketo digs into why Panasonic decided to implement a new marketing automation solution.

The case study doesn't just focus on the solutions Marketo provided, but also highlights the reasons behind Panasonic's decision, adding depth to the narrative.

4. Concrete examples

Details make your case study relatable and tangible. Incorporate specifics - who did what, when, where, and how. These concrete examples help your audience visualize the scenario, making your narrative more compelling and memorable.

Zendesk's case study with LendingClub presents concrete examples:

It follows how LendingClub used Zendesk's customer service software to improve their customer support operations.

The case study offers a clear narrative about the problems LendingClub faced, the solutions provided by Zendesk, and the impact these solutions had on LendingClub's business.

5. Stats

Numbers lend authority and credibility that words often cannot. They provide concrete evidence of your solution's impact, creating a stronger case for your product or service.

But remember, these stats should be significant, reliable, and, most importantly, show real impact on your customer’s bottom line.

Here's an example of a great animated numbers slide:

Animated numbers slide example

6. Quotes and testimonials

There's nothing like a testimonial from a happy customer to boost your credibility. Direct quotes add a personal touch and authenticity to your case study, making it more believable and trustworthy.

Here’s a great testimonial example from Hotjar:

Hotjar testimonials example

7. Interactive design

Incorporating interactive design elements will make your case studies stand out, but more importantly, drive high-engagement.

Use eye-catching graphics, use clickable elements like tabs, videos, and menus, include live graphs, animated flipbooks, and so on. Use these elements tactically in order to break up your text into digestible chunks and make your content easier to read and to navigate.

Here’s an example of an interactive business case study:

Marketing case study example

Marketing case study

White glove delivery with a focus on process optimization explained by a compelling story.

8. Call to action

A good case study doesn't just end; it leads your reader to the next step. Be it trying your product, booking a demo, getting in touch with your team, or reading another case study - your call to action should be clear, compelling, and easy to follow.

Here’s what a clear, singular call to action should look like:

Interactive deck with an embedded calendar

If you want to learn more practical tips, check out our post on how to create a business case study that converts.

How to use a case study in business and marketing?

Often underestimated and underused, business case studies have the power to leverage real-life narratives to shape opinions, influence decision-making, and ultimately, drive conversions.

Let me show you how you can use that power to your advantage.

1. Used as sales collateral

In the world of sales, your case study can be the difference between a polite “we’ll consider it” and a bought-in “show me how it works!”

Picture this: you're reaching out to potential clients, and you slip in a case study showcasing how you've helped a similar business overcome a common hurdle. It's not just a pitch, it's proof you can do it.

But the magic doesn't stop there. Weave these real-life success stories into your sales presentations, and watch as they accelerate your pipeline.

They provide tangible evidence of your value proposition, helping you remove objections, demonstrate value, and differentiate yourself in a crowded market.

2. Used as marketing collateral

I) Use on your website:

On the marketing front, case studies can significantly boost your self-serve conversion rate. By featuring them on your website, you're offering visitors a peek into your track record of success - letting them feel like they're missing out.

II) Add to brochures and product catalogs:

Just sprinkle in a few case studies, and you've just added an extra layer of credibility.

III) Leverage social media:

Share your case studies on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, to promote your business; and start a conversation around your brand.

IV) Include in PPC campaigns on Google AdWords:

Add case studies as site links to give potential customers another reason to click. It's like saying, "Don't just take our word for it, see how we've helped businesses like yours."

Here’s an example of what it looks like:

Case study in site links

Obstacles for creating business case studies & how to overcome them

Creating captivating business case studies is essential, but let's be real: it's not a walk in the park.

So let's buckle up and navigate the most common roadblocks and learn how to steer around them.

Hurdle 1: Spotting the right stories feels like finding a needle in a haystack.

Hold on there! Locating customers ready to share their success tales might seem daunting, but it's not mission impossible. Here's the deal: people love to share success.

How to get clients to share their success stories

  • Collaborate with your customer success team to identify delighted or triumphant clients

  • Seek out customers who are scoring high with a good NPS score

  • Team up with sales to single out recent renewals or upsells

  • Engage with super active customers on social media

  • Ask your team during meetings about any standout customers

  • Reach out to customers who have spoken at your events

  • Connect with Customer Advisory Board members

Do this and you're bound to uncover some star storytellers.

Hurdle 2: Customers might not want to get involved.

Let's flip the script! Instead of begging for a favor, portray this as an opportunity for customers to amplify their industry status.

Make it a hassle-free and rewarding experience for them. Provide data, draft points for discussion, and be their cheerleader throughout the journey.

Remember, appreciation is infectious. A heartfelt thank you can turn a one-time participant into a long-term advocate.

Hurdle 3: It’s a mammoth task.

Creating business case studies can feel like a marathon, particularly when you're juggling multiple roles.

Delegating the task to an experienced industry writer can save your team a ton of time and energy. You might find the right person within your network, or you might need to explore industry-specific job boards.

Creating a structured timeline and using a shared tool can help keep everyone on track and in the loop.

Here's how to streamline the process of creating a case study:

  • Extend an invitation to the potential customer

  • Connect them with the lead writer

  • Conduct an internal review of the first draft before sending it to the customer

  • Incorporate their feedback into the second draft

  • Get final approval for the final draft

  • Publish and promote your case study!

How to design a business case study?

Your case study design supports the text like your body language supports what you’re saying when you talk. It adds that extra layer of emotional meaning you can't quite put into words.

Luckily, even if you're not a design expert, there are tools to help you add that extra emotional depth to your content. Let’s review a few tools that help you design your case study.

Design using a website builder

If you’d prefer to get hands-on with your design, website builders like Wix or Squarespace offer a versatile platform for creating a business case study from scratch.

They provide a blank canvas and a wealth of design elements, giving you the liberty to choose each piece and place it just where you want it.

It takes time and a keen eye for design to make all the elements come together seamlessly, but the end result can be rewarding.

Design using a case study maker

A case study maker gives you pre-set elements ready for use. All you need to do is drop in your content, and the tool takes care of the aesthetics and user experience.

It's a much more efficient way to create a case study with all its unique building blocks than using a website builder.

We know, since we see how fast our users create astounding case studies using our own case study creator. Try for yourself.

Don’t design - use a template

Templates provide an immediate and easy to work with structure for your design and content.

But beyond that, our gallery of interactive case study templates gives you time-tested designs we know have high-engagement and killer conversion (based on more than 100K reading sessions we’ve analyzed).

Grab a template - and you can skip the long design process, save time, money and frustration, and simply start creating.

Dominika Krukowska

Hi, I'm Dominika, Content Specialist at Storydoc. As a creative professional with experience in fashion, I'm here to show you how to amplify your brand message through the power of storytelling and eye-catching visuals.

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